It’s a really interesting question - not just for farmers - but for everyone. Is finance a topic farmers like to discuss?

Are farmers a ‘closed shop’ on that topic or is it something to deal with but only if you have to?

Who controls the family finances? Are farmers completely reliant on their accountant/adviser or do they really know what is going on?

I believe it’s a mixture of all of the above. Farmers by their nature can be secretive about their finances. They may tell you what you need to know, but not quite the full story.

Bank of Ireland survey

A recent survey carried out by Bank of Ireland found that over 70% of people don’t talk about their finances at all, and only if they have to.

Over four in 10 people polled singled out their bank balance as their least comfortable discussion point.

The survey confirmed that when it comes to discussing finance, six in 10 Irish consumers feel borrowing was harder to talk about than saving, spending or planning.

The research did not say how many consumers were farmers, but I think we can be sure farmers don’t differ that much from the wider population.

Another interesting finding from the research was that 39% of the respondents said they fear judgement from their friends and family when talking about their finances.

The ostrich effect

Over 29% thought by not talking it makes it easier to ignore their financial problems. This is known as the ‘ostrich effect’.

This is a means by which we can, as humans, avoid information that we perceive as potentially unpleasant (also known as cognitive bias).

For example, this can cause a farmer to avoid looking at their co-op or merchant bill because they are worried about seeing how far behind they are on their payments.

Another farmer will avoid opening their bank loan statement as they are concerned about how many payments they have missed, or what their bank is saying to them.

By behaving in this manner you cause stress and worry to yourself and your family. You may also take on the risk of accumulating debt and risking your livelihood or the family farm.

What can you do?

Farming and finance go hand in hand. Farming today is a commercial business like any other.

The financial side of farming is equally as important as doing the manual work.

COVID-19 has disrupted plans in farming like in many other businesses. But there are many ways in which to alleviate the financial stress, such as:

  • Share your concerns with your spouse, family or trusted friend. Share the load.
  • Talk to your bank or financial institution and start the process. This may involve an application to extend the terms of your loan repayments.
  • Get advice from your accountant or adviser. This may involve a full restructure of the overall terms and conditions of your borrowings to alleviate your financial difficulty.
  • Most importantly, do not ignore the issues and hope they will go away or fix themselves.

    Take control of your finances

    Mental health is a huge issue in rural Ireland; never more so than now, due to COVID-19.

    The sense of isolation and loneliness has increased. The chats and meet-ups at marts and co-ops have been completely curtailed.

    The opportunities to discuss finance, even if you wanted to, are not readily there.

    By not taking control of your finances and worrying daily, you risk seriously damaging your health. There are many supports available. Take the first step - talk and share.

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