Have you ever talked to someone and every one of their sentences ended in “Right?” or “Am I right?” Occasionally that is OK, but when sometimes becomes every time, one starts to conclude that the person thinks they are always right and they like to hear you tell them that they are right.

I know sometimes when I call my grain marketing guy, I’m already bearish or bullish and I find myself telling the marketing adviser what I think rather than asking him for his advice. That kind of reminds me of our pastor joking about when people say, “Don’t confuse me with the facts, I’ve already made up my mind.”

So here we are, still guessing on the new estate tax and transfer tax laws. We really don’t know what will change or not, but during an appointment, someone starts telling me how the current estate tax laws work and what will happen in the future. As I’m listening, I am hearing all kinds of errors in what they are telling me. After they tell me all that they think, they finish by saying, “Right”?

Then someone else comes in and their farm distribution plan leaves the farming heir as complete burnt toast. I can do the math in my head as plain as day that this is not going to work, but before asking for my advice, they say, “My plan will work, right?”

Moments later someone else calls in and describes what they want to do and it sounds completely unfair to the non-farming heirs. They say, “You know, those kids have been off the farm for a long time and they make some real good money. They’re really smart. They don’t need much more, right?”

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All I can think is wrong, wrong, wrong! I have now come to a fork in the road. Do I avoid any potential conflict and just nod my head in agreement, even though I could not disagree more, or do I take my chances and say, “No, you’re wrong”? Ouch, that can offend someone a little!

I have to be prepared by asking them if they are looking for my advice or my agreement. The good news is that, if properly handled, most people come around to understand that possibly they’re not right with a certain idea, and they start to appreciate the thoughtful advice.

So what are you asking for when you talk to your seed dealer, your marketing guy, your pastor, your estate planning adviser or your accountant? Are you looking for advice or confirmation that you are right?

Here is my advice.

  • Have a clearly defined distribution plan that cash flows. Estate tax planning and distribution planning are two different subjects. Both need attention.
  • Implement risk-management strategies for the things that are most probable to happen.
  • Seek out knowledgeable advisers. Make sure to listen to what they are suggesting and ask why. Some advisers are self-serving.
  • Recognize that good advisers may not always agree with you, but if they are good advisers, they are looking out for your best interest and can explain why. Do you think your adviser is a great just because they always agree with you?
  • Bad advisers may not have the courage to tell you you’re wrong for fear of losing you as a client. Do you think your adviser is bad just because they challenge you on a few ideas?

How would you handle it if an adviser tells you that you’re wrong? Do you consider their advice or do you move on to the next person who will agree with you?

I usually enjoy listening to advice. I also think I am pretty knowledgeable about a few things, but I am guessing that I am not always right, am I right?

Myron Friesen is the co-owner of Farm Financial Strategies Inc. in Osage, Iowa. He can be contacted at 866-524-3636 or friesen@farmestate.com.