Columnist Signs Off, But Knows ‘I Didn’t Get It All Done’

Are you approaching retirement, or are at a stage where you can see it on the horizon? Maybe you know someone in that situation, or maybe you aren’t thinking about that yourself but people close to you think you should be.

If you’re struggling to figure out how to move forward, it may make sense when I say there are potentially three “buckets” that could be challenging: the personal, family and farm business buckets.

I’m at that stage in my life, approaching retirement. By at least a couple of definitions, I’ve been doing the “approaching” thing for a few years now. I kept pushing it back. I had the typical “I’m going to retire in three years” plan starting about 10 years ago.

I’ve had total respect from my family in their support for my work. They understand how much I’ve enjoyed working with farm families. I am privileged in being able to interact with farm families about what’s important to them, namely their families and their farms. So for me, the family bucket hasn’t been challenging at all.

I don’t own a farm, but I am majority owner in two businesses connected to the work I do — Backswath (our consulting business) and Farmcaster (our financial management software business). There are challenges associated with bringing resolution to the business bucket but they just have to be worked through.

For me, it’s the personal bucket that has challenges attached. I don’t like using the word “retire.” That may sound dumb but I suspect many people reading this article, and who are at my stage in life, have similar thoughts.

I’ve had seven different business interests throughout my career. Along the way, opportunities arose where I shifted from my current business interest at the time to the next one. So, when I made a change, I was always going to something else.

I’m making a change now but this time, the “something else” is not well defined. I don’t worry about what I’ll do if I’m not consulting with farm families. That’s never been a concern. I don’t have hobbies and I don’t golf, but I don’t worry about what I’ll do.

The personal bucket challenge for me is that I didn’t get all the things done in my business bucket. I remember telling my spouse that I was going to run out of time and that’s exactly what has happened. Having said that, I realize I likely would never have had enough time.

Lots of farmers have told me they feel the same way. But if they and I want to experience the retirement stage in our lives, we have to accept the reality that we won’t be able to “get it all done.”

If you have no intention of ever retiring, that’s a different situation and discussion. You may not have to deal with the three buckets. But someone will have to deal with at least one of them — the business bucket — because retiring when you die is not an “if” but a “when.”

I’ve had the good fortune to write articles such as this one for the Western Producer for about 15 years. I’ve enjoyed passing along my thoughts and observations on aspects of farm business management.

This is the last article I will submit. Thanks to those who have read them. A rotation of Backswath team members will continue to provide articles going forward.

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