Should YouTube be your financial advisor?

I would like to start by sharing with you that I am not handy. I know. Man card revoked. But I admit it. When the Big Guy above was handing down … well, handiness … I was not in line.

Definitely not me!

It sucks, too, because it seems like every guy around me is super-handy. My cousins and uncles all stand around at parties talking about water leaks, framing windows, and the art of rewiring patio lights. Meanwhile, I’m in the corner hoping and praying the conversation will turn to sports or finance or anything else, really. Heck, my father-in-law is one of the handiest guys I know. My house (which is a virtual shrine to his woodworking) is a constant reminder of his handiness — and even more glaring, my lack thereof.

I would be lying to you if I said I wasn’t a tiny bit jealous, too. I mean, here’s how it goes:

Sarah: “Honey, I think the shower drain is clogged.”

Me: “I’ll pour some Liquid Plumber down it.”

Sarah: “I already tried that. You want me to call my dad?”

Me: “No. I’ll fix it.”

(I proceed to unscrew the drain cover, dropping at least one of the screws down the drain, and sort of shine a flashlight down it with clearly no hope of unclogging that sucker.)

Me (15 minutes later, dejected and ashamed): “Honey, maybe you should call your dad.”

Sarah: “I already did. Ten minutes ago.”

And so, it went.

That is, until last week. Last week, the garbage disposal went out. Instead of grinding our unfinished dinner to a pulp, all we got was a sharp buzz. Even an unhandy guy like me knew something was wrong. Immediately, Sarah jumped into action. “I’ll call my dad.” “No,” I said, “Not this time. This time I’m gonna fix it.”

Here was my immediate problem. I’ve never fixed a garbage disposal. I mean, sure, I’ve reached in to pull out a kid’s fork and an occasional Lego that Joey dropped down there, but to actually get under the sink and deal with the mechanism? Ha! No.

“I’ve got this, Honey!”

But this time was different. This time I decided to listen to all the people I’ve heard saying the last couple years, “With YouTube, anyone can fix anything.” This time I was going to learn how to fix my garbage disposal by watching YouTube. Piece of cake!

I can fix anything with YouTube.

The video was pretty simple — only about three minutes. It suggested, after unplugging the beast, that I take an Allen wrench, insert it into the hole below the garbage disposal, and loosen up the flywheel that was clearly stuck. Sometimes it can be tough, it said, so give it some elbow grease. Hey man, elbow grease I got! So, after trying about 20 different Allen wrenches, I finally found the one that fit. And man, was it stuck.

Elbow grease time.

So, I give it all I’ve got and WHAM! My hand slips. And it slips hard. Right into the plastic drain pipe for the other half of the sink, which promptly came flying off!

Now, I must digress here for a moment. See, the other side of our kitchen sink has been slightly clogged for months. Again, the non-handy guy didn’t get the job done. Please, no judging. Anyway, when my hand slipped and broke the plastic drain pipe to the other side of the sink, whatever horrible sludge had been clogging that drain came flying out full force and splattered all over the cabinet, the floor, and more importantly, me. My face and shirt were covered. And let me tell you, when crud that has been trapped in a clogged drain for months is finally released, it does not smell good. It was disgusting. In fact, even Murphy, my Wheaton Terrier, left the room.

Um, gross.

So here I am, covered in brown, disgusting, smelly goo. And the garbage disposal was staring back at me, mocking me with its still-broken, high-pitched whine. I wasn’t going to give up.

Interestingly, the Allen wrench was still in place, daring me to take another shot. I was game and figured I just needed a little more elbow grease. I mean, that’s what YouTube said, right? This time I’m going beast mode on it. I’m on my back, my legs against the wall for leverage, cranking with all my might — and EEERRRRRR. It gave. I fixed it, right? I must have. Hallelujah!

Well, friends, what the YouTube video failed to share is that if you torque the garbage disposal too hard, you risk not only permanently damaging the disposal, but also all the piping in your kitchen sink.

At first estimate, including parts and labor from the Smell Good Plumber, I’ll be in for about $500 — and out my kitchen sink for several more days!

This guy ain’t cheap!

So much for being handy!

So, what’s the moral? It’s pretty simple, really. Know your limitations. I messed up a $100 garbage disposal and a few pipes. In the big scheme of things, it wasn’t too huge of a deal. But every day I meet and chat with people who are actually planning their retirement using online calculators, TV gurus, and, yup, even YouTube.

I’m unhandy and busted my sink. If you’re “financially unhandy” and make a financial mistake based on faulty advice you got online, imagine the potential ramifications. And this isn’t a sink we’re talking about. It’s your retirement. Your life savings.

So, if you’re worried about this kind of stuff and you want some real, reasonable advice about your financial situation, maybe you should talk to a professional. Even if it’s just to verify that what you learned online is correct. And some of you, well, you’re probably pretty “financially handy,” and if that’s the case, great job! You’ll probably be able to combine your ability and some online tools and come up with a pretty solid plan.

The “Financially Unhandy”

For the majority of us “unhandy” folks, there’s still something to be said for trusted advice. After all, none of us wants our retirement to end up covered in brown, smelly goo!

Thanks for reading, and I hope you enjoyed!


About The Author
Mike DePaul
After beginning his career working for the largest financial planning organization in the United States, Mike became a top producer as well as a top trainer of financial advisors. He soon realized that the big firms don’t always have their clients’ best interest in mind and simply couldn’t continue down that path. He helped found Newport Wealth Advisors with the belief that there are smarter, more efficient ways to reach your financial goals that don’t include peddling one company's products.
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