For me, one of the highlights of producer and lender events is student participation. Recently, FFA and community college students participated in a seminar by asking advice from attendees on various subjects. After the session, I thoroughly enjoyed the conversations over lunch and listening to both the questions and answers in the hallway chats. In response to some of the pressing questions from the younger generation, the following is a summary of the advice offered.
Several of the participants agreed on the importance of internships. While classroom education sets a great foundation, working with a good set of practitioners or mentors can really differentiate one’s skill set. Many lending institutions offer internship programs, and producers are increasingly seeing the value of off-farm experience as well.
Along the lines of real-world experience, it is important to have real-world responsibilities. In other words, to maintain a successful experience in one’s internship or job, a detailed job description is necessary. It provides clarity for all parties, and is equally as critical in a third-party evaluation.
Another good recommendation was balance. When starting a business, one needs to plan time for family and personal lives in addition to work. This balance must be a priority. In fact, I continue to observe an increase in the acceptance and adoption of this balance from the senior generation.
Another participant suggested that the younger generation strive to make connections with peers and professionals to help them be thoughtful and patient in their financial strategies. Specifically, one gentleman said, “Be patient with money.” In today’s world, there are several examples of the “get rich quick” schemes such as the recent run-up in the cryptocurrency, bitcoin. Strategies that call for overnight success can easily skew the more reliable process of saving and business planning, which are really what deliver favorable long-term results. Networking with the right people, and avoiding the wrong people, can be invaluable for one’s mental, physical and financial health.
Another tip was to watch spending. An older participant warned the students not to overspend and to never pay too much for an asset. Several also mentioned inflation and its impact on long-term financial security. Of course, in recent years, inflation has been low. However, the 50-year average inflation is 4 percent. The old rule of thumb is that the rate of return on long-term investments should exceed the rate of inflation; if not, the buying power is eroded.
Lastly, other tidbits included not marrying too young, staying in school and completing a degree. There were many great exchanges between the senior generations and the students that highlighted the benefit of experience combined with youth. I was excited to see the eager participation on both sides, and am also grateful for the organizations that continue to host these educational opportunities. These events are incredible investments in the future of agriculture, as well as powerful testimonies to giving back.