We love our house, and it reflects our personalities and lifestyle. It’s a 1950’s adobe with plenty of character and quirks, but also gorgeous views and lots of privacy. Unfortunately, it has no garage, and we have two cars and lots of stuff. Building a garage wasn’t an option for reasons of both aesthetics and cost, so we decided to build a second carport.
I decided to tackle the project on my own. After all, I had partially rebuilt the existing carport when we bought the house, I am reasonably intelligent and in good physical shape, and I was stoked with a growing enthusiasm for the challenge. And I had tools – a level that looks more like a toy, a rusty T-square, a circular saw with a blade that seems slightly bent and two drills that make unearthly noises.
My careful planning took into consideration the lumber, connecting hardware, new drill bits, roofing material and all the nails to hold it together. I can proudly say that I even figured out how to accommodate an existing wall and planned ahead to rent a truck to get it all home.
The first step was to dig holes and set the post anchors, which seemed to go quite well. Next came drilling holes in the beams and setting them in the supports. This gave me an opportunity to drop an eight foot beam on myself, but at least I managed to block it with my hip instead of my head. All the holes miraculously lined up, although the concepts of straight and plumb went out the door.
At this point it became obvious that my efforts to select lumber that was true had failed miserably. Several of the beams and joists were warped and twisted, not to mention the pieces I had prematurely and incorrectly cut, so I had to make another trip for supplies. (You may be familiar with the law that any job takes three trips to the hardware store – one for what you think you need, one for what you really need, and one for what you need to make the job better than you’d originally thought.)
By the end of the first weekend the entire frame was up and swaying with every breeze. An engineer friend informed me that the entire thing should have been screwed rather than nailed (tough luck, it’s staying that way) and pointed out how to eliminate the sway.
The next weekend began with two trips to select the proper braces and screws. In the time it took me to drill my thumb the carport had more braces than an NFL lineman’s knee and was noticeably more solid. The only thing left was the roof – at which point I discovered that a 2 ½ foot wide sheet of corrugated metal is only 26 inches wide, so another trip for supplies was in order. (I also remembered that I’d made the same estimating mistake when rebuilding the other carport, but that was two years prior, so it’s an honest stupid mistake.)
After two weekends of working in 105 degree heat and six trips to the store (three were planned, so I met the trip rule), we now have a sturdy, functional carport. We’re not confident enough to use it as an outdoor sleeping platform as we had originally hoped, and if it were a little lower and a little wider it would provide better shade. I’m not sure I really saved any money by doing it myself (my time is worth something), but I will admit to some feelings of satisfaction and accomplishment.
All these lessons and misadventures apply to those who do their own investment and financial planning (I bet you were wondering where this story was going). There are plenty of investment and financial tools available and most people are perfectly capable of grasping and applying the necessary principles. Knowing which tools are needed and how to properly use them is another story.
The real barriers to effectively managing one’s own money are experience, familiarity and objectivity, all of which I was lacking in the carport project. You may ultimately reach your financial goals, but along the way your learning curve will cost you both time and money. Staying current on the ever-changing markets, investment options and financial techniques requires a real time commitment. All of this has to be managed in the context of individual circumstances that also change over time and the strong emotions involved with money.
This is why a long-term relationship with a trusted financial professional is so valuable. It’s not that there is some magic that only these professionals or their firms possess; it is rather that they deal with these issues every day and are best prepared to objectively help you make decisions. Having and pursuing a plan rather than a collection of separate decisions is well worth the cost of working with a financial professional. In the end you will be more likely to meet your goals and have greater peace of mind. And you’ll probably free up lots of weekends.
Did I mention that I still have to extend some lighting out to the carport?