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Gifts with Strings Attached

Money issues can harm relationships, especially if a father hoards his money rather than open the purse strings for a son or daughter who could really use the help.

It’s been one of those weeks again when the same phrase shows up in three very different coaching conversations. When you stop to consider how your family feels about money and gift-giving in particular, do you ever get the sense that your parents will only give a financial gift “if there are strings attached?”

What does this really mean?

For some fathers, it is a reflection of their money style and history of doing without for many years. Now they have amazing wealth, but not the ability to let it flow freely. I have heard that some folks are so engrained with saving and frugality they just can’t bring themselves to spend even though there is ample cache.

Parents’ money styles that involve tight fists are hard to deal with when the next generation is looking for certainty about their financial well-being. There are farming sons and daughters who have done very well creating wealth and don’t expect any money from their parents. Those same sons and daughters may have siblings, the sisters of the successful farming child, who really could benefit from papa and mama’s unfettered generosity.

It seems to be a re-occurring story I am hearing from farming children. They are a bit miffed that any talk about how the farm wealth will be shared seems to come with a conversation about “We would give them more money, but they will just blow it, or spend it on things we don’t like!”

A gift once received is really out of the giver’s hands. If you choose to put conditions on how the gift is used, you are using money to manipulate your family. I have seen how lending to the family has turned into a nightmare of bad feelings and broken relationships. I have also witnessed wise lending when a promissory note was signed to protect both parties, with no hard feelings whatsoever.

We celebrate Father’s Day in June, and it is a time to honor our fathers. Some of you are having a hard time doing this because the way your dad has been handling the farm transfer is driving you crazy. You are feeling manipulated and you really would like to have some certainty around transition timelines.

We all would like the gift of respect. If this needs to be the year that you respectfully approach your parents to start the conversation around transition, do it gently, yet with a firm intention to reach your transition goals. Your dad is afraid of his future because he is looking for a meaningful life, and to him, that likely still involves doing stuff around the farm. He also has a spouse who is ready for a change, but he can’t resolve how he is going to please everyone in the process.

The town folks talk about “gifts with strings attached,” too. They see the things we possess and wonder if all the family members are treated the same when it is assumed that the business founder is doing really well financially. Some children are independent and never want parental help, while others also hope that the “bank of mom and dad” will be open forever.

I know families who keep ledgers of what they give each child, and to them, this gives them some sense of fairness. I wonder what the kids think about the ledger. My experience is that every situation is unique and some people will just need more money than others in order to make life work. There are folks who seem to have resources flowing to them in many forms: time, friends, gifts, barters, windfalls, and opportunities taken.

Could you present your father with a gift this year with absolutely no strings attached, with no expectation except the sheer delight of giving a gift that honors your dad?

A rancher from Alberta made an impact on my friends when he shared a story about the best gift of being the elder generation on his ranch. The time he spends with his wee grandson and the delight he sees in his face when they are riding the range together is “priceless” to this grandfather and father. His legacy of respect, love, and relationship building is a wonderful gift he receives all throughout the year.

When it comes to money, are you fearful of running out of resources as you age? Are you holding on tight to the wealth you have worked so hard to build up? If a financial advisor confirmed that you have more than enough, would you open your hand and let some dollars flow to the family member who needs a financial boost and those who don’t? Would you delight in seeing the face of an adopted family member use your resources to better their life? Could you give the gift anonymously to your community or a charity?

God has called us to honor our parents. He has also called us to be cheerful givers and sow abundantly.

I hope that you will spend some time reflecting on your style of giving and what expectations you carry with transferring gifts of money to your family and friends.

It’s one of those tough “undiscussabullsTM” that we all need to be clear about.

I highly recommend a book called The Soul of Money by Lynne Twist. It will help address our feelings and relationship with money.

Love your father. Love your children. Leave a legacy of generosity and abundance of spirit. Let your financial footprints leave a path of certainty and strength for your family.

Have a wonderful Father’s Day!
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Elaine Froese, the certified coach, helps facilitate safe family transition meetings. She farms with her husband Wes near Boissevain, Man. She agrees with Ralph Waldo Emerson that “your health is your wealth”, along with rich relationships to God, family, and friends.

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“Elaine Froese truly is the Farm Whisperer. With her big heart and stern resolve, she guides families through uncharted waters and helps them arrive safely at their desired destination. She has been there, done that, and has helped hundreds of families come out on the other side. With your family and your farm legacy on the line, you owe it to yourself to start this conversation. You do not need to do it alone. Let Elaine Froese guide you through. Your legacy is being written day by day. How will you be remembered?”
Tracy Brunet, Host of The Impact Farming Show & CEO of Farm Marketer
“You speak like you’ve been sitting at our kitchen table! You know our family issues well. I am feeling more comfortable understanding what we now need to do. Elaine Froese is real.”
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“I attended the meeting you spoke at in Stratford Ontario recently. We held an emergency family/farm meeting today because of issues that I had enough of. We used a 'talking stick' like you recommended and wrote a chart of rules. The rest of the family thought the idea that we needed a meeting was worth rolling their eyes over, until we got started. The younger ones were quick to clue in that they now have an opportunity to be bluntly honest. The older ones took a bit longer to believe they could truly say what they think. In the end, the meeting needed two sessions because there was so much to talk about… and so many things people didn't realize were a big deal to the others. Your lessons and encouragement have given us the tools we need to get to a better place in our relationships and our business. Truly thankful.”
Kim Martin, Dairy Farmer, Ontario
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Tennille Wakefield, Farm Partner
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James Mitchell, Principal, Conversations Consulting
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G.G., Farm Family Legacy Coach, Alberta
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Laurianne Osmack, Financial Planner / Partner, Doell Osmak Wealth Management
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Audience Member,
“Eye-opening. Excited to open the door of communication with my spouse and farm family.”
Ashley Hoppe, Farm Partner
“The Strong Farms, Strong Families session gave farm families an opportunity to meet face to face with Elaine Froese... hear her own story, experiences and skill set. From this information packed session and related materials, families could identify areas of success in their journey and other places they need assistance. The greatest take away was that participants could see that Elaine Froese is someone they can trust with the things that they hold most precious.... their family and their farm.”
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“A long time female client who had refined the art of procrastination was so moved by the end of your presentation that she accepted your permission to “drop the bananas.” She contacted me soon after for an appointment to do some planning which included the selling of the family “Century Farm.” A very, very emotional decision on her part that was not likely to have occurred without your presentation.”
Don Forbes, Forbes Wealthy Management
“I just have to say… that your work is amazing and I have never forgotten your teachings from our session in Williams Lake at TRU. It is super important work. I know so many people going through the trauma of succession. I hate to use that word, but I was an “out-law” and know it can get terrible. I continue to forward your emails on to others. Keep doing what you do! You are amazing. You kind of walk into the fire regularly… and with a smile. Proud to have met you.”
Megan, BC Rancher
“As my husband and I eagerly started the course we were optimistic and excited to be taking this next step in our Farm Transition. We were starting to question ourselves and whether or not we were just being selfish and greedy, and if this Farm Transition was still an option for us. We barely got through the first Module and were already having such a huge relief. As we moved through the modulus there were so many times that we just sat back with our hands in the air and thought YES. My husband and I would smile with relief because all of the concerns that we have been struggling with were relevant and came up in the modules. We really enjoyed the course and are excited to move on to the next stages to find our farm resolution.”
Shannon Gilchrist, “Get Farm Transition Unstuck” online course participant
“My hubby farms with 2 brothers and parents, and it’s become a really toxic place. No communication, no respect, etc. Twelve months ago, my husband’s brothers told him they don’t want to work with him anymore and offered him a pay out. His parents did nothing to stop it! He had no choice but to leave. Three months later, we moved off the farm and into town. He has been offered heaps of jobs and is now truck driving and carting hay and grain. We have tried communicating with his parents about what happened but they are not interested. So basically my hubby has lost his family. Very sad but we as husband and wife are overall in a good place and moving on to create our own life. Please continue on with all your wonderful work in helping families on the farm. I continue to tell any farmers I know about you, that they must ‘google’ you, and read your books.”
Donna, Farmer, Australia

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