By Dan Danford, CFP
The rich get richer. The poor get poorer. And the green get greener.
Although there are many ways to care for your lawn, the two primary ways offer a helpful illustration. Of course, neither of these approaches touch on the default option, which is just let it go to weeds, mow occasionally, never trim and never water. A lot of people apparently choose the default option with a capital D.
But if you want a lawn to look nice and enhance the value of your home, you can do it yourself or you can hire a lawn service. Either approach can create stunning results, but that’s where the similarities end.
Many do-it-yourselfers enjoy the process. They spend hours happily working in the yard and own the necessary tools and supplies. At the least, they own a mower, trimmer, blower, spreader, and either hoses or an irrigation system. They maintain a sizable supply of fertilizer, weed control and grass seed. They create and maintain a schedule for organic applications and, of course, mowing. Spring months especially may require several clippings per week. Nutrients are likely required three to five times each year. There are a lot of moving parts.
A lawn service, by contrast, requires less personal attention. They just show up when something needs doing and they take care of it. They own and maintain the equipment, provide supplies and hire the required labor.
Now, the do-it-yourselfer may argue he or she is saving money, but I doubt it. Many cost comparisons fall short because some costs aren’t included. If you truly calculate the initial investment in equipment, annual wear and tear as you use it, continuing costs for replenishing supplies and the value of labor you yourself provide, you’d have a much stronger comparison.
My guess is the costs are closer than you think. A commercial lawn service probably costs the same or less if genuine numbers are analyzed across all those areas. After all, they are buying supplies in bulk and using industrial equipment with longer lives and less maintenance. That equipment is likely more efficient than we’d buy at home, too.
They also hire strong, young people to do the work, which means they are doing it better and faster than I ever could! By other objective measures, everything else about the lawn service may be better, too. They work with hundreds of lawns and have experience with a wide variety of landscape challenges. They routinely sharpen the mower blades, and your busy schedule at work won’t cause a delay in applying fertilizer or mowing the lawn. Because of their equipment and expertise, the quality of work is often better than most do-it-yourselfers can achieve.
Do-It-Yourself Investing vs. Hiring a Financial Advisor
The investment business offers important parallels. There are tiers of options lying between do-it-yourself and full discretionary investment management services. But the lesson is still the same. You can spend the time and money to buy and perform research and create and implement a strategy. Or you can hire professionals who spend their entire work lives doing those same things. Additionally, they’ll bring insights and economies of scale that you can’t match. It’s pretty hard to argue against these points.
Honestly, you can keep doing it yourself and you’ll probably do a decent job. Or you can default and just let luck determine your financial outcomes. But neither of those two choices offer the best value. Many investors would be far ahead to let professionals do their heavy lifting. A green thumb—in lawns or money—grows ever greener with quality professional help.
This article was originally published on Investopedia.