“Every front door looks beautiful” is one of my favourite Irish sayings. It came to mind while listening to the woes of a young ranch couple wanting to ranch as “debt-free” as possible, but the parents own new pick-up trucks and are “keeping up an image” with lots of debt.

Sound familiar?

Wayne Buhr in Brandon, Man. is an insolvency manager for Debt Free North. Buhr’s approach is to invite folks to discover why they aren’t dealing head on with their financial disasters. He recalls a distraught parent bringing her son in for a serious discussion to start finding financial solutions to releasing the stress of too much debt. Buhr has also seen adult children bring parents in for a reality check on their financial habits keeping them stuck.

I coached a very complex dairy business struggling with a sibling who’s expecting to be bailed out continuously by the parents. The successors of the dairy are worried about cash flow issues.

Solutions to financial stress start with courageous conversations — regarding securing income streams, hiring a fee for service financial planner, and ways to approach talking about debt servicing.

How much debt can you sleep with at night?

Do you understand the difference between good debt, and debt that is bad for you — do you need a fully loaded pickup truck, brand new?  A single young farmer said he “deserved” his $84,000 truck. I observed he likely wasn’t making money with this new truck, especially since his dad had passed and his mom was struggling with farm cash flow.

Another 75-year-old rancher proudly told me he was not going to transition shares of the ranch to the next generation who were eagerly awaiting more security in their future. This stubborn rider had over $2 million in long-term debt. I questioned him why he wasn’t letting go, and he said he would transition equity when the debt was zero. Oh boy.

Another farm family says dad isn’t accepting that he must settle a divorce with mom before he can navigate a transition plan. The debt of the parents needs to be settled before the next generation can start charting their debt servicing.

I served as a mediator with the Farm Debt Mediation Service. This program gets you a farm financial planner who helps you create a recovery plan for your creditors’ review. Again, open, honest communication is the key here for success in finding a solution that all parties can agree to. Call (866) 452-5556 or Google Farm Debt Mediation Service.

Find a local fee for service financial planner or consent to work with one over Zoom. Sara McCullough who resides in Kitchener, Ont. specializes as a divorce financial analyst. She also works with folks who plan to stay married. Ray Riel does great work in Regina, Sask. Carberry, Man.’s Forbes Wealth Management and Winnipeg Man.’s Colin Sabourin of Harbourfront Wealth Management are very well versed in what farmers need to succeed.

Are you suffering a cash flow crunch? Stop procrastinating and reach out to your lenders to create solutions — If your money scripts towards debt are very different from your parents, then you need to question if you really want to be business partners with folks whose values are not aligned with yours.

Find podcasts to challenge your thinking about money. Bruce Sellery has a podcast called “Moolala Money Made Simple”.

Family members who lack sound financial habits, check out Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University. His methods are unconventional yet transforming people’s pain with debt.

Talk does not cook rice. But it is a start. Behaviours must shift. “Farm families need to embrace financial transparency for the farm books, and their personal balance sheets if they want to be business partners,” says Dick Wittman of Wittman Consulting. Order his digital farm management binder.

My front door is boring white. After my trip to Ireland, I considered painting it red. “Every front door is beautiful.”

When I visit your farm, I hope I find all the generations happily managing the debt. I give you permission to ask for what you truly want to navigate the debt on your farm.

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