In my last blog, Stop Acting Rich: Good Advice from a Frugal Engineer, I mentioned that even some decamillionaires (9%) mow their own lawns. Most do so because they enjoy doing it. Plus it is good exercise. But there can be certain drawbacks associated with mowing grass. Such visual do-it-yourself activities and behaviors are often frowned upon in certain types of neighborhoods. Robert found this out just after he and his family moved into their 1.2 million dollar home (the couple paid cash for it). The neighborhood was filled with other pricey homes. And what happens when new neighbors move into a so-called affluent neighborhood? There is heightened concern among the established neighbors about whether or not the newcomers will conform to “neighborhood norms.”
Robert and his family moved into their home on a Saturday. On Sunday afternoon he mowed his front yard. The next day his wife found a note in their mailbox that read as follows: “In this neighborhod, homeowners do not mow their own lawns.”
In a related case study, Roger, a very wealthy entrepreneur, and his family finished moving into their 2.5 million dollar home on a Saturday afternoon. He had recently “cashed in some of his chips” and paid cash for the new home. The market value of the home was “just average” for this affluent neighborhood. At the time, Roger had yet to contract with a lawn maintenance company. After donning his Marine fatigues, he took out his old lawn mower, filled the tank with gasoline, and, after many pulls, started the machine. About half way through mowing the front yard, his next door neighbor walked up and motioned for him to turn off the mower. The neighbor’s intent was not to do a “welcome new neighbor” act. Instead he asked: When you finish would you stop over and give me an estimate for our lawn and shrubs? Our guy just retired. The new homeowner replied: I’d be delighted . . . always looking for new customers.
It was not difficult for the neighbor to mistake Roger for a lawn maintenance professional. People who live in tony neighborhoods are not expected to mow. Plus Roger’s Ford 250 superduty pickup truck was probably noticed by his next door neighbor as well. What his neighbor did not see was Roger’s balance sheet, somehwere in the mid eight figure range!
Neither Robert nor Roger were upset (insulted) by their respective neighbors’ reactions. Both gentlemen are of the balance sheet affluent (BA) variety. And most BAs believe correctly that they have more wealth accumulated than the majority of their neighbors.
People often ask me if they should mow, paint, plumb, do carpentry and related do-it yourself activities in and around their homes. It tell them: Do it if you enjoy it or if you can’t easily afford to pay professionals to do it for you.