Charles and Mary Belk gladly worked long hours throughout their lives to sustain themselves and their family first as dairy farmers, then by growing rice on their farm. But when they decided to retire 11 years ago, they were dismayed to discover they wouldnt realize the full fruits of their labors.
Farmers, of course, live poor and die rich, Charles says. Like most farmers, I had no pension. What youve got is what youve accumulated during your life.
Retiring farmers like the Belks often must sell their assets land, equipment, animals, any remaining harvests, buildings to fund their retirement years. By doing so, they stand to lose approximately 40 percent to the government for taxes.
Ive been a farmer my whole life except for the time I spent in the Air Force, Charles explains. My brother and I probably farmed together for 50 years. When his brother decided to quit farming, Charles was 72. The couple, who live in Jonesboro, AR, decided they would retire as well, then faced the daunting prospect of disposing of the farm and pulling together a retirement fund.
We didnt think there was any way we could avoid paying taxes, Charles says.
But then Mary and Charles learned about Heifer Foundations charitable remainder trust and how it would allow them to sidestep the tax issue, give them lifetime financial support and leave a sustained legacy for farmers in other parts of the world.
If you invest in a charitable remainder trust, Charles says, you invest all of it and get income for the rest of your life.
We do get a quarterly payment and thats enough for us to live on, Mary says.
Plans for selling their assets were already underway when the couple contacted Heifer Foundation, Charles says, but changing their plans was no problem.
With Heifers help, it was really easy to do, he says, noting that once we made contact with them, they were on it like a bird dog on a squirrel.
Mary and Charles say they are happy knowing that they are not only helping themselves but also having an impact on the lives of individual farmers with scant resources.
Were so blessed with good soil and plenty of water. Other people arent as blessed as we are, Charles says. Its good we can help people who dont have the advantages we have.
The couple also feel their relationship with Heifer means theyre playing a important role in educating future generations about their food sources.
So many people now think we dont need farmers because their food comes from the supermarket, Charles explains.
Passing on the gift of education and resources gives the Belks lifetime income but also allows them a legacy of perpetuating that cycle of giving.
It really makes you feel good when youre able to help people and know theyre getting a good benefit out of it. Of course, Heifer helps us by helping them too, Mary says.
Its a win-win for everybody except the IRS, says Charles.