Goals help when moving off the farm

Betty Turner, left, and daughters and grandson, Heather Trafford, Corina Lepp and Sonny Trafford (in sled), enjoy the walking trail that she and husband Dennis work to maintain during their retirement on their Killarney Lake property.  |  Photo courtesy of Dennis Turner

It was still a tough decision emotionally, but having a destination made it easier for Betty and Dennis Turner to cope

Deciding to move off the farm can be the easiest or the hardest decision a farmer has to make.

There are questions of where to go, what happens to the farm and the financial implications of moving off the farm.

While it was an emotionally difficult decision for Betty and Dennis Turner, the Manitoba couple knew their retirement was going to be a life at their Killarney Lake lake-front “love dome.” According to Betty, that meant having their kids and grandkids over for important family time, and being outside with their love of gardening and landscaping.

They groom five kilometres of lake trail and enjoy doing that for their community and using the trails themselves.

Knowing the 26-acre, Lakeshore Drive property was going to be their vision for retirement made planning their retirement journey and saying goodbye to their century farm easier, she says.

Knowing that this was the retirement life they wanted and planning their finances accordingly to fit those goals made everything easier. Investing in a multipurpose building for their property and landscaping equipment was done while they were still farming so they weren’t spending retirement dollars on having the things they wanted later in life.

World travel was also going to be a big part of retirement so Betty and Dennis planned for that as well.

Harold and Jocelyn Froese also wanted to spend a lot of their retirement time with their children and grandchildren when they moved from their farm near Oak Bluff, Man., to Winnipeg.

The decision to retire, sell the farm, and not pass it down to the children was made as soon as their kids made their own career choices, says Harold. Since all of their kids decided to pursue careers that did not include farming, he knew that succession planning within the family was not going to be an issue.

They had long operated a farm on the edge of Winnipeg city limits and that made the decision to move into the city an easy one, he says. While they thought about moving to the Okanagan or Vancouver Island, Winnipeg is home. Harold admits moving from the farm to the big city isn’t for everyone.

“We were comfortable with that because so much of our association was in Winnipeg… being in a lot in a city and you look out your window, and you see your neighbour’s fence or the neighbour’s kids, that’s not for everybody.”

For Lynn and Elaine Jacobson, deciding where to live out their retirement has been an ongoing discussion for the last two years. There is a lot to consider for the Enchant, Alta., couple, Lynn says, including how far to be from kids and aging parents.

While his children are putting in suggestions, he says, they haven’t really been part of that discussion but are being taken into consideration. Living on your own land with the nearest neighbour being kilometres away, the next move is going to mean adjusting to something new, he says.

“When you think about moving into a city or a town, is that lifestyle going to be suitable for what we’re used to? We like to be able to look out and not look into the next neighbour’s yard right now,” laughs Lynn.

The couple have subdivided their yard since Lynn’s retirement in 2016 from their mixed farm and has been renting out their land while still living in their farmyard.

Whether to sell the yard when they move has also been a big part of the discussion since moving without needing a mortgage on the next property does have its own appeal, he says.

“I don’t want to be the landlord. That’s very frustrating and has not been a very rewarding experience for us. When we do go, it’s going to be maybe rent someplace to begin with and sell this one and then go from there.”

What kind of life do they want when they do move off the farm?

Yard maintenance has been an ongoing part of life on the farmyard and Lynn is not sure if that is something they want to continue, especially as they get older, he says. Moving off the farm is going to mean being free of that yard work but time will tell of how much of that is in their future.

Lynn hopes to be off the farm within the next year, but that also depends on COVID-19 and the housing market. The 40,000 head feedlot being built a mile from their farm will have some bearing on their decision, he says.

Patti Durand, agriculture transition specialist with Farm Credit Canada, says deciding where to live after retirement is an important piece of the retirement puzzle.

She says farmers should have those conversations with their children and their planning team, which should include lawyers, accountants, financial planners.

“Sometimes (retirement) is moving off the farm, sometimes that is replacing existing accommodations for whatever reason. What does that budget line look like? What is that going to cost? And being clear about budgeting that out is important because that’s a big expense and a big obligation of the transition,” says Durand.

“Your needs won’t be met if you’re not telling people what (those needs) are.”

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