The Right Tools

Richard Connor

WE RECENTLY UPGRADED our home with smart locks, which open with a keypad code or cellphone command. After a bunch of research, we settled on Yale Assure Locks, which I’d also seen on an episode of This Old House. I’ve installed many locksets in the past, so I didn’t expect any problems.

Once they arrived, I gathered my tools, opened the packages and read the instructions. It seemed pretty straightforward. I set to work on the deadbolt, first removing the old one. The next step is to insert the new bolt mechanism in the side of the door. The hole needed to be one inch in diameter. Unfortunately, the existing hole was 1/8 inch too small. I was pretty sure I had a one-inch drill bit, but couldn’t find it. I tried using a smaller bit, working around the inside of the circle, trying to gouge out the material.

After almost an hour, I was about halfway there. I realized I might have to repeat this tedious process three more times. We have two doors, with a deadbolt and a handle on each. I grabbed my car keys and drove to the hardware store for a one-inch drill bit. As I expected, there were a half-dozen choices. After consulting with the store’s owner, I bought a nice boring bit. Back home, it took about a minute to drill a perfect one-inch hole.

The rest of the installation took about 10 minutes. The moral of this story is obvious: Always try to use the right tool. A good neighborhood hardware store is invaluable. It isn’t just the tools, it’s also the years of wisdom that the owner offers for free. We need the same expertise in our financial life, but we don’t always get it. That got me thinking about the best financial “tools” I’ve utilized.

The first that came to mind is a good estate-planning attorney. We have one who is smart, compassionate and highly skilled in elder law. She helped us get our estate plans together and settle my mother-in-law’s estate. She also recently helped a good friend deal with a challenging Medicaid situation for his mother, who had severe dementia. We’ve sent other family members to her, and they’ve all been pleased with their interactions. She’s a gem.

Another expert we should appreciate is a good home inspector. I’ve bought two houses and sold two others in the past decade. Each one had a home inspection. The better inspectors didn’t just identify problems. They also provided instructions on the various systems and recommended maintenance schedules for them. The inspector we used when buying our first beach home predicted, almost to the day, when our air-conditioning unit would need to be replaced. He also was a landlord of several vacation properties, and gave me lots of good advice on how to manage our rental.

Use your best judgment to see if you already possess the right tools or if you need to look elsewhere. There are many parts of our financial life that we can handle ourselves. Some things, however, require skill and experience we may not have.

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