Author Topic: Planning to help family after FIRE  (Read 1777 times)

E.T.

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Planning to help family after FIRE
« on: September 18, 2019, 02:15:52 PM »
Have any of you included plans to help family or friends in your FIRE strategy?

I think this will be one of my main wildcards to FIRE success and I'm trying to figure out how to think about it.  I want to plan to be able to help some of my family members long term if needed. I've searched through the forum posts and it seems like a lot of them are coming from a reactive, negative angle on helping family financially. I am interested in hearing from people who planned ahead to help their family members and had a positive experience with it. My basic approach right now is to make sure I can cover food / medical and maybe plan to move to a home with extra space in case they need to move in.

Any suggestions on how you've planned for future caretaking or books that may help would be appreciated.

Thanks!

SwordGuy

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Re: Planning to help family after FIRE
« Reply #1 on: September 18, 2019, 07:16:21 PM »

I don't think your comments are accurate.   

It's rare to see negative comments about helping family or friends PROVIDED they are trying hard to help themselves.   The most negative comments I've seen about this group of potential recipients of economic aid has been advice to "make sure you put your own oxygen mask on first before helping others."

Then there are the friends or family who are total financial screw-ups.   The people who squander every single penny they get every single time.   The people who are so self-entitled that they will squander every single penny you have without batting an eye and then leave you to suffer in the wreckage of your life they just made.    You'll find plenty of negative comments about people like that and, frankly, every single one of them is well deserved.

If you want to FIRE but be able to help others, then you need to budget that help into your FIRE numbers, just like you budget for food, shelter, transportation and insurance.    There's nothing special about this kind of help over any other expense, at least as far as "how to plan for it".

dodojojo

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Re: Planning to help family after FIRE
« Reply #2 on: September 18, 2019, 07:43:30 PM »
Yes, I help a retired parent a little now.  My FIRE number includes helping this parent and anticipate the number will grow.

FrugalZony

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Re: Planning to help family after FIRE
« Reply #3 on: September 18, 2019, 08:11:12 PM »
My FIRE plans and budget included helping out my folks.
Not monetarily, necessarily, but by enabling myself to drop whatever I am doing to go help them out without worrying about the cost to get there etc.
Since I FIRED I think I went 7 or maybe even 8 times. When my mum had surgery, when my dad needed someone at home, while mum was in a skilled nursing home for recovery, when mum needed another surgery, when my dad passed away....etc.

Luckily my folks set themselves up reasonably well to not need any financial support from me.
The fact that I am able to help by just being there and helping out with basic stuff like errands, doctor's appointments, paperwork, grocery shopping, organising appropriate care etc.  is priceless though.

Omy

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Re: Planning to help family after FIRE
« Reply #4 on: September 18, 2019, 08:15:23 PM »
We have elderly parents who may need help at some point, and we purchased a home that was large enough to accommodate them if/when the time comes. We have helped family and friends by letting them move in temporarily on occasion. I have included family assistance as a line item in the "budget", though it's hard to predict what actual numbers might look like.

Dicey

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Re: Planning to help family after FIRE
« Reply #5 on: September 18, 2019, 08:34:02 PM »
I completely agree with @SwordGuy.

Just as I hit FIRE, and right after we got married, DH's dad died and we realized something was very wrong with his mom. We sold both of our houses (two story, no downstairs bedroom) and bought one together, so MIL and her new boyfriend, Al Z. Heimer, could live in our care. The taxes on this house are double what we were paying combined on our previous houses. She has lived with us for over six years. Here's a news flash: she has plenty of money. We don't actually give her money, but having her live with us does cost us money. It also severely curtails our freedom. This is part of why DH still works. We do this because we have no idea how long she will live. If we start the firehose of Long Term Care too soon, she will be left destitute. Longevity runs in her family, as does long stretches (10+ years) of life post-ALZ diagnosis.

Lots of us help out family members. We mostly do it quietly, in ways you might not expect. The ones we vent about are the otherwise able-bodied people who can't manage to hold on to a penny and expect to be supported by friends or relatives who can.

SwordGuy

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Re: Planning to help family after FIRE
« Reply #6 on: September 18, 2019, 08:48:57 PM »
I completely agree with @SwordGuy.

Just as I hit FIRE, and right after we got married, DH's dad died and we realized something was very wrong with his mom. We sold both of our houses (two story, no downstairs bedroom) and bought one together, so MIL and her new boyfriend, Al Z. Heimer, could live in our care. The taxes on this house are double what we were paying combined on our previous houses. She has lived with us for over six years. Here's a news flash: she has plenty of money. We don't actually give her money, but having her live with us does cost us money. It also severely curtails our freedom. This is part of why DH still works. We do this because we have no idea how long she will live. If we start the firehose of Long Term Care too soon, she will be left destitute. Longevity runs in her family, as does long stretches (10+ years) of life post-ALZ diagnosis.

Lots of us help out family members. We mostly do it quietly, in ways you might not expect. The ones we vent about are the otherwise able-bodied people who can't will not manage to hold on to a penny and expect to be supported by friends or relatives who can.

Fixed that for you. :)

Dicey

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Re: Planning to help family after FIRE
« Reply #7 on: September 18, 2019, 08:56:48 PM »
I completely agree with @SwordGuy.

Just as I hit FIRE, and right after we got married, DH's dad died and we realized something was very wrong with his mom. We sold both of our houses (two story, no downstairs bedroom) and bought one together, so MIL and her new boyfriend, Al Z. Heimer, could live in our care. The taxes on this house are double what we were paying combined on our previous houses. She has lived with us for over six years. Here's a news flash: she has plenty of money. We don't actually give her money, but having her live with us does cost us money. It also severely curtails our freedom. This is part of why DH still works. We do this because we have no idea how long she will live. If we start the firehose of Long Term Care too soon, she will be left destitute. Longevity runs in her family, as does long stretches (10+ years) of life post-ALZ diagnosis.

Lots of us help out family members. We mostly do it quietly, in ways you might not expect. The ones we vent about are the otherwise able-bodied people who can't will not manage to hold on to a penny and expect to be supported by friends or relatives who can.

Fixed that for you. :)
You got that right. Thank you.

wanderlustNW

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Re: Planning to help family after FIRE
« Reply #8 on: September 18, 2019, 09:57:51 PM »
I bought a condo a number of years ago and charge my MIL just $400 a month. It was that or she was going to move in with us but that would have ruined our relationship. She's almost 80 and still mostly independent. She couldn't afford anything else just living on social security.

As for my parents they are set financially but I fly home once a month so that I can see what they need. Both are only OK health wise. I don't know what the next few years will bring. My parents are unwilling to move, and I have setup my life here, a 2.5 hour plane ride.

After dealing with all this I realize that since we are childless we will really need to plan ahead better than my parents have done. They are very stubborn and won't move, and want to "age in place" they keep saying, but they don't understand that means having a permanent live in assistant if needed.

former player

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Re: Planning to help family after FIRE
« Reply #9 on: September 19, 2019, 03:06:10 AM »
I spent the first three/four years of retirement (from aged 50) providing care for two elderly and increasingly infirm family members.  I didn't need to provide any financial support: they were modestly but sufficiently covered for all their financial needs.  I did provide a lot of personal support which took time and energy.  I have no regrets (except possibly the sale of my sports car after 23 years of ownership so that it could be replaced with something more suited to my elderlies' needs - but I don't expect that to get any sympathy on these forums, and quite right too).

I think the advice you often hear about putting your own seat belt on first is right, but I would take it a step further: providing long-term personal support for family members is hard work and time consuming.  However much you love them, and however much you are choosing to do what you think is the right thing, it is still hard work and time consuming.   If you added to that resentment about what you are losing out on, or financial detriment to your own position once your caring duties are over, then the caring would become even harder and I can see it could easily create toxic feelings in you and in the relationship you have with your family members.

So my advice would be: do not, whatever you do, overcommit yourself.  Start very, very small, so small that it is immaterial to the life you want to lead for the rest of your life.  Be extremely aware of "mission creep": your family's needs will quite likely increase over time, or they will become more reliant on you saying "yes" over time, and this could go on until there is nothing of "you" left.  And once you start on providing a certain level of support it is extremely unlikely that you can go back on it in the future.  So I would tell you to set boundaries, and to set obstacles for yourself before you allow those boundaries to be crossed (eg set wait times before saying yes, going through certain paper exercises before saying yes, consulting other family/friends before saying yes).  There is no shame in getting to the point where you say "I can't do this any more, my family members need more help than I can provide".

I had two very firm boundaries: I was not going to move from my (ideal) FIRE location or my ideal FIRE house which was not particularly suitable for them.  My family members moved to be close to me, which was not easy as they were leaving the home town of a lifetime.  It was made easier by the fact that other relatives and most friends had already died (they were both in their 90s) that they were moving nearer to some long-term friends/family who they could see more easily, and that they were moving to a comfortable and manageable home, seeing me daily and having new things to do and people to meet.  So not ideal for any of us, but a good enough compromise that I think there were no regrets on either side.

E.T.

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Re: Planning to help family after FIRE
« Reply #10 on: September 19, 2019, 03:41:16 AM »
Thanks all for the helpful responses, it's hard to plan for because I'm not sure what their long term care needs might look like. Hearing your stories gives me some ideas for what to think about. It sounds like getting them to move closer if they're willing is probably more important than I was originally thinking. Flying home every month sounds tough @wanderlustNW

@SwordGuy and @Dicey Maybe I'm just not finding the right threads. Most of the old ones I saw were of the "person helping an irresponsible relative" variety so the responses were negative or cautionary. I didn't find any that were for someone planning ahead.

My assumption was that there are lots more Mustachians who are helping family/friends for the long term so I started the thread hoping to get some feedback on what worked for other people.
« Last Edit: September 19, 2019, 03:59:31 AM by E.T. »

wenchsenior

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Re: Planning to help family after FIRE
« Reply #11 on: September 19, 2019, 10:18:03 AM »
I'm not sure what you define as a positive experience.  I'd call our experience 'successful but far from ideal'.  We both have destitute mothers.  One was cooperative about moving to where we live and being transparent with her finances.  The other would not, and further is one of the money-squanderers mentioned upthread.  So we partly support my mother.  We bought a second house for her to live in (we all lived in our house for a year and it was not good), gave her our second car, and pay her utilities.  Initially, she had so little money that we also covered any stochastic stuff like occasional plane tickets for her to go visit her mother and sisters.  After 5 or 6 years she got a small inheritance and she has since then covered that kind of recreational spending. 

This is a stable situation now, but it certainly isn't a cheap one.  The first 3 or 4 years it cost us about 10K per year, and since then about 5K per year.  But it's better than the decade of worrying and stress that I had before we pulled the trigger on it.

As to medical stuff, there's a big difference between 'helping out' family who are old enough to be Medicare-eligible, e.g., by paying their Medicare premium for them (~150-200$/month) or their occasional co-pay, vs. attempting to plan to pay for some form of long term care.

LTC is a cost that could easily be overwhelming for us paying for OURSELVES, let alone the attempting to pay for anyone else's care (I think young people on this board routinely underestimate this as a risk factor in their retirement).  We bought LTC insurance for my husband and I am planning on saving an additional 250K above and beyond our 'regular' stash, for just this possibility.

No way could we afford to take on medical bills for either of our parents.  They will be forced to spend down everything until they have nothing, and go on Medicaid, if long term care is required. 

Finances_With_Purpose

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Re: Planning to help family after FIRE
« Reply #12 on: September 22, 2019, 01:22:03 PM »
Doing so now.  And yes, you don't hear about the success stories as often because failures seem way more common, even though some people manage it well.  For it to work, it takes all-around maturity and good boundaries on both sides.

In addition, our culture assumes that giving money is "help," but actually, it's often harmful and doesn't help the situation at all.  For instance, some folks already mentioned people who can't manage money well: they have a stewardship problem.  It doesn't help at all to give more cash to someone with a stewardship problem.  That's like giving liquor to an alcoholic.  Does not end well. 

Yet many people try it and end up posting here.  Our culture (American culture) doesn't teach these things at all, and certainly not well. 

I really do need to write a blog post about this one day, as this is such a recurring topic. 

Tips:
1.  It's hard to scale back help once someone is dependent upon you.  That's assumed by many posters above.  Start small.
2.  Think concretely: $x/month, for instance, towards Y thing.  Avoid ambiguous promises/requests: "somewhere to live," "we'll ensure you stay in a place," etc.  People have a lot of assumptions about what that means/entails, and you don't want to create false expectations.
3.  Have conversations about expectations.  What standard of living does this person expect to keep?  How does this person expect to fund it?  How does this person expect to pay for care expenses?  Etc.  Those growing old are often naÔve as to the costs and requirements (sometimes intentionally so) to maintain their current standard of living. 
4.  Practice good boundaries.  (That book is vital re: basics.) 
5.  Be aware that your own family needs may change over time.
6.  Helping an elderly person can quickly and easily become very time-consuming.  Always re-evaluate based upon your own family/needs first, so that you're not neglecting yourself or others (and thus burn out yourself or your family).  As someone's capacity diminishes, there's more and more to manage.
7.  On that note, simplify and streamline wherever possible.  Why use three banks when you can use one?  Etc. 
8.  Don't provide more than you yourself can definitely provide.  Be aware if you're depending upon others, and be prepared in case they change plans mid-course. 
9.  But involve other stakeholders.  Are you the only one who this person depends upon?  If not, where are the others?  Joint plans can be better, and others can contribute as well.  (I have been on either side of this: one contributing more locally, and one contributing from afar.)  Don't assume all of the obligations yourself and then wonder why others don't pitch in: start having the conversations before you pitch in.
10.  Use LOTS of communication: be clear about what you can do, what you can't do, your limits, and how the person you're helping can get from A (current lifestyle) to B to C.  Err strongly on the side of telling the person too many times, so that you're not setting up false expectations.  Many, many people have strong and unstated assumptions about what is going to happen in these situations and what *should* happen in these situations.  Communication can clarify those and avoid hurt feelings later. 

May add more later as I think it through some more; that's off of the top of my head.

E.T.

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Re: Planning to help family after FIRE
« Reply #13 on: September 24, 2019, 02:03:43 PM »
I'm not sure what you define as a positive experience.  I'd call our experience 'successful but far from ideal'.  We both have destitute mothers.  One was cooperative about moving to where we live and being transparent with her finances.  The other would not, and further is one of the money-squanderers mentioned upthread.  So we partly support my mother.  We bought a second house for her to live in (we all lived in our house for a year and it was not good), gave her our second car, and pay her utilities.  Initially, she had so little money that we also covered any stochastic stuff like occasional plane tickets for her to go visit her mother and sisters.  After 5 or 6 years she got a small inheritance and she has since then covered that kind of recreational spending. 

This is a stable situation now, but it certainly isn't a cheap one.  The first 3 or 4 years it cost us about 10K per year, and since then about 5K per year.  But it's better than the decade of worrying and stress that I had before we pulled the trigger on it.

As to medical stuff, there's a big difference between 'helping out' family who are old enough to be Medicare-eligible, e.g., by paying their Medicare premium for them (~150-200$/month) or their occasional co-pay, vs. attempting to plan to pay for some form of long term care.

LTC is a cost that could easily be overwhelming for us paying for OURSELVES, let alone the attempting to pay for anyone else's care (I think young people on this board routinely underestimate this as a risk factor in their retirement).  We bought LTC insurance for my husband and I am planning on saving an additional 250K above and beyond our 'regular' stash, for just this possibility.

No way could we afford to take on medical bills for either of our parents.  They will be forced to spend down everything until they have nothing, and go on Medicaid, if long term care is required.

I guess I'm defining a positive experience as one where the caretaker doesn't get completely tapped out financially or time-wise but is still able to help a relative or friend for the long term in a way that works for the caretaker too. I don't necessarily mean paying for medical LTC as I understand that is a huge expense. I'm glad some people posted their examples, like @FrugalZony who gave their time as another way to provide caretaking.

I'm interested in your story too. What was the planning process like when you decided to get a second house for your parent? Did you know you'd have to do that eventually, or was it just something that became necessary on short notice? For the parent that is more cooperative, are you more helping them manage their own money or are you providing for them as well?

I hope these questions aren't too personal, I don't usually talk with people about stuff like this.

E.T.

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Re: Planning to help family after FIRE
« Reply #14 on: September 24, 2019, 02:21:40 PM »
Doing so now.  And yes, you don't hear about the success stories as often because failures seem way more common, even though some people manage it well.  For it to work, it takes all-around maturity and good boundaries on both sides.

In addition, our culture assumes that giving money is "help," but actually, it's often harmful and doesn't help the situation at all.  For instance, some folks already mentioned people who can't manage money well: they have a stewardship problem.  It doesn't help at all to give more cash to someone with a stewardship problem.  That's like giving liquor to an alcoholic.  Does not end well. 

Yet many people try it and end up posting here.  Our culture (American culture) doesn't teach these things at all, and certainly not well. 
...

I really liked your list of tips, thanks. I should check out that boundaries book, I've seen it mentioned a few times on the forums.

I think part of the problem is that I come from a culture where it's normal for multi-generational families to live together and care for each other. Even though I grew up mostly in the U.S., I miss that style of living a bit. I think my family assumes they'll follow U.S. norms as they age but if I can provide a different option it might be good for all of us.

Both you and @former player mentioned starting small. That seems like really good advice. If you started small and later had to help more, did that change your FIRE plans? Or did you assume you'd need to save a bit more just in case?

Finances_With_Purpose

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Re: Planning to help family after FIRE
« Reply #15 on: November 10, 2019, 08:11:45 PM »
Thanks @E.T. 

That makes sense.  And honestly, that system may work better in a lot of ways.  One real challenge in America is that people get used to living a high-expense lifestyle (say 50k-100k annual spend) and think that others can support them when they age in that "simple" lifestyle.  Or, to put it another way: people who don't manage money pretty well don't have much of an idea of what sorts of costs they're wanting to impose upon others. 
 
I watched the prior generation walk through all of this and I'm walking through it now.  Yes, I started small.  I've seen others do it too.  (E.g., having a good general plan that requires no support, but occasionally getting the kids to all chipping in together for something that comes up.  Some donated money more, some time more, etc.) 

And there are lots of other ways/helps needed too: paramount among them is time.  E.g., a widow can't fix her own electronics, etc.  I spend way more time than I used to on helping with basic life things - not difficult, but time-consuming.  It's a bit complicated to explain here and I try to avoid that level of detail, but we're currently in a good situation with an older relative we're helping.  There's some help (and mutual help, frankly) but we have a very sustainable situation that could always be modified in some ways should we need it to be later on to make it even less expensive.  And I assume we'll modify things a little in the future regardless.  (E.g., I now assume that above a certain age, older relatives will need to live with someone, need some sort of care, etc.  That's just how it is once you hit a certain age--and that's the optimistic case.  It's either that or go into a nursing home of some sort.) 

Cassie

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Re: Planning to help family after FIRE
« Reply #16 on: November 10, 2019, 08:29:00 PM »
I have helped family and friends with many things but not money. I have driven them to appointments, provided in home care, etc.

ysette9

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Re: Planning to help family after FIRE
« Reply #17 on: November 10, 2019, 08:51:48 PM »
I spent the first three/four years of retirement (from aged 50) providing care for two elderly and increasingly infirm family members.  I didn't need to provide any financial support: they were modestly but sufficiently covered for all their financial needs.  I did provide a lot of personal support which took time and energy.  I have no regrets (except possibly the sale of my sports car after 23 years of ownership so that it could be replaced with something more suited to my elderlies' needs - but I don't expect that to get any sympathy on these forums, and quite right too).

I think the advice you often hear about putting your own seat belt on first is right, but I would take it a step further: providing long-term personal support for family members is hard work and time consuming.  However much you love them, and however much you are choosing to do what you think is the right thing, it is still hard work and time consuming.   If you added to that resentment about what you are losing out on, or financial detriment to your own position once your caring duties are over, then the caring would become even harder and I can see it could easily create toxic feelings in you and in the relationship you have with your family members.

So my advice would be: do not, whatever you do, overcommit yourself.  Start very, very small, so small that it is immaterial to the life you want to lead for the rest of your life.  Be extremely aware of "mission creep": your family's needs will quite likely increase over time, or they will become more reliant on you saying "yes" over time, and this could go on until there is nothing of "you" left.  And once you start on providing a certain level of support it is extremely unlikely that you can go back on it in the future.  So I would tell you to set boundaries, and to set obstacles for yourself before you allow those boundaries to be crossed (eg set wait times before saying yes, going through certain paper exercises before saying yes, consulting other family/friends before saying yes).  There is no shame in getting to the point where you say "I can't do this any more, my family members need more help than I can provide".

I had two very firm boundaries: I was not going to move from my (ideal) FIRE location or my ideal FIRE house which was not particularly suitable for them.  My family members moved to be close to me, which was not easy as they were leaving the home town of a lifetime.  It was made easier by the fact that other relatives and most friends had already died (they were both in their 90s) that they were moving nearer to some long-term friends/family who they could see more easily, and that they were moving to a comfortable and manageable home, seeing me daily and having new things to do and people to meet.  So not ideal for any of us, but a good enough compromise that I think there were no regrets on either side.
This is fantastic advice and I shared a screen shot with my sister I liked it so much. I saw my aunt get way over committed with my grandmother, who went on living for years and years. She got frustrated, burned out, and resentful. Yes, she didnít do a good job (or any job really) of setting boundaries but she also did the majority of the work while my mother lived on the other side of the country. So there was all sorts of unequal stuff there which caused rifts in the family.

This whole thing scares me shitless because we have: my MIL who just lost my FIL, who will probably live a long time and with whom I have -10 desire to live; my parents who are well set financially but who knows what will happen; and my aunt and uncle who have no kids of their own, who are also pretty well set financially but have had less luck on the health side and live on the other side of the country. I can share the mental and logistical burden of my family with my sister, and hopefully my husbandís sister will be the savior to step in and take more of a role with my MIL, but his brother likely wonít do much. It feels top heavy with five adults in the upper generation out numbering us who would presumably have to take on the burden should they have a slow decline.

Slow declines scare me a lot. May all of our relatives go peacefully in their sleep while still at full capacity, like my grandfather did.

frugaldrummer

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Re: Planning to help family after FIRE
« Reply #18 on: November 11, 2019, 07:36:16 AM »
Iím not exactly FIRE at 63, and I enjoy my work, but my concerns are about my adult children. If I didnít have anybody in my life who needed things I could be comfortably retired today. But I have three adult children who arenít quite financially independent due to a variety of physical and mental health issues and whose earning potentials are less than their parents. Also my ex-husband married someone much younger who may well outlive my kids so they might never get an inheritance from him.

My plans have included:
Bought a 4 bedroom house after the divorce - 2 of the 3 currently live with me, as did my elderly mom before she recently passed.

Considering buying a 10 year term life insurance policy to provide extra $ for the kids in case anything happens to me before they are all self sufficient. (There will be retirement accounts but if I added $500k life insurance there would be enough for each to own a home).

Considering working a few years longer than planned and setting some of that money aside so as to be able to help them buy their own homes if that becomes possible (HCOL area) or to fund retirement accounts for them.

(Or perhaps I should simply be investing in farmland somewhere that will do ok during climate change....)