April 20, 2009
Do you have children in their 20s and 30s still depending on you for food and accommodation?
Here are tips for setting them free
Today is the deadline day for a farmer I know to have all the equipment ready for the field, the magic time of being totally ready to seed a bountiful crop. He will depend on help from his son, and another employee. On his farm everyone has a separate home, and a workable family living budget.
Spring is the time we are aware of what income taxes we need to pay. But are we aware of all the non-taxable benefits we enjoy on the farm? Dick Wittman has a planning template to figure out all the things we enjoy on the farm, but don’t account for. (Go to www.wittmanconsulting.com and hit the file downloads “Compensation Summary.” The list includes “free beef,” fuel for the pick-up’s personal use, and other benefits. The farm’s generosity covers many family living expenses. Compensation is sometimes a contentious issue.
Freeloading is a slang term with somewhat of a negative context. I wonder if you have challenged your single adult sons to account for all the benefits they have when they live with you after age 25, and how they depend on you for farm based generosity.
Some single farmers are not leaving the nest. They have it very good at mom’s house. She is still doing their laundry, feeding them, and mending jeans. Mom is looking for mobile homes, but son isn’t getting the hint.
According the age needs map of coaching, it is important for 20-something adults to leave home and become independent. This flight from the nest gives them a stronger self-esteem and sense of confidence as they learn to do life on their own terms, and with their own financial resources. Sons who don’t ever leave the family farm tend to be angry at age 35 when they feel like “they missed out, and are trapped with family, mortgages, and never-ending farm tasks.”
Farm kids who get to work for a boss other than dad come back to the home farm with a new appreciation for different management and work styles. They also learn good money sense when they have to stretch their own hard earned cash.
How do you ask a freeloader to leave?
“We love you son. We want you to live on your own. We hope that you will become more independent. We think this move will also make you more attractive for marriage. Women are attracted to strong, financially independent men.” Marriage is an important part of the farm human resource plan!
In Westlock, Alta., I had a 42-year-old farmer approach me after the session with these words: “Elaine, I forgot to get married!” He had focused all of his energy and time on building up his farm wealth bubble. Time had flown by, and now he realizes he did not pay any attention to his personal needs for relationships. A helpful spouse would be a great part of his human resource team for his operation. I don’t know if this particular farmer was freeloading at his folk’s home, but I suspect he wishes mom had encouraged him to date.
Freeloaders may also come in the form of young couples who are not pulling their weight on the farm team, or those writing large personal cheques from the farm account without adequate explanation. Money is what people fight about, and don’t always talk about. These freeloading issues need to be part of the agenda at your family business meeting.
If your style in coping with anger and frustration is to go and “shop ‘til you drop,” you need to deal with the negative sides of “retail therapy.” Using the farm credit card without authorization or wildly spending on things the farm budget can’t afford is another form of freeloading on the farm.
I hope I’ve hit a nerve here. Money issues are very often the root of much hurt, fear and frustration in farm families. I would hope you have a very clear idea of where your money goes for family living expenses, and where the farm account is benefiting you. Start keeping track of your personal living expenses. You’ll need this number to justify your income stream draw from the farm account. Lenders and financial planners want this information to be realistic and accurate, so start tracking now!
It’s time to address freeloading on your farm. Be hard on the problem, but soft on the person. Address the issue, and generate workable solutions.
Remember, it’s your farm, your family, your choice. Happy Seeding!
Elaine Froese, CAFA, CHICoach, has been keeping track of family living expenses for 28 years, and is thankful for computer programs to do this. Generosity is a great value. Think about the advantage of your farm status. Visit www.elainefroese.com or call 1-866-848-8311 for coaching appointments.