Most farmers are classic baby boomers, who will do things differently

As a classic baby boomer, born in the same year as President Bush and other eminent people, I have considerable focus on how "retirement might look".

An interesting article in the February Listener made for most interesting and thought provoking reading, and I quote:

"Baby boomer is a very ordinary name for the generation who shaped the last three decades of the millennium. They gave us jogging, MBA's, cholesterol, scepticism, latte, divorce, silicon chips, and counselling.

Old age is what their parents had. The baby boomers are going to invent something all their own. The first of the boomers hit 60 on January 1. To baby boomers, death is just an option. They intend living forever.

They believe retiring was their dads' trick. They are going to achieve an optimum work-life balance, by which they mean more life, less work. New adventures, exciting places to live are being invented by them, for them".

The average age of New Zealand farmers is between 50 and 60 years, Most of us fall into the baby boomer group.

So, given that we do not want to retire early, how might that look as we move into those twilight year on the farm?

Farmers are opting to stay in and on the farm longer. They do not need to retire, rather shift the balance of work i.e. from heavy to light, and from physical to administrative. "The body wants to slow down, but the brain doesn't".

Some countries have identified that they cannot afford their nation to be retiring at 65, and will be moving the pension age to 70. This will inevitably happen in New Zealand too, as the nation is no longer able to foot the bill.

So how does all this affect or apply to our nation of ageing farmers?

Ordinarily, we are asset rich, and often cash poor. Some options might include selling off the shares, the spare cottage, and the stock. Repaying all the debt and leasing the farm to the neighbours, or one of our children. This way you keep the asset and your home intact, and receive a monthly cheque from the tenant.

Of course, we will have the property in a family trust by now to protect us from problems later. These problems include the government wanting to caveat our property to cover costs, should we require full hospital care.

They might also include better transmission of the property to the next generation, and to protect our efforts from exiting partners of our children.

Could we sell the farm, buy a house in town and invest the money in commercial property? This should show as a 7% return, protecting us from inflation, and our original investment diminishing.

We could retain the "status quo", and employ somebody to do more of the physical work. This might be a short term solution, would give us time to sort out what we want.

Perhaps we should take more breaks and put more "full stops" in our day. This will reduce our stress levels, and improve our longevity.

If we keep fit, and focus on our health, we should be around for a long time to enjoy "fruits of our labour".

As I say to my family, "I am going to keep fit and healthy so that I can stay around to annoy you as long as possible".

In Australia, there are some two million people who "live on the road". An increasing number of farmers are buying old coaches/buses, for conversion to travelling semi-retirement homes.

We could find we need to stand up to our children, some who may want instant gratification and a share of our wealth now. We may see some of them as self-indulgent, opinionated, whining, wanting everything now.

We are able to do things differently to our parents. Change how we live, and live longer. This may include giving up smoking, eating less, eating a more balanced diet and keeping fitter.

It will come as no surprise that if you focus on living longer, you will.


We farming baby boomers are going to do things differently to our parents. We are going to change the model, so we live longer and healthier.

We are going to hold onto our farms and property, and tell our kids to back off and wait their turn.

We are going to have family trusts to protect our assets for the next generation.

And finally, we are going to become much more visible, and an economic force to be reckoned with.


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