One of my goals in the years leading up to my retirement was to own the tools I would need to pursue my hobbies and ultimately my post-retirement job. Whilst I suppose this could be read as justification for buying lots of tools, I tempered this by buying tools as I needed them to do projects - typically projects that saved money because I did them myself. While I started with a pretty simple project for my first woodworking task - refinishing two junk dressers - later projects got a lot more involved - I suppose the most complex one was remodeling the kitchen in our old house, and adding a bedroom/bathroom upstairs. It was a year long project, one that taught me a massive amount, and one which allowed me to buy tools I have been using ever since. We sold that house in 2010 just 4 days after it went on the market - I like to think because of the upgrades I put in place. Fortunately the virtual tour of the house is still on the web - see what you think. Virtual Tour
Oh, please realize we were pretty much camping in the house after getting all the clocks and furniture in the garage - ready to load on trucks. Hence the paucity of furniture and stuff.
So, one sold house, lots of tools for ongoing projects, a heck of a lot of work, and a massive dose of satisfaction.
My 24 year old nephew is starting down what I hope is a similar path - a young engineer, he is learning more about maintaining his Toyota pickup - with 197,000 miles on it. He has now bought the basic tools needed to do maintenance, oh, and a clutch job. I can almost feel the frustration he will come up against as he loosens tight bolts that are way up there inside the truck where he can’t quite see them. And as he tries to figure out how to undo clutch hydraulic lines, and the funny little clips holding things in place... But, he will also start learning the how’s and why’s of the way vehicles are put together. And will be a better engineer. And will be able to take better care of his vehicles. And will be on his way to having the tools needed for so many other projects.
I suppose it is important to point out a rule that I have always tried to live by - don’t buy a tool unless you are going to use it. This comes from seeing people who love to buy tools but never use them. This really isn’t investing in yourself - or investing at all. It is just another way of seeking fulfillment by buying things - which doesn’t really work all that well.
Don’t get me wrong - I don’t want to sound harsh about buying tools for the pleasure of buying tools, it’s just that it will not make it easier to retire.
Investing in yourself means not only tools, but books, college courses, heck, all manner of learning. When I first became enamored with clocks and watches I decided to take a 2 week watchmaking lathe course up in Ohio. This was the most important thing I did when getting into what turned into my retirement job. The next most important step was convincing a retired railroad watch inspector to introduce me to the skills needed to do pocket-watch restorations. It turned out the only way I was able to get him to teach me was to buy out his collection of tools and parts. Big investment - yes - but even bigger return.
It was somewhere along about then that my wife gave me the much needed encouragement to “stay the course” in my desire to develop horological skills - when she told me I was “investing in myself”. That expression has stayed with me, and formed the basis for where I am today - doing things, finding satisfaction and happiness in my retirement job!