It’s Just a Tool

Luke Smith

MY WIFE AND I ARE expecting our first baby in March. In preparation, we’re converting what used to be an office into a nursery. We’ve bought a crib, glider chair, curtains and dresser for the new room. But we also needed to find a place to put the desk and furniture that was in the office. We decided to move the office into what is currently a quasi-sunroom.

When we bought the home, our inspector disclosed that the sunroom was likely built by the homeowner and wasn’t up to code. But from what the inspector could tell, the homeowner was quite handy. I didn’t think much of it after that. I should have.

As we started moving office furniture into the sunroom, we realized that the vinyl floor felt soft. A contractor suggested that it was simply improperly installed and that replacing the flooring with some new planks would be fairly easy. He pulled up the vinyl, revealing the subfloor. The dark wood, stained by long-term water exposure, was veined with white mold and soft enough to push your finger through.

“You’ve got a real big problem here,” the contractor pronounced. While he may need some sensitivity training, I don’t think softer delivery would’ve helped much.

My wife got upset, and who can blame her? We have a baby on the way, we didn’t know where water was coming in, there was mold, there was nowhere to put the office stuff and the repair would be costly. This wasn’t good.

 “Let’s make a plan to find where the water is getting in, fix it and repair the floor,” I told the contractor.

My wife took me aside later and asked, “How are you so calm about this? This is bad. This is going to be expensive.”

I hadn’t really thought about “how” until she asked. I pondered the issue for a few seconds and then it came to me: “What’s the point of money if not to solve problems? There are plenty of problems that money can’t solve. This isn’t one of them. Money can fix this. We work too hard to spend time getting upset about things we can’t control, but which money can fix.”

Three days later, we got the chance to replay this scene. Our central AC froze up and then melted, creating a large puddle on our bedroom ceiling. But I digress.

Life will throw curve ball after curve ball at us: flat tires, missed opportunities, rotten subfloors, car breakdowns. The list goes on. There are many problems that money can solve. While it may not be the way we want to spend our hard-earned cash, it’s what money is meant for—to solve problems.

But there are also plenty of problems that money can’t solve: lack of purpose, chronic unhappiness, lost loved ones. I believe we should save our worrying and mental focus for these problems, and let money take care of the problems it can solve.

Stress comes for us all, and money stress can be some of the worst kind. My advice: Try to fret less about money. It’s simply a tool—not our life’s purpose.

Luke Smith is a CFP® professional and practicing financial planner. He creates customized financial plans for each family he works with around the country. Luke pursued financial planning to combine his two favorite passions: finance and people. He spends his free time with his wife Heather and their family in Maryland. Outside of work, Luke enjoys the outdoors, golf, reading and writing. You can reach him at Check out Luke’s earlier articles.

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