In the 44 years I’ve had the good fortune of working with farm families discussing farmers and retirement, I’ve found there’s commonly a disagreement between farm spouses about when to retire. Farm wives see their urban friends retiring, working part-time or volunteering at age 65, compared to their husbands wanting to die with their boots on, still farming. When asked about their thoughts on retirement, a typical answer is “When the ambulance backs up to the door I’ll think about it.”
Deciding when to retire is one thing, but making sure that retirement savings haven’t been used up while dealing with health issues is another. Almost two out of three people will spend the last 10 years of their working lives dealing with an illness or disability. Part of retirement risk management is having insurance to protect farmers through this time of high illness risk.
Retired couples are solely dependent on their health holding out to be able to enjoy the fruits of their labor, which unfortunately is often not their reality! It’s also common for serious illness to happen to both spouses within a short time of each another, changing what should be a pleasant and rewarding stage of life to a period of basic survival. The associated expenses can break the retirement piggy bank very quickly, causing financial suffering on their part and often on their children as well. Add to this, that about 80% of our lifetime health care expenses will be incurred in our closing decade.
It’s human nature to be in denial, and believe that bad things will only happen to other people. The reality is, it can happen to us, the consequences can be very unpleasant, and wealth can quickly be eliminated. There can be sudden and unexpected travel, meal and motel expenses for family members who are providing assistance. Traveling south of the border for treatment to avoid long wait times can be especially costly. The services of a full-time home-care provider may be needed during recovery, or a long-term care facility may be required. If good risk management practices have not been employed, it may require liquidating of hard-earned assets. Farmers, and business owners as well, need to be proactive and make sure that proper attention has been taken to these financial matters.
It’s easy to be complacent about our health when we have it. But in my business I see the financial stress that families go through when the breadwinner gets sick or disabled, often having to cash in their RRSPs and other savings to cover costs. No one should have to lose their home, farm or retirement savings because of disability due to an accident or sickness.
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