My Farming Past Taught Me More than just How to Muck Manure

By on Feb 25, 2013 in Guest Post, Investing, Saving | 17 comments

Money Inspiration from a Former Farmer

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guest article by Amanda Grossman

Dairy farming is hard work. I don’t care how romantic it may sound, how trendy owning backyard chickens and niche gardens may be, or how touching Paul Harvey’s message was during the Super Bowl (and as a former farmer, I can say it was deeply touching). The fact is that bucolic roots can become chains when you are performing two milkings per day, when your net worth can crumble in the next drought, and when your income is based on a combination of fickle animals and Mother Nature.

First Group 010

Why Save?

Yet growing up on a family dairy farm—working the land, nurturing the animals, finding myself stuck in foot-deep manure more than once— gave me a life perspective vastly different from others that I am truly grateful for. When you are acutely aware that good times are fleeting and rainy days (or rather extremely dry ones) lurk right around the corner, you learn to save as much money for the future as possible and to live humbly. In the meantime, all you can do is keep your head down and work incredibly hard, as your work ethic is the only thing you seem to have control over. This rural agrarian conservatism becomes a natural way of life for farmers, and it has followed me through to adulthood despite having moved off of the farm almost a decade ago.

Applying rural agrarian conservatism to an Urban Life Results in Abundance

I started my first post-college job one week after graduation. I was the International Sales and Marketing Specialist for a predominantly agricultural company with a huge $40,000 salary. Like muscle memory, I fell right into the familiar rhythm of living as cheaply as possible and squirreling away the rest. I had a roommate, so I paid a whopping $325 per month for rent, internet and cable. Work was two blocks down the road so I generally only needed one tank of gas every four weeks, and I spent $200 a month on groceries.

After just one year of employment I had paid down a considerable chunk of my student loans and saved $10,000 in an account earning 5% interest (ah, the days of risk-free, fantastic interest rates!).

With no potential droughts or fickle animals to knock me off course (though I did endure a lay-off at my one-year mark), I got to thinking that perhaps I could do something with this money. I had heard about investing at an early age, but thought that it was what rich people did. Then I thought about it some more and decided that if, in fact, rich people were the ones investing, then perhaps it might be for a very good reason. Opening a retirement account seemed like my first logical investment step.

Turning Cash into a Future – Opening My First Investment Account

My employer at the time did not offer a 401(K) account. So, with the extra cash that had accumulated in my savings I decided to open up my own. I had my taxes completed by an H&R Block tax person, and she explained to me that I could get back a $600 refund if I put a certain amount of money into a Traditional IRA. I jumped at the opportunity to not only start investing for my retirement, but to essentially be paid to do so.

Unfortunately, I did not understand the difference between Traditional and Roth IRAs at the time. A year later after reading about retirement accounts and Warren Buffett’s strategies, I transferred my Traditional IRA to Vanguard to take advantage of lower fees, converted the account to a Roth IRA, and paid the taxes due. I also learned about dollar cost averaging, and began setting aside money each month in order to maximize retirement savings instead of doing it in one lump sum. It felt empowering to have finally taken the leap to invest, as well as to educate myself in finances.

Funded by my agrarian-rooted conviction to not only live within my means but to live well below my means—a concept my farmer ancestors knew all too well—my retirement account is a security blanket in the face of an unknown future. Technically my future is still in the hands of fickle things: the markets and life. However, setting aside money each month into this account is under my complete control, and I plan on working diligently to do my part for many years to come.

After all, does anyone really know what the future holds?

by guest contributor, Amanda L. Grossman editor of Frugal Confessions where she is a new full time entrepreneur.

What previous experiences influenced your money behavior?

    17 Comments

  1. Excellent article. I also really enjoyed the photo from the old pasture.

    Andrew Grossman

    February 25, 2013

  2. Thanks for sharing! I find that those early experiences strongly influence our lives. I was on a budget during college and it strongly influenced my life.

    krantcents

    February 25, 2013

  3. Thanks Uncle Andy! You and I both know that old pasture well…:).

    Amanda L Grossman

    February 25, 2013

  4. You are welcome krantcents! Your early budgeting definitely helped you throughout life as well.

    Amanda L Grossman

    February 25, 2013

  5. My first paying job (other than babysitting and snow shoveling) was picking strawberries on a farm. My mom talked the farmer into letting me start work when I was 11 even though I should have been 12 according to the law. Law-evading aside, I learned a ton by having an income I worked so hard for at such an early age!

    The Happy Homeowner

    February 25, 2013

  6. What a great story, and sound logic. Thanks for the good read and lesson

    Cindy Gandee

    February 25, 2013

  7. “In the meantime, all you can do is keep your head down and work incredibly hard, as your work ethic is the only thing you seem to have control over.” I want to copy, paste, and print this for my desk at work! Some of the truest words ever said that can be applied to absolutely anything.

  8. I grew up in a farming community and this really resonates with me. I think that was part of my inspiration for getting into finance, actually – the beauty of saving and making dreams a reality through hard work and waiting.

    Wayne @ Young Family Finance

    February 26, 2013

  9. Hi Wayne,

    It’s really a whole different life. I am glad to find others who understand this, and who have learned as much as I have from it!

    Amanda L Grossman

    February 27, 2013

  10. I actually have had to fight against my past. My parents were (and still are) big spenders. My first reaction to problems is to throw money at it. Successful money management is a daily battle to control my whims.

    AverageJoe

    February 27, 2013

    • @Joe, You hit on a huge key to success in life, fighting against the negative activities and participating more in behaviors that more one forward. My demon is sweets :) If I didn’t watch myself, I would bury myself in ice cream.

      Barb

      March 7, 2013

  11. I grew up in a rural setting myself but I was “too cool” to be a hick all my life and made a lot of mistakes financial and otherwise that could have been avoided if I had stayed true to my heritage.

    Edward Antrobus

    February 27, 2013

    • Hi Edward, Making the mistakes can be helpful, if one learns from them. If not, it’s just doing the same thing over and over and basically staying stagnant. Thanks for stopping by.

      Barb

      March 7, 2013

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