- Over 600,000 Israeli citizens are being processed by the Collection Authority for inability to pay back debts
- The average Israeli family has an ongoing debt of over 60,000 NIS (not counting mortgages)
- Personal debt in Israel is up 7.5% from last year
Advertising for loans, whether through huge ads on billboards and buses or through SMS’s to personal phones, has become more and more aggressive, and in parallel more and more families are plunging into the cycle of debt.
Incessant radio ads promote buying lottery tickets so that “Ariella” will call and award us with half a million shekels. Another dangerous life-line thrown to desperate souls.
Meantime, the Economics Committee in the Knesset is busy setting up a system to track the credit rating of each citizen in order to determine the size of the next loan the bank will be authorized to extend.
This uncontrollable debt, coupled with the insufficient funds being set aside for the future long life of our pensioners, spells disaster for personal financial security for the public.
Financial instability leads to marital breakdown, stress and suffering for parents and their children and even more pressure on the understaffed welfare authorities.
What needs to be done?
From my experience working with families in debt, I reached the conclusion that hope lies only with the youth. We need to educate them from the moment they open their first bank account, never to get into overdraft and debt.
I founded Chaim BePlus, a non-profit organization, with the mission to educate young Israelis in financial responsibility.
This includes getting the right information before choosing a career, reading and understanding bank and credit card statements, knowing how to make a budget and save for the future.
Chaim BePlus trains talented college students to be financial mentors. They teach our courses and are role models for the participants who are Grade 11-12 high school students and Sherut Leumi girls.
In a class I sat in on last week in Ashdod in Grade 12, every boy had a credit card which he said “impressed the girls” and not one was following the statements or knew how to access them. In another session I observed with Sherut Leumi, one girl said “isn’t it a pity to have money lying in the bank when you can spend it all in the mall?” These kids obviously need a lot of guidance, and are not getting it at home or in school.
At the end of the course, the participants send us feedbacks and write what habits they have acquired like lowering their expenses, thinking twice before buying something, checking their bank statement on-line and making sure they don’t fall into “minus”. The success of the program lies in the special relationship between the mentors and the mentees who are close in age, which inspires them to change their habits.
Many people say to me that it’s impossible to manage in Israel, but I see the young people in our organization learning how to succeed and become independent. This means working and earning money from your teenage years; saving money from your army salary and other gifts that come along; eating sandwiches from home and not buying impulsively at every corner; learning how to substitute cheaper versions of things you want; not succumbing to social pressure and keeping up with the Cohens; learning how to negotiate and exercise your rights; adjusting your standard of living to your income level, especially when you first get married.
Chaim BePlus is funded in part by the participating schools, and mainly by private donors who are interested in supporting programs which prevent poverty and promote personal responsibility.
You wouldn’t let a young person drive a car without a license; similarly no one should be able to have bank accounts without learning the dangers of loans, paying interest and going bankrupt.
Since 2006, Chaim BePlus has reached 10,000 young people, and our amazing team of mentors aim to reach many more and lead the “plus” revolution in Israel.