Fri | May 25, 2018

Oran Hall | A rural farmer’s financial plan

Published:Sunday | May 13, 2018 | 12:00 AM
Produce grown on rural farms across Jamaica is seen displayed at the annual Denbigh Agricultural Show in July 2016.

It was the middle of the week, and the Papine market looked so different. There was no hustle and bustle - no action on the outskirts of the Market. That was for the weekend.

I entered the building and most of the tables used to display wares and produce were turned upside down and jumbled.

But there was still a little activity, and I greeted and chatted with some of the vendors as I looked around curiously. Then I halted my leisurely walk and casually engaged a sixty-something female vendor (who I will call Liz), and I got some great insights into how she manages personal financial issues.

Liz earns income by planting a wide range of crops near her rural St Andrew home. Some days she works on the farm, but most days, she is selling in the market. Some of what she grows she uses domestically, but the greater portion is for sale at the market.

To supplement what she produces herself for the market, she buys what there is demand for, but which she does not grow, from farmers in her community. Then on Friday mornings, in the very early hours, she journeys to Coronation Market. There, she purchases vegetables, ground provisions, and other foods from the wholesalers who buy from the farmers who come to Coronation Market with their provisions from St Thomas, St Elizabeth, Trelawny, and Manchester, and then she heads to the Papine Market in Kingston.

Despite losses to spoilage, Liz never forgets the less fortunate, for whom she routinely sets aside some of her produce.

With her husband, who has now retired from his full-time job, but who has helped with the farm, she has been able to realise her personal and family goals, a major one being a good education for her children. The mother of five believes strongly in education, so she ensured that her children received tertiary education one at a time.

 

Seize the opportunity

 

Liz impressed on each child the importance of seizing their opportunity as there were other siblings who also needed to get an opportunity for a sound education. Then, on completion of their course, they go on their own without being required to assist the others as she saw that as her responsibility.

Home ownership was another important goal. Liz would build her house step by step as she was able to garner the funds. It is interesting how she funded the building of her house and her children's education.

She decided that she would not borrow. She would rather join a partner. She decided what she would do with her 'draw' long before receiving it. One draw, for example, would be to buy the windows and doors of the house or to cover some expense related to her children's education, and she used that 'draw' for nothing else. She has been able to save larger sums over time as inflation made it necessary and as increased flows of cash have allowed.

But Liz also uses the formal financial system. She has an account with a financial institution, which she uses for transactional purposes as she withdraws funds for some of her planned expenses, including her annual holiday. She also used it to pay expenses, related to the education of her children and the building of her house.

She does not use a written budget but has an interesting way to shop. "I buy a lot of groceries when I have a good week and less when sales are not bright. The surplus from the good weeks is sufficient to satisfy the family's needs in the bad weeks," she said.

She has no plans to retire or to depend on her children for support. "I will carry on as long as I have good health." As a reserve position, she has planted fruit trees over the years and prefers to get a seedling rather than a fruit. That has worked well for her as she owns many fruit trees.

Although she has personal life insurance, the cash value from which she can get some cash flow in her later years to supplement her husband's pension, she knows how costly it can be if there is no insurance as she has suffered significant losses due to the weather but picks up the pieces and moves on.

And believing that 'all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy', Liz takes a break every year in the comfort of one of our resorts, preferring that option to travelling abroad for now.

We did not talk about estate planning. Patrons were coming by, so I could not afford to be a hindrance, and, truth be told, it just did not arise in the flow of the conversation.

What is your experience?

- Oran A. Hall, principal author of 'The Handbook of Personal Financial Planning', offers personal financial planning advice and counsel. finviser.jm@gmail.com