During our working years, saving for the future is critical to one day achieving financial independence.
At the same time, we are working to meet other financial goals, such as paying for our children’s college education or paying off the mortgage. However, for people with a solid career who are meeting their savings targets each year, it often makes sense to spend any extra money on services that will favorably impact their lives.
Both of my parents were teachers, so I understand when it pays to be frugal. But if you can afford to hire someone to perform these services, some are worth paying for, as opposed to doing them yourself.
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Yes, it will cost some money. But there are other rewards, ranging from better health to a return on your investment and more time to enjoy life. Here are five services worth considering:
1. Hire a lawn-care company. I have clients in their 50s who work full-time and are still mowing their own lawn — with a push mower. It is great exercise, but the summer heat and humidity can drain your energy and possibly even produce worse results, such as heat stroke.
I’ve encouraged these clients to hire a regular landscaping service, which can often cost $200 a month or more. The service workers will mow the yard, trim the hedges, remove leaves and debris, and perform other work in a fraction of the time it takes my clients to perform these tasks. This expense is so small that they likely won’t notice any impact on their monthly budget. However, they will notice the time savings.
2. Work with a travel agent for vacation planning. Instead of spending hours scouring the internet, a good travel agent is experienced at finding the best deals and value for just about any destination. Their expertise includes researching and suggesting locations to meet the goals you have for these experiences, as well as arranging for flights, accommodations, airport transportation and excursions during the vacation. A private chef or personal concierge may also be part of your recommended vacation plan.
I realize some people are hesitant to work with a travel agent. They may ask: why the extra cost? But because of their knowledge and expertise, a good agent can help keep overall costs down and possibly even save you money. And, unlike the internet, a travel agent is often available to assist you with problems during the trip, especially if you are traveling overseas.
3. Grocery pick-up, delivery and ready-made meals. Since the pandemic, many retailers are much more focused on helping customers who aren’t comfortable shopping in person. While grocery chains charge a fee for curbside pickup or delivery, it’s a small amount for the convenience it provides.
There are also several online companies selling ready-made meals delivered to your door. These meals include fresh ingredients that are ready to cook. For people who don’t like to cook every night, this alternative provides healthy food at a reasonable cost. Grocery delivery is also a plus when vacationing.
4. Engage a business coach. This may not seem a necessary investment for a seasoned executive who has built a stable career. Yet several of my successful executive clients have used a coach, and I have, as well. I refer to him as my ‘”business therapist.”
A good coach can provide clarity about career options, how to overcome any hurdles, accomplish your personal and professional goals, and help reduce stress. For example, my coach helped me set a 10-year plan for public speaking, as well as writing and publishing books. So far, I’ve published two books, and a third one will be published later this year.
Coaches can charge a few hundred dollars an hour, or a flat rate for a series of coaching sessions. Typically engaging a coach is more effective if it becomes an ongoing, regular relationship.
5. Tax preparation and planning. As a financial planner, I understand how taxes work and provide tax strategy advice to my clients. But for more than 10 years, I’ve hired a certified public accountant to prepare my taxes.
I simply don’t want to invest many hours over several days gathering tax records, hunting down expenses, making sure I’ve researched every nuanced tax law that can benefit me and other tedious tasks. It’s worth the money to pay an accountant, especially one I know can handle the job.
And while paying an accountant can range between $1,000 to $5,000 annually, depending on the complexity of your situation, part of the accountant’s job is to help save money by advising on tax-reduction strategies or asking for the right tax-related information.
One client recently retired made the misstep of trying to handle her own taxes. She earned more than $1.5 million during her final working year, and with time on her hands, decided to do her taxes herself. After several frustrating days trying to learn what to do — and afraid she would make a mistake that could cost several thousand dollars — she went crawling back to her CPA.
If there is a task you don’t want to handle yourself, there is most likely a service that will handle it. For example, I dislike buying a new car so much that I put it off for five years. Finally, early last year when my sport utility vehicle crossed 250,000 miles, I decided it was time to buy.
I could have used a vehicle-buying service for this job. Fortunately, my husband stepped in and did everything a service would do. For several weeks he visited various dealerships to test drive cars.
Then, he came home one Friday and said, “I’ve found your car. They are holding it for you at the dealership.” I stopped what I was doing, went there to test drive the car and bought it.
Now, that’s the way to buy a new car.
Of course, you must hit your long-term savings targets first before considering spending money on extra services now. Discussing which extra services to add should be part of your financial plan and budget each year, just like your savings goals.
— By Lisa Brown, partner and wealth advisor at Brightworth