“One man’s reason is another man’s rhyme … One man’s dollar is another man’s dime.”
— “Hank Williams Said it Best,” as performed by Guy Clark
A Texas wildcatter drills in a fertile field, oil gushes forth and overnight he becomes a multi-millionaire. Convinced that his business acumen is generic, he invests in a scheme for developing a brand of super cattle. His true expertise is geology, not animal husbandry. But he pours millions into research and even more into livestock, chemicals, and land. The experts convince him that if he will just front a little more money, a huge payday is imminent. But the payday never arrives.
Or consider the professional athlete who becomes a real estate mogul in the offseason, even though he has no experience in commercial or residential development. He throws hard-earned millions into acreage, pays for studies and permits, hires a builder and sales staff. Real estate takes a downturn and the home sites cannot be sold, even at a discounted price. And the athlete returns to practice wiser and poorer.
Sticking to one's core competency may be boring, but it usually works. We are most often successful at what we know best. Enterprises in which we have little experience that require lots of up-front cash should probably be avoided, even if the potential payday sounds incredible.
Have you ever heard anyone brag that everything he touches turns to gold? You may want to steer a wide berth around such a gentleman when it comes to money. Because while it's true that some people are so intelligent and skilled that they are more successful than others in almost all their endeavors, it remains relatively difficult to transfer success from one business arena to another. Remember Dionysus, who granted the wish of King Midas that everything he touched would turn to gold? Midas soon begged out of the deal when his food, drink, and even his daughter were transformed into metal.
It follows, then, that making and managing money are two very different skills. A wealthy retired business owner is not likely to drill his own teeth or climb under his car to perform repairs. He outsources.
I’m confident in my abilities as an investment advisor, but I currently work with a talented CPA, one who provides tax planning and preparation to our business and family. I also contract with an actuary to consult on our business retirement plan. It is easier and more cost effective to work with such competent individuals, even though we could theoretically tackle these tasks ourselves. These professionals also offer the perspective of objectivity. Our decisions about money can sometimes be influenced by emotion, and a third party professional can often see our financial situation in a way that we ourselves cannot.
Margaret R. McDowell, ChFC®, AIF®, author of the syndicated economic column “Arbor Outlook,” is the founder of Arbor Wealth Management, LLC, (850.608.6121 – www.arborwealth.net), a “fee-only” registered investment advisory firm located near Sandestin.