What Will You Retire To?

by Dave Pratt

As of this writing I have 68 days left running RMC before a new generation of management takes the helm. It’s been a good ride, but it’s been a long trail and Kathy and I are ready to hand over the reins. But just because we are ready doesn’t mean it’s easy. When what you do is a big part of who you are, who are you when you stop doing?

It’s not enough to be ready to stop. We have to be ready to start life without RMC. This isn’t just about Kathy and me. There are four questions anyone preparing for retirement faces:

1.What are your financial needs and how will they be met?

Your financial needs are simple to project. How they will be met is more complicated. Too often all the profit a farm or ranch makes gets plowed straight back into the business. It can be a serious challenge for the incoming generation if the previous generation is financially reliant on the business, even after they’ve stepped aside. This is one of many reasons why it is smart to invest profit in off-ranch income-generating investments. It is  much easier for the next generation to run the business and maintain positive relationships if they aren’t working to fund your life in retirement.

2.What role will you have in the business?

When what you do has become a big part of who you are, it may not be realistic to suddenly stop doing, severing all ties to the business. Losing the accumulated knowledge and experience of the retiring generation probably isn’t in the incoming generation’s best interest either.

Whether working in the business, serving on the board as an advisor or doing something else entirely,  the retiring generation’s role, and degree of control, should be clearly defined. Dad could be a wise, appreciated advisor, but without clear definition he could easily become an interfering annoyance.

3.What will you do?

You can’t retire from ranching, or anything else for that matter. You need something to retire to. And you need to know what you’ll be retiring to, before you step aside. This is the most challenging question for me as I prepare to step aside

When you’ve spent the better part of your adult life consumed by something you love doing,  had your finger on the pulse of your business and had the authority to make strategic and tactical decisions, it’s difficult to imagine another reality, and it’s really hard to let go. Unfortunately, if you don’t step aside, it is impossible for a new generation to step up. 

4.When should you retire?

Someone recently came to me with a new idea. I dismissed it as politely and quickly as I could. Kathy and I had already made the decision to retire, but in that moment, it was clear to me that RMC needed new leadership. When you reject new ideas before considering their potential, you aren’t leading, you are hanging on. You can’t lead a business into the future if all you are willing to do is hang on to the past.

Embracing change is hard. People tend to exaggerate the value and underestimate the risk of maintaining the status quo. In contrast, they low-ball the potential value and overestimate the risk of change.  Maintaining the status quo feels safe. But we confuse safety with comfort and the unknown with danger. 


Having spent the last three and a half decades helping people navigate change, I’m probably more aware of these tendencies than most. Even so, I’ve found it challenging to thoroughly and objectively explore what I’ll be retiring too. My path into retirement is more of a concept than a plan. There are many exciting possibilities, but there are also plenty of unknowns.  

Successful retirement is not something you prepare for the month before you retire. Stan Parsons used to say, “Once you see the tidal wave, it’s too late!” Heeding Stan’s advice, Kathy and I have been preparing for some time. As a result, Kathy and I are prepared for exciting adventures, and RMC will be in excellent hands as Dallas and his team continue to help people transform their ranches into successful businesses.

8 Responses to “What Will You Retire To?”

July 24, 2019 at 5:32 am, Brian Munger said:

We will be praying for you and Kathy as you prepare for the exciting adventures.

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July 24, 2019 at 7:13 am, George Reid said:

Very good article I made plans how to retire turned out I was wrong in my assumptions and had to modify and as time passes I am ready to change again stay flexible and don’t sit still.

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July 24, 2019 at 7:46 am, Jason Reynolds said:

Thanks for all the wisdom you’ve shared. I’m curious if ranching is a part of your retirement plan, and if not why isn’t it? Hard to imagine something that would be more simple or more profitable for you to do, or am I missing something about aging and ranching not going together?

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July 24, 2019 at 7:52 am, Steve said:

Dave, very good thoughts.
Sorry i can not make the early August meeting.

Congratulations to you and Kathy

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July 24, 2019 at 9:23 am, Don Hladych said:

Dave I enjoyed working with you and RMC congratulations to you and Kathy

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July 24, 2019 at 2:27 pm, Holly George said:

Congratulations Dave & Kathy Enjoy the next chapter of your lives

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July 25, 2019 at 7:33 pm, Gary S Marshall said:

Our very Best Wishes to you and Kathy in your retirement! Can’t begin to Thank You for all the skills you have given us and even now in your final 68 days, for our business, throughout these many years of your leadership! We are in gratitude to you!!

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July 25, 2019 at 7:49 pm, Johnny Cozad said:

Dave,
You and RMC helped us see and achieve beyond our non vision non WOTB status. Your encouragement, compassion and insight are unmatched. I remember the workshop you put on in Linn Tx some years and the Summer EL you facilitated 3 summers ago. I will never forget you and what RMC have given to us. Many more successes for you and Kathy I pray.
You

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