Mother’s day is less than a week away, but you still have time to get her the book she needs. I have done a lot of work this winter with women and money seminars and “Who gets the farm and when ?” sessions with farm families.
Here’s what I have observed:
People are overwhelmed by the complexity of succession planning and they don’t know where to start.
Finances are a major barrier, especially people’s fear of the income stream after farm transitions, not being enough to meet the lifestyle plan for the next 2 decades.
Farm folks who have ploughed all of their financial resources back into the farm asset bubble may not have put any funds into what Alberta’s Merle Good calls the “personal wealth bubble.” Folks with a personal wealth bubble have more flexibility in planning for the successor’s needs since they don’t need all their lifestyle income from the farm cash flow.
Women are likely to be widows , the average age of a widow in Canada is 56, and many women don’t have the money savvy they need to live the life they desire.
It’s time for your mom, wife, spouse, and friends to get smart about their personal finances. It’s time to address your hurdles and excuses for not getting a handle on your personal wealth and debt.
I also see folks in farm debt mediation who have tried to save the family farm with personal credit cards, and that too is a recipe for disaster.
So now that you are totally depressed reading this, what next?
Buy this book: “Moolala…why smart people do dumb things with their money (and what you can do about it.)” by Bruce Sellery. You can go to www.moolala.ca and check out the contents of the book. I met Bruce at a speaker conference and we’ve become good friends because his approach is fun, his checklists are workable, and his mission is aligned with mine. We both want farm families to enjoy financial success and have the life they desire.
May on the prairies this year is going to be interesting. Some of you are reading this and would much rather be out in the fields seeding, but you are still waiting. Why not attack your financial goals, and get your money mess out of chaos?
Sellery has a simple 5 step approach:
1.Lay the foundation. Here you discover what money means to you, and your context for money. You’ll also have to get real about the consequences of not addressing your weaknesses. For instance, some farms are suffering from folks seeking “retail therapy” rather than resolving conflicts. They are feeding their souls with shopping rather than having crucial conversations. Some farm guys are trying to have “more than the neighbours” rather than work out a plan that suits their family’s needs, and be careful about the “wants.”
2. Determine what you want. Most farm folks I coach want a happy family and a secure life after they transition the farm. Most farmers are NOT going to retire, so I call that plan a “lifestyle plan” where they learn how their roles are going to change to “be the hired man again” and the spouse will have a new place to live. I did not say a “new monster dream home”, although that may be the desire. When the numbers get crunched, the reality of the dreams and goals get into closer alignment.
3. Develop the plan. Knowing what you want drives a plan to get you there. In 2010 I did a clothing “fast” to see how I could allocate funds to charity instead. You might be willing to put up with aging cracked kitchen countertops and forego the granite make-over when you realize that you haven’t contributed $10,000 as a couple to your Tax Free Savings Account. I am still meeting folks on the farm who haven’t heard of this saving tool, and your accountant should have told you about it when you did your income tax last week !
What is your net worth today? Sellery’s book comes with links to his website for many worksheets that will help you get this organized. I am sure your credit union or bank would help you out here also. Pay attention to your liabilities, and equity. Are you going in a positive or negative direction? You also need to address your weaknesses. Many farmers are in denial and won’t look at the numbers, hoping that their financial stress will just go away, along with the high water levels. We all need to face reality and determine where we are at. Once you know your money issues, then you can prioritize your money goals. Servicing and decreasing debt is likely a high priority. Don’t forget to allocate some resources for fun and family well-being along the way. Have an agronomist or farm management specialist help you assess your cash flow.
Are you earning more than you are spending? Keep track of family living income/expenses.
Have you eliminated credit card debt ?
Are you adding to your personal wealth bubble for your lifestyle plan when your successor is the main manager of the farm ?
Are you saving for your personal goals?
Are you taking advantage of RRSP, RESP, TFSA ?
Could you commit to 2 or 3 changes you will make to the way you spend ?
Do you have a financial advisor ? Sellery’s book has some great tips about selecting an advisor to develop a trust relationship and monitor performance. Many folks I’ve met don’t have a financial planner. Your lending institution has one, or you can go to www.cafanet.com to find planners that care about agriculture, The Canadian Association of Farm Advisors. I belong to this group , and I like to have referrals that I can trust, based on the work and knowledge I’ve witnessed.
Some farm women are taking training to invest, and some folks prefer to develop an investment plan with a broker. You want to learn to make money work for you !
4. TAKE ACTION. This is in big bold print, because “talk does not cook rice !” You can talk till the cows come home, but you need to put your financial plan into action, and get a handle on your money.
5. Stay engaged. The process is never done. You can use annual reviews, the shake-up conversation you get in April with your accountant, and the conversations that keep coming back about money. Being smart with your money is an ongoing process, somewhat like succession planning.
Moolala is a very funny effective book. I’ve bought a case to give to family , friends , and clients. Your book club or money group would find Moolala an excellent resource.
As a professional home economist I believe that families who have great money skills are happier families who enjoy an amazing quality of life. I want that for my family, and for yours.
Moms like flowers and chocolates, but this book is what your mother really needs this year.