Thoughts for a retiring farmer
Stuart Coombe, Financial Planner and farming finance specialist has won plaudits for his help and advice in transitioning clients into retirement. Here Stuart gives his thoughts on the rural landscape and the areas a farmer has to navigate in order to retire successfully.
The ‘R’ word. It happens to everyone at some point (even farmers!), sometimes of your choosing in a structured and coordinated manner, other times thrust upon you out of the blue due to circumstances (which can be good or bad).
As you sit back and reflect on a lifetime’s work, of literal sweat and tears, it’s a time to work out what the future holds.
Having advised clients for years on these issues, similar thoughts continue to recur.
3rd February 2022
Stuart Coombe See profile
Whilst it may sound trite, retiring has an undeniable emotional toll. For some it is a relief, but for others passing on the reigns to the next generation or selling up and exiting the industry can be an emotional burden. Watching fifty or sixty years of work, or assets, that have built up over generations get sold can play on your mind. However, each individual and family needs to consider what is best for themselves and those around them at that particular juncture. It’s prudent to remind yourself that in most cases generations before simply wanted the best for you, so doing what is ‘right’ in a world that has changed out of all context from what went before (in farming as much as any other industry) should be judged in today’s terms.
Farmers work as hard as anyone and it’s undeniable that our farming clients put in significant hours. There is no 9-5 when working, livestock are unpredictable, and you can’t simply decide to take days off to enjoy some sunshine during harvest time.
Working out what is important in the next phase of your life and how to fill those significant number of hours can be either daunting or liberating depending on your own circumstances. Some continue to keep a hand in on the farm by helping out, others will have a clean break, some will be on grandparent duties, some envisage weeks on cruises and leaving England behind for the worse of our winters.
From a financial perspective these choices can have a big impact on your income needs in retirement. Naturally a retirement full of holidays and days out will require more coming into the current account each year than those after a quieter life with less disposable income.
Whatever the catalyst for change, attention then needs to turn to your financial needs.
Staying “in” the farm business can often be beneficial from a business and taxation perspective, giving the benefit of all that experience to whoever takes over, whilst being active and present can be useful for later claims against capital taxes. Financially there is often a need to stay involved in order to continue to receive an income from the business depending on how much has been squirrelled away off farm or that can be generated without recourse to the farm.
Diversification and different income streams, saving “off farm” in the run up to retirement can massively help this planning.
One thing I have witnessed over the years is that stress can occur when starting the decumulation phase especially where income is predominantly being taken from pensions and investments.
There can be a lurch towards much lower risk assets and a nervousness that is apparent only because having a regular earned income gives you a crutch to lean on. In your working life – assuming you can continue to work – there is the safety of knowing you can put income on the table month after month. Irrespective of the profitably of this – that’s another topic entirely – knowing you can always roll up your sleeves and earn gives a comfort that is missing in retirement, when additional time can mean focussing on less tangible matters such as pensions, investments, cash pots of money, and worrying how long they will last with nothing going back into those arrangements.
For those with off farm assets such as pensions and investments the same questions occur – ‘Do I have enough?’, ‘how long will my money last?’, ‘where’s the best place to get the income I need?’, ‘what happens if there is another stock market or property crash?’.
As ever planning is the way around all these issues.
In an ideal world, planning years in advance and having everything lined up allows a smooth transition to retirement and more knowledge of what the future holds.
If your business is able to, moving funds aside so you have more ‘pots’ to call on and more levers to pull can help when bringing things together and working out how to fund your retirement.
Ensuring your liquid assets (your cash, investments and pensions) allow you to do what you want, are sensibly managed and invested, and provide for your future needs, can pay massive dividends.
Fundamentally, as simple as it seems, the mere act of knowing what you need and what any “shortfall” is will be key. Take into account any ongoing income from the business if you remain, state pensions and any other income such as rent. On the flipside, income is one side of a coin with expenditure on the other side.