A weather-worn farmer has recently transferred a major part of the farm business to his millennial successor. He asks his spouse, “What are we going to do for the next 20 years?” She reflects with a hint of surprise in her voice, “What do you really want?”
The Wall Street Journal published how retirees are spending their time:
(Source: Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies)
- 67 per cent are spending more time with family and friends. My farmer spends time with his son every day; they farm together. As a coach I find many farming men have not kept up close relationships with friends, and tell me they do not have close friends. For women who have multiple roles and tasks the lack of friendship may put more pressure on them to have activities for the “semi-retired” spouse. This is a potential source of conflict if the farm dad does not have a clear role on the farm, or activities that he enjoys beyond the farm.Work on your friendships intentionally and start building a new network of people you enjoy being with, for work and/or play.
- 44 per cent are pursuing hobbies. “Elaine, my hobby is farming, that is all I want to do!”Exactly. Independent, resilient, hard-working, creative, innovative farmers who love to make deals are not happy just golfing. I met one recently who sells vehicles and trailers as his “side hustle” to create more cash flow. Hobbies can include mentoring others in the skills you possess like welding, mechanics, trading stocks, etc.
- 39 per cent are travelling. Heading south is a longtime option for many farmers who like to congregate in Arizona, but what happens when they reach 80 years old and still have a good 15 years or more of life to find meaning and purpose?Don’t get me started on my discussion about “strong warning for 80-year-olds” who are still holding the bulk of the farm wealth. It’s high time to let go! (See the blog at elainefroese.com)
- 21 per cent are volunteering. 4-H Canada would love to hear from you and your ag society, the local curling rink, hockey arena, and local church. Many hands make light work, and perhaps you want to volunteer on a sporadic basis, not in a regular service club.Boomers have a strong work ethic that converts well into volunteerism. Just remember to show gratitude and appreciation. In our small town the local recycling centre has a gang of folks who really enjoy their twice-weekly antics of sorting stuff, and they proudly wear matching T-shirts. The town is intentional about recognizing their value.
- 15 per cent are taking care of grandchildren. Childcare in rural areas is difficult, and sometimes the grandparents are the best solution.Other times Grandma has told me that she does not want to be the “daycare.” One retired nurse in our community is fostering babies.
- Nine per cent are caregiving for a loved one. This is a huge stress on families that need a contingency plan. I see dementia as a large looming issue for rural farm families who want their loved ones to stay in place as long as is workable.We need better support systems to help farm families navigate caregiving. Our church family is currently using a visitation schedule to support a person in long-term care. Have you met with your financial planner to discuss contingency plans like long-term care insurance or critical illness insurance?
- Four per cent are pursuing an encore career. I know a dairy farmer age 50 who sold his cows to his successor when he realized that milking cows for 30 years was enough. The father then started a new business venture.My encore career is going to be speaking professionally, as my hero is 75 and still booking large audiences. Our family doctor has warned us to “Have some fun, because it all falls apart at age 75!”
- Four per cent continue working in the same field. Ha! Farmers are likely at 70 per cent not retiring, and working in the same fields literally! The pace and the nature of the work changes, but the passion for agriculture and making independent decisions is the foundation for farmers not letting go of their roles on the farm.Have ongoing dialogue with the millennial managers to see what a good working arrangement is for all ages and stages of life.
So what do you really want?
- More time with family and friends. Who are you inviting over? Make the call.
- Pursuing hobbies. Is it time to build a classic car or tractor?
- Travelling. Would doing a farm tour in Australia or Ireland be fun for you?
- Volunteer work. Teach the younger generation how to lead a steer or fix an engine.
- Grandchildren time. Use www.zoom.us if your grandkids live far away and find new digital ways to stay connected. Consider writing a legacy journal of your life story or printing photos.
- Caregiving is a big load. Reach out to your emotional support network and embrace good self-care. Protect good mental health.
- Keep farming in the field. Ask for feedback on what is working well, and what needs to shift. As we age our skills may change and energy management is key.
Getting ready to “retire” is not my choice of words. I call it getting ready to “reinvent” your role on the farm.
What would you like to “test drive” in terms of an experience?
You can rent an airbnb in a new location. You can stay at home on the farm and engage more in your local town. You can invite visitors to live with you for an extended stay (we have an intern from France). Block out time on your calendar for volunteering and set up a new weekly routine. What might an average week involve for you?
Set up a living allowance for your “reinvention” stage and practise living on that income stream for six months. Your expenses may stay similar to what they are now, just being replaced by new items.