As a personal/business coach, I've worked with many farm and ranch couples to help them figure out how to get what they want from ranch life. This is particularly important when you're over 50 because your peak earning year is likely to be around age 50. After that, your energy starts to drop, interest in what you've been doing starts to wane and you tend to just not work as hard.

There's nothing wrong with that — it's normal. The problem comes when you either don't recognize the “new” conditions, or do but pretend it isn't happening. Depression is likely to follow.

But, if a couple knows what they want in life, talks about it and works toward achieving it, there's far less stress. It can save money, too.

Here's a typical example
Tony and Susan are 52 and 50 years of age, respectively; they've farmed for 30 years. They crop 800 acres and run a 60-head, cow-calf operation. They've managed well and have little debt. Susan is proud to be a homemaker and spends a lot of time in her garden, while Tony is very independent and a man of few words.

Two years ago, Tony fell and broke his right leg. There are many winter days now when his leg pains him.

He hasn't mentioned to Susan that he finds it more difficult to get all the work done. He's always taken great pride in not having to take things to town to get them fixed, but his farm is slowly running down.

Susan would like to spend more time with their only daughter, who's married and lives 500 miles away. Tony is saddened his daughter doesn't come home more often. Susan has explained to him, though, that Linda is busy with her job and money is always tight, as her husband is constantly in and out of jobs.

On the surface, the farm appears to be successful and the couple have reached their goal. The question is, what is their goal?

The way it stands, Tony is likely to become depressed as his “decline” continues, and Susan will become more worried. Without knowing what's bothering Tony, the couple will have less comradeship, and intimacy will decline.

Tony may begin to think his farming life is over and there's nothing left to live for. A heart attack may not be far away.

After just a few changes
Imagine, however, what would happen if they made a few changes.
Tony might admit his problem keeping up with the farm. He and Susan could devise a plan to give them the life they want, once they figured out what that is.

Suppose Tony likes cropping, but is tired of looking after cows. Suppose also that, despite enjoying cropping, he doesn't want to manage all 800 acres any more. In fact, he'd get enough pleasure out of managing 300. They could sell the cows, pay off the remaining debt, and put the rest into safe investments.

Tony could rent part of his farm for cash rent, providing another income stream while cutting his workload. He could crop the remaining land, and have just the amount of work he enjoys.

For sure, they'd get their accountant involved in these decisions so they could minimize the tax burden. They'd still have farm income, along with no debt, and the time to visit their daughter, or even do a little traveling.

Sounds simple doesn't it? They would go from quiet desperation to a fulfilling semi-retirement with just a bit of communication and planning. The fact is, it doesn't really have to be much more complicated than that.

The hard part for many men is talking truthfully with their wives about how things are with them, and what they ideally would like in their lives. I've seen dramatic changes in the lives of men who have done just that.

Edmonton-based Noel McNaughton speaks at conventions and for corporations on “Farming/Ranching at Midlife — Strategies for a Successful Second Age.” He is a regular contributor to BEEF magazine. More of his articles are posted under the Ranching Over 50 button on www.americancowman.com. Contact him at 780/432-5492 or e-mail: farm@midlife-men.com.