Editor's Note: The Profit Planners panel originally answered this question in the December Prairie Farmer. Be sure to check out the advice column each month in the Farm Management section.
I promise I was going to tell my wife my son and I traded a 12-row for a new 24-row planter, but I hadn't got around to it yet. Then she got a letter in the mail saying the whole family was invited to come see our new planter built. It was chilly in the house that night. Should we try to get out of the planter deal and use this as a learning experience, or take the new planter and let her learn from it?
Erickson: You made a major mistake and the first thing you need to do is admit it to your wife. Talk with her about how to work this out. Once the two of you have agreed, then include your son in a discussion of how you intend to proceed from there. This is not about the decision you made, but about the lack of respect you showed your wife in the process.
Evans: Let her learn from it? Hmm… One can see why it was chilly in the house. What if your wife came home and told you she bought a new 2014 Cadillac Escalade fully loaded and equipped for the family's comfort? How hot would it be in the house? Communication and open dialogue with family members is critical and for most losing their family would be detrimental to the operation. At least keep the farm finances separate from the family finances if one is operating independently. Even if a spouse is disinterested in the farm operation, it is still important to keep one's spouse connected to matters of financial concern if there is to be peace as a spouse does not like such surprises.
Myers: This is not about management, which you have done poorly, it is about people and promises. Suck it up, apologize, eat your crow and figure out together the best course of action learning all you can from this experience.
Parker: This statement "take the new planter and let her learn from it" is a real cause for concern to me. There is an arrogance behind it that does not bode well. Whether or not you can get out of the new planter contract could become a legal issue. The bigger issue is attitude and communication. All major financial decisions on the farm should be jointly discussed by the married partners, otherwise you are setting yourself up as a couple for tension and animosity. Farm and other family income has to be allocated over farm and family living expenses and these items call for joint communication. You were wrong in incurring such a large expense without communicating prior to commitment, admit it, and move forward. Remember, admitting a mistake is one step; changing behavior is the next step.