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Posted: April 17, 2014

Chef Laura: Don’t DIY

Best to leave some things to the experts

Laura Cook Newman

Another Tax Day is in the books.  April 15 was once a dreaded deadline as I wrestled with TurboTax, praying to Uncle Sam to keep me in his good graces.  Then a few years back, I decided it was time to outsource my annual date with the IRS and hire a “tax guy”.

He knows all the ins and outs of complex tax laws and finds things that would otherwise elude me.  At this year’s meeting, he suggested I look into diversifying my investments.  Intrigued, I asked him a few questions.  He admitted that although he’s good at crunching numbers, he’s an accountant, not a financial planner.

“Oh.  Well thanks anyway.  I’ll look into it myself,” I said in a way that must’ve sounded a bit taxing, because he offered “I use a good financial planner.  Would you like his name?” 

Later that day, I did a quick SWOT analysis of my skill set:
Strength – culinary arts
Weakness - investment acumen
Opportunity - seek help
Threat - ego takes a hit

Sure enough, a week later I was at the financial planner’s office strategizing my investments.  Because I'm a bit of a money novice, he explained investing using a sports analogy.  Before he began, he asked if I played golf.  I said “I play a game resembling golf." 

I guess my answer sufficed, so he posed this question: If I were going to play in the Masters, would I rather have the swing of Tiger Woods or the best golf clubs money could buy?  He should’ve said Bubba Watson, because I shrugged “Ummm….I'll take the clubs!”  To which he replied, “Wrong.”

He explained that I could own the best Callaways made but I still couldn’t earn a green jacket with my current swing. The clubs were just tools – or in our case the investments; the swing was the skill – how we invested.  With dreams of a shiny new Big Bertha dashed, I got a little miffed by his critique of my skills.  I quickly assessed my golfing abilities and agreed with him. The only “formal” golf training I've experienced is flipping through back issues of Golf Digest at my parents’ house and a round of Golden Tee at the local watering hole.

As he continued to educate me on my investment options, I noticed that being a financial planner is a lot like being a chef.  Most people aren’t financial planners, but they still have to manage their money.  And most people aren’t chefs, but they still have to eat. Usually we are proficient enough in the kitchen to make some type of nourishment to sustain life. Sometimes it's a scratch-made casserole, sometimes it's a bowl of Froot Loops. 

But if you want to experience an outstanding meal, you have two choices:
1. Make it yourself. Research recipes, shop for ingredients, prep food, cut your thumb that you forgot to tuck behind your fingers (d'oh!), buy Band-Aids. Sauté the onions, cry, splatter hot oil on yourself, curse, buy aloe.
2.  Go to a restaurant. Enjoy a delicious meal that was prepared safer, faster, tastier and probably cheaper (in first aid supplies alone) than if it was attempted at home.

Since I'm proficient in the kitchen, I can dice mirepoix for homemade soup before someone can Google the word mirepoix.  It's no biggie. I've been doing this a long time. But when it comes to investing beyond the company's 401k, I was like a clueless home cook wondering what the heck roux is.

Remembering my SWOT analysis, I did a gut check to ensure my ego was still intact after seeking help from someone who was better than me at money management.  And guess what?  I was fine; terrific actually.  If we were all experts in every profession, no one would ever go out to eat again.

The simple truth is that we need to outsource some tasks - in our lives and in our businesses - to focus on the core competencies we do well. Outsourcing is a smart decision that creates a favorable ripple effect throughout commerce.

Thankfully, my financial planner has me on the right course. And when I retire, that just might be a golf course. Augusta here I come!

Laura Cook Newman is a professional Chef and Training Manager for a Fortune 500 food manufacturer. She earned her chops at Johnson & Wales University, has an MBA in Marketing and hosts a blog for behind-the-scenes insights on the food service industry. Contact her at

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Readers Respond

It's a pretty common misconception that software can completely replace accountants, which just isn't true. I think your SWOT analysis is a great idea for all to analyze themselves to figure out areas they may need help in. Especially around tax time like this article stresses By Bucky on 2014 05 12
Very insightful stuff. I'm going to use that SWOT analysis. By Mike on 2014 04 18
Financial planning is no joke. One of the biggest "you don't know what you don't know" areas of life. Also, does this mean you'll be going for the green Chef's jacket? By Ted on 2014 04 17
Laura, BOSTON!! You...Me, financial planning hints and a pub!! By Ruben on 2014 04 17
Good article. Your planner needs to limit his realm of expertise to finances and not expand into golf analogies. Even Tiger Woods doesn't want Tiger Woods' swing these days. By PF on 2014 04 17
Augusta? What happened to Cape Cod? LOL By Ta Tee on 2014 04 17
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