Redefining Retirement

by Melinda Sims

retire tile

I am announcing my retirement! No, not from teaching at RMC or Sims Cattle Company (our family’s business), or from our consulting company, Adapt! I am retiring from being a stay-at-home mom! As of this coming August, I will no longer have kids at home who have been my main priority. 

It sounds crazy, but all of us have many “retirements” in our lifetimes: from college, from being a full-time caretaker, from our first career, our second career, etc. We just never see it as a retirement, we tend to see it as a new phase in life. Which is exactly what retirement is – a time in our lives when a new chapter begins. For most of us, especially in agriculture, retirement seems scary, if not downright impossible.

This may just be in our DNA, to not want to retire. For those of us in agriculture, it has been our livelihood to provide. Maybe it’s in the form of food for customers, a service such as custom grazing, or to provide a legacy for our offspring. Historically (and I mean clear back to early humans), the elderly were honored to be able to help provide until the moment of their death. In indigenous tribes, once someone became less capable of hunting, gathering, or warring, their role became that of teacher or caretaker for the young or infirm. They tended fires, rocked babies, and passed on their tribe’s history, still being of value to the younger generations. They freed young parent’s hands so they could go hunt, gather, or war.  

But many fear retirement, so how do we move past that? This is where retiring TO something is the paradigm shift we all need to embrace. What if we see it more as a transition or a meaningful respite? Rancher Emeritus? Life isn’t over at retirement, it’s just the beginning of a new phase. Hopefully a phase in which one can follow dreams without concern for the daily chore of making a living; where one can do their heart’s desire; where one can feel as useful or as relaxed as they want and where they can focus on their “why” – which possibly has changed with age and situations.  

Besides understanding our new paradigm, a huge barrier to being able to enjoy this new phase in life is usually our financial situation. Many of us have not planned well enough to feel financially secure in making the decision to start a new phase. Economic and financial planning are critical to a successful retirement. Setting a profit goal and a plan to reach it so our needs in retirement are met, is one critical area of WOTB (Working on the Business) that a lot of us neglect.

Another barrier to a successful retirement is our faith that what we have devoted our time, energy, and money to is not going to collapse without our involvement. I believe management succession planning is the only solution that can make us feel secure in our decision to pass the reins over, as we pursue our new passions. Using the tools we learn in our Ranching for Profit Schools like effectiveness areas, organizational charts, and mission/ vision statements can all help us create our succession plan. 

What are you retiring to? Cultural preservationist? Legend teller? Rocker of babies? Sharer of experiences? I am moving on to a new phase, where the time I used to spend parenting will now be focused on providing an environment that encourages the sharing of ideas and knowledge. All with the goal of creating opportunities for personal growth and a holistic life through involvement in RMC. We should be proud when we are able to move into a different stage of life, no matter the age. Retirement doesn’t mean we’re moving towards a stagnant way of life, just that we have new goals!

8 Responses to “Redefining Retirement”

April 24, 2024 at 5:23 am, Dan Brockman said:

I retired from agriculture over a dozen years ago and moved on to other things and wouldn’t go back for anything! I think the fear of retirement has very little to do with finances – most ag businesses are worth plenty to launch a person into a comfortable retirement, and if you managed your business properly and paid yourself a wage, at 62 you can collect social security.
The fear is the fear of not being vital, of losing your identity. People need to separate their identity from their farm.or ranch. Your ranch is your business, your personality, your being, is your identity. Once you can step back and realize you are valued as yourself and not “Joe the Rancher”, your entire life changes for the better. A ranch or farm is just a piece of ground where you make a living, and it will be in someone else’s care when you’re gone. Don’t worship it, use it wisely and take care of it while it’s there, like any asset, and move on when it’s time. If a family member wants to take over, they can buy it like anyone else – if they can’t, then it may not be a financially viable opportunity anyway. And if they don’t really want it, don’t burden them with it.
It’s not your responsibility to be the keeper of the perpetual flame. When it’s time to retire and move on, do it! It’s what’s best.

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April 24, 2024 at 6:18 am, Allison Brown Florance said:

CONGRATULATIONS on your retirement from full time stay at home mom! You are doing a great job of making every new day better than the past.

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April 24, 2024 at 6:49 am, Pete Weisenberger said:

Great commentary….
I’ll never retire. The word is not in my vocabulary. It’s been my guiding motto for a few years now.
I’m climbing the Second Mountain…and maybe a Third or more.

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April 24, 2024 at 7:06 am, Tara Smith said:

This is excellent, Melinda! Thank you!!

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April 24, 2024 at 7:30 am, Andrew Morris said:

Great article Melinda.
I think for many retirement feels like quitting and ranchers aren’t quitters. Recognizing that as we age our passions can change and that’s ok. As you said in the article it’s natural for our roles to change. Don’t be afraid to leave your mark and go after your new passion.
Thanks for your thoughts.

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April 24, 2024 at 7:38 am, Mike O'Brien said:

Great article Melinda, thank you, and thank you for devoting your skills and intellect for others to learn in his next chapter.
I am trying to impart these thoughts with my 22-year old daughter now, so we share in her journey to embrace planning as I plan my next phase.

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April 24, 2024 at 7:45 am, Nancy W. said:

I’d like to reply more to Dan’s response than the article. At the age of the avg farmer think many could post their thoughts. What is one persons “best” will be unique to the next persons “best”. I’m 64 & still working FT for an Ag Lending Coop. WAY too many have started their SS @ 62 & not waited to max on that benefit. Esp if healthy in mind & body & planning for a 30 yr retirement instead of say a 20 yr retirement. Have met farmers that have a legacy to pass on whether to family or helping another younger generation get started that gives them a lot of satisfaction. Their generosity of time, knowledge & monetary will never be forgotten. It will be interesting with our aging farmers to see where & how they live in their 70’s-90’s as many do not have family to take care of them & moving to town is the last thing or worst idea you could suggest to them. Interesting article, thank you.

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May 04, 2024 at 2:25 pm, Bill Barnes said:

Hmmmmmmmmmmmmm
Retirement-what is that??

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