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Should you take the plunge and retire?

Should you take the plunge and retire?
Some farmers hand off the baton to a partner and walk away.

The old axiom that farmers farm forever and never retire may no longer be true. One farmer told us recently that he decided he would retire at age 65 so that he and his wife could travel and enjoy things while they were still young enough and in good enough physical condition to do so.

He didn’t just say he would retire. Talk can be cheap. He has retired. His partner is continuing on and has found a younger person to work with to help keep the operation going.

Related: Giving young farmers a fighting chance

The message this farmer would like to pass along to other farmers is two-fold.

SMOOTH TRANSITION: When transfers such as retirement of one partner goes smoothly, there doesn’t have to be any disruption in the operation.

First, there can be life after farming. At some point you may want to shift lifestyles. For him, that meant turning the operation and workload over to someone else, and not being tempted to continue working and ‘just cutting back.’ The ‘just cutting back philosophy’ seldom works. Pretty soon, it’s full-fledged farming again.

Second, deciding to retire isn’t a spur of the moment decisions. In this case the farmer and his wife actually began actively pursuing succession planning about three years before he expected to retire. It may involve rather expensive legal planning, but taking the time to think through things and set things up correctly is worth it in the long run, the farmer says.

Related: Farm succession planning: Customizing a farm estate plan

If you have a partner, that also means understanding the partners’ goals, and what his or her plans are for the future, this farmer says. In his case the partner was a few years younger, so they figured out how to transition the farm operation over to him. The transition should be smooth because it has been planned out in detail, and because there was a seamless transfer of the operation from two partners to just one partner, with the other partner retiring.

Legal advice and help may be expensive, but this farmer feels it is essential. He wanted to make sure everything was written down and legally binding, so that there would be no misunderstandings later.

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