September 20th, 2011

All I Wanted was a Shower

By Dave

How Not to do Planning

Simon Singer, CFP

You would think after being in the financial and estate planning business for over 40 years and knowing how important it is to have a clear vision of your objectives, that I would do so for myself with the utmost care and continuity. Nothing could be further from the truth … let me explain.

Six years ago I purchased a home in a wonderful area on a great lot. I knew at some point I would add approximately 1000 square feet, change the roofline and perhaps renovate the interior. After all, the home was 50 years old when I purchased it. After living in the house for about six months, I noticed something growing in the shower. It was mold. I decided to replace the shower with a new one, which I did with great vigor. The new enclosure I created was a magnificent edifice, roughly twice the size with glass on three walls, a steam unit and multiple shower heads. I hired a contractor, picked out the stone and fixtures and had the new shower built.

Approximately a month later the shower was completed and beautiful. Unfortunately, I didn’t think to match the design of the rest of the master bathroom, so we were left with a wonderful shower inside a bad bathroom. I decided to rebuild the bathroom. But, as long as (a phrase I would hear many times in coming months) I was going to remodel the bathroom, it seemed like a perfect time to add the 1000 square foot addition and change the roof line. Preliminary plans were drawn up and given to a contractor for a bid; a contract was signed to complete the job. About mid way through the process the designer suggested that as long as I was going to change the roof line, it would be a perfect time to raise the ceilings. “This is going to be a very expensive house and you wouldn’t want an expensive house with 8-foot ceilings,” the designer said. It all sounded logical so I said, “sure, go ahead.” I didn’t ask any questions, thinking that if I needed more information the designer or contractor would let me know. Wrong! When I raised the ceilings and changed the roof line, I found that the old studs would not hold up the new roof and the old foundation was not strong enough to hold up the new studs.

So, after much frustration and consternation, we finally decided to tear the house down to the ground, with one caveat—the shower would be left intact. Remember, all I wanted was a new shower and I was the person in charge. I still, however, hadn’t learned my lesson. While the drawings were being prepared, I told them to give me bids without any detailed specs – meaning finishes, hardware, flooring treatment, etc. So, these decisions had to be made along the way and since they had not been included in the original budget,everything was a change order. I had over 90 change orders! Every time someone came to me with a new idea there was a change order. Every time there was a change, no matter how small… change order. I felt like the name on my mailbox should be a change order.

All I wanted was a shower. Most of the mistakes were my fault. A few of them were the contractors’. Suffice it to say, if I had spent the extra time and a little more money in the beginning, the job wouldn’t have taken almost two years. And my budget wouldn’t have been 400 percent more than what I thought it would be. How does my story relate to Empowered Wealth and estate and family counseling? Planning is a process; it’s not a single step. It’s a process from start to finish. The first step is to determine, with absolute clarity, what you’re trying to accomplish, why you’re trying to accomplish it, when you want to accomplish it and the cost involved. I didn’t do any of this. Only after getting clarity of your objectives can you put together the right team to help you reach

your vision. In family estate planning, we would never allow someone to move forward with an individual component without first determining how it would affect the overall objectives. There is, however, a silver lining to my story. The house is finished and it’s exquisite. But, I didn’t enjoy the experience as much as I could have, had I treated it with the respect and attention it deserved. This was an important life lesson that I have captured for the benefit of future generations.

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