Don’t let the blazer fool you. I may clean up ok, but my home’s entryway is filled with more muddy boots than heels. Country life runs deep into my bones. Farming and financial planning probably aren’t two subjects you would normally associate with each other. In fact, it’s more likely you relate financial advisors with boardrooms, sharply cut suits and luxury cars. Yeah, I get that. But we aren’t all cut from the same cloth.
If you don’t know me, you might be surprised to find out that that my skillset includes knowing how to tame and coax a newly orphaned bison calf to take a bottle, having at least 21 uses for binder twine (I’m sure you’re excited for that blog), and backing up abnormally large horse trailers with precision. My idea of a great Saturday is doing chores around our old fixer upper farm and training horses. Just try to get me into town on a nice weekend and see how that works out for you.
Think like a farmer
I was definitely confronted with some confused expressions when I made it known I would be taking on a career in financial planning. Why would this country girl choose work at what most people would qualify as a desk job? The truth is, within the agriculture lifestyle there are lessons about money management and investing you learn by exposure that are frankly just really hard to replicate in today’s society, and those lessons gave me the passion for what I do.
In Canada, we are considered to have very high job satisfaction, which is a little disheartening when our society is filled with people that are just waiting for their weekends and holidays. Have we just set the bar really low here in defining work satisfaction? The agriculture industry stands out to me as a place where love of work, passion, and patience are still hallmarks of the trade. So, what’s different about farmers?
I wanted to share a few pieces of wisdom I have been taught along the way from those who have years of dust on their boots, and explain why it may be of benefit us all to think like a little more like a farmer.
1. The Producer Mindset
When you speak with someone who produces food for a living, you will notice they generally are not excessive consumers. Most live quite conservatively when you take their net worth into consideration. An extreme example I’ve experienced is the time one of the wealthiest ranchers I know was tickled pink about showing me his new $12 bargain store shoes. I’m not kidding, this really happened.
These entrepreneurs have developed a producer mindset instead of a consumer mindset. When they make a profit at something, it isn’t often that they are thinking about what clothes or toys they will buy with that money. They are thinking how they can reinvest and grow it into their land and operations. They have learned to ask themselves “how can I grow it?” instead of “how can I spend it?” This mindset can change EVERYTHING.
2. It Will Surely Rain
Or snow, or hail, or be a drought. Or some of your cows will get out and get hit by a vehicle.
Farmers are not strangers to adversity. These situations are dealt with like extreme weather by farmers. They learn to expect it, and prepare for it. They know how to layer their clothing AND they have savings for when situations don’t pan out as planned, both of which are skills that my generation seems to struggle with as a whole.
I’m sure you’ve heard the term “save for a rainy day” thrown around before. It was probably from your Grandma, and she most likely grew up on a farm. So what is the practical takeaway from Grandma’s advice? Have 3-6 months of expenses put away for emergencies….and get some long-johns.
3. It’s cheaper to fix it
Almost every farm kid has memories of spending long days running around at auction and estate sales. Those are the best days, especially when you get to bring something new (to you) home. So why were the people in the agriculture biz so into old junk before vintage was trendy? Because it’s cheaper to buy it used and fix it than to buy new. Almost always. Even at an auction sale where you don’t know what is really wrong with it yet.
There is a very real-life takeaway of this concept for all of us today, and that is our vehicles. Man oh man, do we spend A LOT on our vehicles.
I know the frustration of dealing with a vehicle you have to take into the shop on a regular basis, and it can be so tempting to go and sign that new car lease or loan when you are going through that. But if you crunch the numbers, you will almost always see that the math will tell you to fix the car and drive it some more. Obviously, there is a practicality factor you need to take into account here, but putting up with a bit more hassle might give you freedom for other things like a holiday or financial goals like investing for the future.
4. Love what you do
This is the big one. It is really hard to find a farmer or rancher who has built a successful operation that isn’t in love with their work and “just does it for the money”. Most farmers find doing it for the money a laughable concept. I think even if you’ve never set foot on a farm, you know farming is a ton of work. But like I said before, that life gets into your bones and creates a love for the work involved.
This brings me to a challenge that I run into an alarming amount with clients. When did our society believe the lie that doing something you love and making money are mutually exclusive?!? You can make money AND be happy. Confucius said “choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life”.
What are the obstacles in your way from doing just that? You may need to make serious sacrifices, but I’m willing to bet it’ll be worth it. I often see people that are so restricted by debt that they feel they don’t have the luxury to choose what they do or they don’t believe they have a marketable skill they can develop. Give yourself more credit than this. You can learn to manage debt and everyone has SOMETHING they are great at.
There it is, a few lessons I’ve learned from the school of hard knocks in agriculture. I know these lessons are out there to learn elsewhere in life as well, being in a muddy field or on horseback isn’t a pre-requisite. That just happened to be my classroom. They are some of the most difficult and valuable life skills I have encountered yet when it comes to work, managing finances, and investing. Be sure to embrace the opportunity to think like a farmer the next you are lucky enough to have the chance.
*girl with baby buffalo image courtesy of Lisa Marie Photography