Hero to Zero

There has been a lot written about our aging farmers and the issues they face over succession and "moving on", but the stark reality for most is that it is absolutely frightening. What I am talking about here is the transition from being important and fully engaged in your business to being unimportant and disengaged. I thought it appropriate at the start of 2016 to explore some of the issues around it. More than that I am experiencing it myself so can speak from a personal point of view too.

We work hard, build a big farming business, take on other roles in governance, drainage boards and so on, but suddenly we reach an age where no one wants us anymore. Industry leaders get pushed aside with young blood and given a "life membership" as a parting handshake. Your role in local affairs suddenly ends just as abruptly as others push you off, or you are no longer voted for.

The reality is fellows, that they don't actually want us "old farts" anymore. There is the next generation who look and speak sharper than us who want our roles. More than that their lack of experience is quickly covered by a lot more noise

Realtor friends commented regularly on farmers who had stayed on the farm too long. They will not make a decision to move, it is difficult to make decisions consequently things start falling apart and there are health issues. I guess we all do not want to accept that we are getting older and the thought of giving up our "life" around farming seems impossible.

Where will I live, what will I do and where will I invest my money.
Most of all "I am not going to town!"

At the risk of repeating myself on the issue of where to invest your money, I have witnessed far too many "onto it" farmers who have sold up their farm, made bad investment decisions only to see the lot vanish and become poor. Not a good look.

When asked what surprised him most about humanity the Dalai Lama said ...
" Man sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money in recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived."

Fundamentally, we are trying to stay alive and what can we do to maintain quality of life as long as we can.

My solicitor tells me his biggest issue now is with his aging farmer clients is that when they retire, many die within two years. The issue here is we need to start creating new interests and another life well before "retirement". I think retirement should be deleted from our vocabulary and rephrased to "having enough to do what you want when you want".

So back to the Hero to Zero point. We are heroes to those who remember what we did, our contributions to society, farming and family and if we are lucky somebody might write an obituary in the local paper when we die, but that is it! Because newspapers need money to run them, they will probably need money for your obituary space.

I am fortunate to be chairing a Probus group at Waihi Beach where we are talking about all these issues. I am also fortunate to have a Professor of Social Sciences to chat to. This is a massive area which has been poorly traversed in the past and warrants a lot of our focus and attention.

If you are feeling like a Zero, not a Hero it might be time to find somebody to talk to.

Disclaimer – These are the opinions of Don Fraser of Fraser Farm Finance. Any decisions made should not be based on this article alone and appropriate professional assistance should be sought.
Don Fraser is the Principal of Fraser Farm Finance and a consultant to the Farming Industry.
Contact him on 0800 777 675 or 021 777 675 A disclosure document is available on request.


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