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myron friesen 1102

By Myron Friesen

Would you rather hear the truth or just what you want to hear?

There are times when it’s more fun to hear what we want to hear rather than the truth. Have you ever woke up dreaming that something awesome had just happened? Every once in awhile I think about what I would do if I won the lottery — usually the dream ends when I wake up.

The truth is I will never win because I don’t play. (I realize farming itself is enough of a gamble).

As a kid I always wanted to just get in the tractor and drive. I didn’t want to think about maintenance. Although maintenance was something that needed to be done it would have been more fun to just park it at night and start up in the morning and keep on driving — until all the bearings went out.

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If dad had not made me grease and maintain things I probably wouldn’t have done it and that would have been music to my ears at that age!

My wife is awesome but the only maintenance that concerns her is the gas gauge. The truth is overall regular maintenance is a good thing.

Even better is to have someone tell you something that makes you feel good, even if it isn’t all true. After being in relatively good shape all my life I have had a few injuries lately and as a result I know I have gained a few pounds. I don’t like those extra pounds and when we eat together as a family I tell my kids I need to lose some weight.

They tell me I look good and I’m not fat. I love my kids!

Actually in addition to loving my kids I like to hear them say that even though it isn’t true. I should lose 15 pounds! But it sure is great to hear what we want to hear!

It would be great if I could take 20 minutes to scan a farmers estate plan, then tell them everything looks great, pat them on the back and tell them "good job" and go on to the next farmer. The reality is that it would be a complete lack of service to that farmer and, more importantly, a blatant lie.

Some people would love to hear that they are all set and they would accept that advice readily because that is what they want to hear.

Sometimes being truthful requires action. There are times when it would be much easier to tell people what they want to hear rather than what they should hear. When you review your estate, farm continuation or financial plan, do you understand it and do you want to know the truth?

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If you have a plan that doesn’t use all of the federal estate tax credit available to you, do you want to know? If you have a plan that hasn’t addressed any farm continuation issues, do you want to know? If you have paid too much for an insurance policy or for an investment, do you want to know? If you have an insurance policy that is going to lapse, do you want to know? If you have asset ownership not coordinated with your legal plan, do you want to know?

There are times when, during the fact-finder stage, I hear the client speak highly of their attorney or financial adviser whom they have had a relationship with and trusted for years.

Then, when we go through their plan, they observe some issues that weren’t addressed, not properly handled or just plain not right.

What should I do?

If the attorney didn’t address an issue that would create a significant tax burden at death, should I look the other way because I know the client likes their attorney or do I tell the truth and point out the issue? If they have a poor investment that was recommended by their financial adviser, should I tell them the truth?

If their plan would leave their farming child in an impossible financial position even though they want that child to keep farming, would they want to know that? I assume that most people want to know the truth and, therefore, I point out the issue because I think knowing the truth is important.

I have concluded that there are some people who would honestly rather not know the truth. I have also been amazed that when those same people find out that someone has done a poor job with their planning or product business, they keep going back. Personally, I want to know the truth and I have a tendency to feel a bit steamed when I find out that I trusted someone who didn’t do a good job.

Friesen is a co-owner of Farm Financial Strategies in Osage, Iowa. For more information, he can be contacted at 866-524-3636.

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