There’s nothing scarier for farmers who are trying to gain control over their lives than to have no clue about what the future holds. I call this “the pain of not knowing.”
Engage the power of target dates and timelines to create action.
Start saying, “By when?” “By when can we block time to update our wills? By when can see the financial planner to have secure income streams as we step back on this farm without stepping away?”
- Talk to your spouse about letting go of power and control of the farm, and what that might look like. Engage in intimate conversations about what is keeping you awake at night. Decide on the date for “becoming the hired man again.” You’re likely not ever going to retire, just “reinvent” your roles. Google “Dick Wittman stepping back without stepping away.”
- Action begets more action, so you’re going to have coffee in a casual way with your family to talk about your new chapter. This includes the farming and non-farm business heirs. Meet with each adult child independently of the others. They are scared you aren’t dealing with your future lifestyle choices, and they want you to enjoy the fruit of your labour. Hire a coach with great communication skills to keep the family meetings safe and respectful.
- Set dates with your accountant and tax planners to discuss your net worth, your living costs, and your intentions to bring along the next generation. Remember April 30 is always a deadline you honour with your accountant, so how about timelines for farm transition? It’s a process, and may be a series of dates, not just one day. The key dates are nailing down your income streams going forward with a financial planner. The tactical decision making of your accountant and lawyers comes after you have clarity of expectations from all family members, and a sense of their timelines. For example,
By when dad do you expect to let go of being the main manager? By when mom do you intend to let go of bookkeeping? By when daughter do you want equity in this farm business as the successor?”
- Book some counseling time if you’re emotionally distraught and need new coping skills. My coaching clients realize that “counseling is about recovery and coaching is about discovery.” Some folks need to have therapy to release the burden that is keeping them stuck in neutral. Take care of your mental health. Visit the National Farmer’s Mental Health Alliance website or DoMoreAg website for resources.
Here is the farming forecast:
Many aging, 55-plus farmers are procrastinating, and not sleeping well, struggling with anxiety and depression. There’s a tug of war on their heart regarding their fear of failure. Should they turn things over gradually? What will their new roles be? Will anyone really appreciate them when they get older or thank them for what they have helped to grow?
Face your fears. Talk with your spouse. Set dates. Act.
You have some tough conversations ahead as you farm heirs cannot afford to buy your land.
Block time on your Google calendar now and start taking the next step. You need thinking time to decide what you want.
You need to be in alignment with what your spouse wants.
You need to share expectations and be clear with your adult children and their spouses.
Dates and money.
Don’t let the little foxes of family irritations spoil the vineyard of potential success.
Keep your promises. Honour the timelines and dates. Be concrete with your proposals. Then your entire family will sleep well at night and be certain of their future.