Resilience — Rooted in the Land

Farming is more than a job—it’s an identity that adds meaning to life. It is often a calling.

Farming is a frequently a multigenerational enterprise on land passed down through the generations. Farming adds a weight of responsibility and pressure to meet expectations of previous generations and not fail the next — to not lose the family’s cultural heritage. This drive to survive and thrive can be both a source of stress and a source of resilience.

Farming ranks in the top 10 most stressful occupations in the U.S. Farm and farm family stress, more accurately, distress, is brought on by pressures within individuals and families, farming systems and the farm as a business.

If you are in the business of farming, or working with someone who is, you know that along with the ordinary stress of life, farming has added sources of stress. Extreme weather, changing markets and commodity prices, episodes of animal and plant diseases and other events all bring added pressures and threats.

So how is it that you and your family can face multiple stressors and keep on farming? Research says it’s by being resilient.

I farm because it’s in my blood. You get done planting a field and you turn around and the sun’s setting over the pattern of the crops that you’ve just planted, and it’s a pretty rewarding experience to see all the hard work pan out and know that you’re helping to feed families throughout the Mid-Atlantic.

Mike Harrison of Woodbine, Md.

Resilience

Resilience is an asset that enables you adapt to meet challenges and changes of the times. According to the American Psychological Association, resilience is “the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or significant sources of stress such as family and relationship problems, serious health problems, or workplace and financial stressors. Resilience means ‘bouncing back’ from difficult experiences.”

Most farmers and farm families are optimistic. They draw on their values to get them through challenges. When life’s events are really hard, deeply held values become the motivation to draw on resilience to bounce back or bounce forward after recovering from the initial set back.

So ask yourself:

  • Do you draw on resilience resources like managerial skills, self-control, self-compassion, optimism and hardiness to prevent and deal with stress?
  • Have you drawn on the value of hardiness to get through?
  • Do you recall other challenges and how you, your family and past generations were able to get by?
  • Are you motivated to succeed for the next generation?

How critical is the value of resilience, of adapting to conditions to survive and thrive? It’s imperative and for farmers, driven by generational heritage. Multi-generational farms exist because farmers adapted to change. In the past three years, Maryland farmers, and other farmers, have experienced multiple challenges.

Those who are best able to adapt quickly are those most likely to withstand tests of their ability to survive and thrive. They are those who are resilient are most likely to succeed because they get great satisfaction from what they do. Farming is in their blood. They draw on resilience from being are rooted to the land.

Find resilience-building resources:

Farm Stress Management – University of Maryland Extension

Managing Farm and Farm Family Challenges Resiliently: A Worksheet to Explore Resilient Thinking and DoingUniversity of Maryland Extension and University of Delaware Cooperative Extension

The Road to Resilience American Psychological Association


This blog was written by special guest blogger Bonnie Braun, Professor Emerita, Extension Family Health Policy specialist and professor in the Department of Family Science in the School of Public Health at the University of Maryland.

Investing Basics: Buy Nikes, or Buy Nike? 

Which would you prefer to own: a pair of Nike Air Jordan Deluxe Year of the Dragon™ shoes, or some of Nike Corporation? There could be many reasons to select the shoes. Clothing is a necessity, and if you play a sport, having the right footwear can help performance and protect from injury. Shoes might be desirable for the image they project or the way they look you wear them. Nike shoes could even be considered a collector’s item. But if you have an investing mindset, you might consider owning a piece of Nike Corporation instead. 

Let’s discuss what that means.

Investing is buying something with the expectation that it will make money for you, usually by increasing in value.  You won’t have the actual money to spend until you sell your investment. Investing is different than saving money. Saving is setting aside money instead of spending it, so it can be used for something later. Savings are usually safe and available when you need money to spend.

How can someone who is not a billionaire buy Nike Corporation? The answer is to buy Nike stock. Most large corporations are publicly owned, meaning individuals can buy and sell pieces of ownership in them. The ownership is represented by shares of stock.

Companies need money to grow. One way to raise this money by issuing and selling shares of stock.  They use the money to build new factories, develop new technology, hire more workers, and buy more resources for making products. Stocks in large companies, such as Nike, are traded on the stock market.  Anyone can open an account with an investment company and request to buy and sell stocks. 

Now let’s compare buying Nike shoes to buying Nike stock. The Air Jordan Deluxe Year of the Dragon was introduced around February 15, 2012. Depending on the seller, the shoes could be purchased at an average of approximately $290. The shares of stock were selling that same day for $23.70, so 12 ¼ shares could be purchased for the cost of the shoes.  Ten years later, the same shoes new could be sold for $200, but the stock was worth $1,777! 

ChoiceMoney Spent February 15, 2012Value February 15, 2022 (average)
Buy Nike Air Jordan Deluxe Year of the Dragon™ shoes$290$200
Buy Shares of Nike Stock Instead (12 ¼ shares)$290$1,777

It is important to know that buying stock can be risky, and shares can decrease in value. Shares can even become worthless. It is important to research and select stock purchases carefully. Nike was used in this example because it is a product that people like to buy. That is a good consideration when choosing an investment. 

Wise investors understand the company that they are buying, as well as their products or services. 

Building Wealth with Extra Cash

Tax season is over for most.  Maybe you’re looking forward to a refund check, or have already received one – what will you do with that cash? Are you ready to think about investing that money so it can grow for you?*  

Investing for wealth growth is a different mindset than putting money into savings. Both are important.  Having emergency savings for sudden or unplanned expenses, and planned savings for anticipated purchases, are both smart financial strategies. However, investing is a method of building wealth over the long term so that some of the money you have worked for actually works for you.  

There are many ways you can invest. Some common examples are financial instruments such as stocks, bonds, and mutual funds. You can also invest in real estate by purchasing a home or rental properties.  Some individuals invest in tangible goods, like art, coins, or antiques. Starting and growing your own business, or helping to finance someone else’s business are also considerations.  

How can I have enough money to invest? The key to building wealth is to earn enough to cover expenses and savings goals, with enough left over to invest. The good news is that you don’t need a lot of money to start an investment plan. Many financial institutions allow you to open a small account and start investing by buying one stock share at a time, or in small dollar increments. 

Regardless of the investment, there are several questions to ask yourself before investing your money.     

1. How much risk am I comfortable with? Risk is the possibility that the value of the investment can decrease, or increase less than expected. Investments carry different levels of risk, and someone who is uncomfortable with risk should pay careful attention to their choices.  Unlike a bank savings account which is insured against loss, investments can decline in value.  

2. How much time and research are you willing to put into your investment strategy?  Rental real estate and collectibles can require a significant amount of time and skill. A beginning investor might want to consider an index mutual fund, a collection of stocks chosen based on widely used stock indices. Mutual fund managers take care of the investment selections, and the fees are fairly low.  

3. How much do you want to be personally connected to your investments?  A family home, art, or collectibles can bring enjoyment and fulfillment which cannot be measured in dollars. Owning rental property often means managing repairs and negotiating contracts. These are both very hands-on, as opposed to stock investments that can be managed by a financial professional.

Investing can be rewarding and challenging. It is important to research choices thoroughly and be comfortable with risks. Despite the risks, building wealth opens up opportunities for your future and the future of your family. It can expand your ability to start a business, feel financially secure, travel, give to charity, pay for education, and provide for the next generation.

Learn more about UME’s financial wellness programs at https://extension.umd.edu/programs/family-consumer-sciences/financial-wellness.

*This article is for general information and not intended to be investment advice.  For guidance about creating a personalized investment plan, please consult a licensed investment advisor. 

Dealing with Debt

If you have been keeping up with my blog articles, I wrote two blogs about inflation. That is because I am concerned – between the economic stimulus money, the advanced child tax credit, and increased prices, people are over-spending. Additionally, there are individuals that count on their tax refund check and may not be getting it, so I want to provide you with 3 tips for dealing with debt. 

Step 1: Know what debt you have

A good starting point is gathering information on the debts that you have. This may come from loan agreements in your files or statements you received in the mail. Another source of gathering this information is your credit report, which can be obtained from AnnualCreditReport.com. The Your Money Your Goals toolkit contains a Debt Log tool to make it easy to assemble the information in one place or you could gather all the information on a piece of paper. Information needed includes the name of the debt, payment due, total amount left to pay, and interest rate. 

Step 2: Develop a plan

You have all the information, now what is your plan? There are two strategies to tackle debt, the snowball method or the highest interest method. There are pros and cons to both. The debt snowball focuses on getting rid of the smallest debt. Once it is paid off, you can apply the money going towards that debt to the next lowest debt. The other strategy is to focus your efforts on paying the debt that will cost you the most money (the highest interest). You can determine what will work best for you and your situation. What’s more important to me is that you have a plan and develop a SMART goal. Here is a good tool to develop SMART goals.

My Extension colleagues from Utah State University developed a program that can assist in developing an approach to tackle paying off your debt. It is called PowerPay.org. You can enter information about your debts and explore scenarios to customize your strategy.

Step 3: Assess along the way

It would be nice if life was perfect, but it is not. You may run into bumps along the way such as an unexpected car repair, broken appliance, perhaps you had to change jobs – don’t worry, life happens. As you try to figure it out, return to the basics. Are my purchases addressing my wants or needs? You know the answer to that question. Small decisions add up quickly, such as eating out less and choosing lower cost options. As your situation stabilizes, go back to step 2 and revise your plan. 

Now I could add a step 4, but will use this one as my closing. Believe in yourself. No one knows you better than you do. Sometimes it can be difficult to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Remember, you can do it! Stick to your plan and you will get there.

Inflation – What is it?

One thing that we all know for sure is that the price of goods is going up. A gallon of milk in 2020 cost $3.32. Over the past year it increased by 6.9% to $3.55 per gallon. The increase in the cost is referred to as inflation. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) defines inflation as the overall upward price movement of goods and services in an economy. 

Often referred to when we discuss inflation is the Consumer Price Index (CPI). This is the change overtime in the prices paid for a basket of consumer goods and services. Those items fall into eight major groups; food and beverages, housing, apparel, transportation, medical care, recreation, education and communication, and other goods and services.

There are a lot of factors that impact the costs of goods. Simple things like the increase in cost of labor and materials make the price go up. If the workers are paid more than the price will increase to offset the increased expense or the price of gas to transport, will increase price. Then there are more complicated issues like interest rates, government policy, and supply vs. demand. In general, an inflation rate of 2% would be considered average. Right now, the inflation rate in the United States is around 7% to 8%. For most of us, our salaries have not increased at the same rate, meaning we have less money. This is why it is important to start tracking your money.

Now I could go down the road that you need to create a budget, but I am not going to do that. Instead, I will respond with a question. When the cost of goods you typically buy (like gas and groceries) go up, where will you get the money to pay for those goods? 

The answer is you will need to increase income (money you make) or decrease expenses (buy less). Unfortunately, you’re not likely to get a raise at work that will cover the increased costs. Your other income options include getting a new job that pays more, getting a side job, or selling goods you no longer need or use. Options to decrease expenses often involve a change in habits. Some good habits include being a frugal shopper by looking for deals, eating out less, consolidating trips, and evaluating your wants vs. needs. Some not-so-good habits include not tracking your expenses, using credit cards, paying your bills from your savings, and reducing your savings. 

At this point, you may consider making some changes to your personal finances. There are lots of good materials out there. One source that I like to share is the Your Money Your Goals toolkit, by the CFPB. The toolkit includes tools and handouts to set goals, track income, pay expenses, and plan your spending.

Especially for Teens – Let’s Talk about Gambling

March is Problem Gambling Awareness Month, so let’s have a serious talk about gambling. And by gambling, I’m referring to the activity of betting: the practice of risking money or other valuables in a game or bet. Gambling is taking on a risk with the hope of an uncertain gain. Some examples of gambling are betting on sports teams or card games for money, playing the lottery and using online gambling sites. 

Why do people gamble?  Gambling can be a form of fun or entertainment. Some teens only gamble during games among friends, and keep the risk low by using only tokens, treats, or small change. The activity of gambling is not necessarily a problem, as long as it is managed well.     

Why is this important?  Evidence indicates that about 6% of teens under the age of 18 have a serious gambling problem. That doesn’t sound like a lot of people, but what that means is that in a class of 30 people, 1-2 of your classmates are facing this challenge. About 80% of youth have participated in some form of gambling, and 10-15% are at risk of gambling becoming an addiction.  

How can gambling become a problem?  Gambling can become risky in several ways.  One is when it becomes obsessive. The reality of gambling is that you are much more likely to lose money than you are to win. Over time, very few people come out ahead financially with gambling. However, after losing money, the common reaction is to “play again” in an attempt to win back losses. This almost never works. Instead, more money is lost.  

Gambling also becomes a problem when it starts to become addictive. Gambling can actually activate the brain’s reward system, much like addictive substances. Someone with a gambling addiction feels a need to continue gambling. 

What happens when gambling becomes a problem?  People experiencing gambling challenges put their future success at risk. Instead of having money to reach life goals and pay living expenses, it becomes lost to gambling organizations. People addicted to gambling sometimes resort to stealing from friends and family, and often start to suffer from depression and poor health.  

What can you do?  Nobody intends to have a gambling problem, or hurt themselves, their friends, and their family. If you or someone you care about is facing life challenges caused by gambling, talk ASAP to a trusted counselor. Confidential help is available on-line, or by calling 1-800-GAMBLER. 

The Dimensions of Wellness

At the beginning of February, Breathing Room special guest writer Alex Chan, Mental Health Specialist with the University of Maryland Extension, offered some reasons why we have trouble keeping our New Year’s resolutions.

Even after acknowledging the pitfalls in goal-setting, it may still be difficult to set a reasonable goal and an accompanying step-by-step process to get there. By understanding the dimensions of personal wellness, you may be able to identify the areas affecting your ability to maintain a healthier lifestyle.

Creating A Healthier Life, A Step-By-Step Guide to Wellness from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration identifies the eight dimensions of wellness as:

Physical – the area that encompasses physical health and all that it includes. Things like sleep, exercise, and eating well all contribute to the physical dimension of wellness.

Emotional – this dimension of wellness is about maintaining emotional health. Stress management, coping skills, and therapy are activities relevant to this area.

Social – maintaining social wellness includes aspects like having a support system, setting boundaries, and interactions with social media.

Spiritual – this includes spending time alone, prayer, or even spending time in nature to care for yourself.

Intellectual (Personal) – spending time partaking in hobbies, following goals, and validating your identity all factor into your personal wellbeing.

Environmental (Space) – ensuring and maintaining a safe, stable, and healthy environment contributes to your environmental or special wellness.

Financial – taking control of your money so it doesn’t take control of you.

Occupational (Work) – taking breaks and managing time at work are tasks that help maintain occupational wellness

Each of the dimensions interact and affect one another, creating multifaceted obstacles to creating a path to your wellness goals. Do the following activity for each of your wellness goals to begin outlining your personal step-by-step guide to self care. Once you have your plan, set a reminder to review your plan after 2-3 weeks and see if any unforeseen obstacles have emerged.

1. Define one wellness goal that you’d like to achieve.

2. Which dimensions of wellness are involved?

3. What small step can you take towards reaching that goal?

4. When you will take the action described in #3?

5. Are there any barriers to taking your first step? How will you deal with them?

For more information, or to request a training in self care and stress management, contact Alex Chan at alexchan@umd.edu.

America Saves Week – *Special Report*

Did you know that this week — February 21-25, 2022 — is America Saves Week? Do you even know what it is? America Saves Week or ASW is a call for Americans to commit to saving. Organizations sign up as partners to promote and facilitate programs that are occurring throughout the week.

This year’s theme is Building Financial Resilience. What an important topic as the price of goods has increased over the past months. Money you had last year, will not go as far today.

For ASW each day will have a theme:

  • Save Automatically – Monday
  • Save for the Unexpected – Tuesday
  • Save for Retirement – Wednesday
  • Save by Reducing Debt – Thursday
  • Save as a Family – Friday

Visit the website to find out what is being offered on each day.

Now that we have introduced the topic of savings, let’s talk details. You need a starting point and direction when it comes to savings. There are lots of financial tools out there, but I will share the Your Money Your Goals (YMYG) toolkit by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. You need to start with a financial assessment and goals. This is like driving a car. You need to know where you are at and where you are trying to go. Along the way you need to track your income, pay your bills, and deal with debt. The toolkit has worksheets on all of these topics.

So now you know about America Saves Week. The next step is to get involved in activities promoted. Then start your own financial journal using the tools in the YMYG toolkit. Along the way if you have questions, find your local Extension Educator that focuses on financial literacy. If you are not sure where to start, just reach out to me.