In my youth, I had the lucky chance to be raised on a farm in Iowa. Growing up I thought a lot differently and hated going out to do chores, shoveling pig manure, or walking beans. At the time it felt pointless, and I felt like free labor to my dad, Grandpa, and uncle.
Without my parents knowing it, farming taught me a lot about finances and how to manage money. In looking at my youth I came up with these small, but significant ways that living on a farm taught me about finances.
- Sell While the Market is Hot – farmers are the biggest optimists and the worst pessimists. When the markets are hot, then farmers think that I probably shouldn’t sell now, because it’s going to go higher. Then when the market is down in the dumps, then most farmers have tons of regrets. An important lesson I learned was to slowly (dollar cost average) sell when the market offers you a good price. This could be anything from toilet paper to corn to gold coins. You never know when the peak or valley will come, so sell when you’ve got a good profit.
- Being Stupid Will Cost You Financially (Don’t Be Stupid!!) – in 6th grade I had the responsibility of bringing the wagons in from the field, and one year I was bringing in a 250 bushel wagon of beans up to the farm house. We were going to put the grain in the bin and store it for winter. So I decided to drive the tractor and wagon in 4th gear (highest gear) up to the farm in order to get done faster. I was so stupid and kept driving in 4th gear as I turned the corner to go up to the farm. I ended up rolling the wagon and spilling all 250 bushels of beans. My stupidity cost my dad about a $1000 to replace the wagon tongue, but luckily no one was hurt. It helped me learn to not be foolish with my possessions and not be in such a hurry!
- Learn From the Past – Grandpa always sat with me in the living room rocking chairs until midnight chatting with me about farming, the Depression, and just about life in general. I’d gladly sit with him there for hours and just listen and ask questions. I knew if we forgot our past, then we’d soon repeat it. His words of wisdom about how to learn from the past helped me learn so much about finances and how to protect my family financially.
- Prepare For the Worst & Hope For the Best – farmer’s income is so dependent on the weather and when the rains come. It leaves so much up to chance. In watching my Dad and Grandpa, I always saw the worry when rain wasn’t coming, and the crops were starting to wilt or when we’d have a big flood. They always tried to do their best to save some of their income in case “this year” was a bad year. Ya never knew what each year would bring in terms of weather. All they could do was sow the seed, hedge their grain, buy crop insurance and pray for timely rains.
- Everyone Needs to Shovel Some S#*T! Once in a While – no matter what time of year it was there was always hog manure to be shoveled and hauled out to the field. Seemed like such a trivial and boring job that got to be old. I’d frequently complain and whine about having to do this “crappy” job, but it needed to get done. I don’t know how my dad put up with my whining! Regardless of how horrible the conditions were I truly learned the value of “an honest day of pay for an honest day of work.” I hated the job at the time, but when I look back it helped me learn how to work hard. I’m glad my parents pushed me into doing this! In working in the corporate world now I know how to work hard and be of good value to my employer.
There are probably a lot more ways that farm life has taught me about finances, but I can easily see how these five have translated into life now. I know that not everyone was raised on a farm, but I’d be interested in hearing how your upbringing formed your view of finances. It can be both positive or negative.