Inspired by recent blogs by Elie and David about “Making Aliyah the right/easy way”, here’s my take on “Making Aliyah the financially sound way”. Yes, that dreaded aspect, the one guaranteed to burst anyone’s blue and white balloon, rain on any parade – even in August in Tel Aviv. That financial dimension that is so often neglected, and yet so crucial.
Whatever the underlying hope and aspirations, Aliyah is a dream that must be grounded in reality. Unfortunately, too many Olim fail to plan correctly and are forced to return to their country of origin, or spend years frustrated by their economic challenges in the Jewish homeland. Financial competence is an absolute necessity – not a luxury – when making Aliyah and living in Israel.
While many Olim can use English in Israel to get by with the day-to-day tasks of living – especially in communities where there are large numbers of English speakers – this should not lead you to conclude that the financial system in Israel is similar to that of other Western countries. It is not.
Israel’s unique financial system has developed from its unenviable international standing of being surrounded by enemies and unable to build financial relationships easily with its neighbors. By necessity, it has created its own unique standards, a convergence of Western and Middle Eastern cultures – with a moat-like independence. It’s no wonder that so many people ‘can’t figure out the system’.
Although no two financial situations are identical, potential and new Olim definitely benefit from sharing the experiences of their peers in Israel. Finances can be such a taboo subject, that people often have no perspective as to where they are in the financial health continuum. This lack of information blinds them from making the right decisions. They then look back years later, wondering why nobody shared with them the keys to successful financial planning when making Aliyah. Providing this perspective can be one of the most crucial elements in successfully planning and implementing your Aliyah or klitah.
Whatever financial issues one is struggling with in one’s home country, they will be exacerbated after the move to Israel. Without the flood of additional challenges brought on by Aliyah, financial stress is already the number one cause of friction between spouses in Western society. Money is important, but it is only a means towards fulfilling our potential in this world. The less time that we need to devote to it, the more time we have available for family, personal growth and fulfilling our dreams and our potential. It is therefore vital to take control of one’s finances before making Aliyah, whenever possible. Creating a solid foundation for financial health allows you to spend the least amount of time necessary worrying about money, free to pursue life’s priorities.
Financial planning of any sort is not an exact science but rather a process of calculating odds, and there are many variables and unknowns to consider prior to Aliyah:
- Do you take a chance that you’ll find work within the first six months, or do you delay your flight until you’ve saved up more money or you’ve landed the Israeli job of your dreams?
- Do you start looking for work immediately or work on language acquisition first?
- Should you convert your savings to New Israeli Shekels (NIS) or keep them in dollars?
There is no “one answer fits all”. It’s a process of calculating the odds (even informally) and then going forward, acting on those calculations, without being paralyzed by the lack of certainty.
It never ceases to amaze me how someone can plan every aspect of their life, daily routines, vacations, professional development, but nevertheless skip over all semblance of planning when it comes to finances. A personal financial plan or a business plan helps you to understand what your current financial position is and in what direction you’re heading. But even more importantly, it helps you to identify what’s important to you financially, and how to start planning on reaching those critical financial milestones. Although it takes a single day to make Aliyah, you need to invest substantial time planning in order to increase the likelihood of a smooth landing. Your Aliyah is a holistic process that encompasses many different elements of your life, each of which should be carefully considered before boarding the plane and after arrival.
If you’re moving for nationalistic or religious reasons, for example, then retaining your current standard of living may be of secondary importance in your plan. Integrating into society or a specific community, or ensuring that the family receives a top notch education might be much more important to you than having two cars and a large home. But don’t kid yourself either. If you need that large home or two cars to feel that you’ve been successful in your Aliyah, then build it into your plan as you evaluate whether to go ahead. Having the end in mind will help ensure that you’re not just copying someone else’s version of a successful Aliyah, but rather pursuing a path that reflects your unique value system!
You’ll have to work to ensure a successful Aliyah the financially sound way – but it’ll be worth it! BeHatzlacha!