The "R" Word - What does it mean to you?


Article by Craig Lane

as featured in the Farm Weekly issue 18 November 2021

What does retirement from the family farm mean to you?

This is a question often shrouded in doubt, differing views, and one not always answered with the luxury of time for our older generation of WA farmers. For the younger generation, with clear direction, keen to take over the reins, it is commonly an inconvenient obstacle to a timely transition. The question is a key
issue to address in any family farm business succession plan, and despite varying levels of importance put on it by family members, it is one I take utmost care with.

Withdrawing from an active working life can scare people. We build careers longing for security, a sense of belonging. Retirement in its abruptness, its handshake and gold watch, feels very permanent. “What am I going to do with my time?”. “Where am I going to live?”. These are just two of the many questions that
plague older business owners I speak with, particularly farmers.

In our busy lives, we peddle away, not taking the time to reflect with proper consideration on what retirement means, both in the context of the transition of management and ownership, but also the practicalities of life after our careers. We all too often forget what retired life looks like for our spouse and immediate family.

Commonly, within the same relationship, the two views can be as diverse as living away from the farm (on the coast) with regulargrandchildren visits vs. remaining involved in the farm day to day for as long as possible. As an advisor, this tricky gap of expectation, can only be bridged by asking the right questions, delving a bit deeper, and asking the questions early, to give appropriate time to plan.

To plan properly, it is useful to understand two things.
1. What does your best, your worst, and most likely future look like post farming? Think of this as if you were to prepare three farm budgets. A fantastic year, an average year, and a drought/frost. Just with no numbers, only a snapshot of what life looks like.
2. What does the above look like for your spouse and the rest of your family? The farming business?
In taking this approach, you may go some way to providing a balanced perspective, make an informed decision, and then be able to communicate this with your family. This considered approach in turn may reduce any angst, may take the abruptness away, and see a slower progressive bowing out of management responsibilities and transfer of wealth, if that’s what you aspire to.

Finally, the more time you give yourself, time get the right advisors around you, time to communicate with the family, the better the execution and outcome.

I wish all our growers the very best with their decision making and hope to see seamless transitions to retirement for our older WA farmers. I would also like to wish our growers all the best for harvest, now that it has started rolling across the Wheatbelt.

To discuss this article further, we encourage you to contact Craig Lane on (08) 6274 6400, or your Byfields accountant.

Disclaimer: This content provides general information only, current at the time of production. Any advice in it has been prepared without taking into account your personal circumstances. You should seek professional advice before acting on any material.

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