Personal Finance Strategies: How to fight the system

The key in managing one's personal finances is being in control of one's situation.

philip braude 88 224 (photo credit:)
philip braude 88 224
(photo credit: )
The key in managing one's personal finances is being in control of one's situation. For Western olim in Israel, this can prove to be particularly challenging. I believe that this is caused by a "shuk" mentality, which is prevalent in corporate Israel and government offices. In my experience, the most effective response to this shuk mentality is to fight the system. Here are some strategies to help you deal with this issue: Strategy 1: Do it your way On one of my earlier jobs in Israel, my boss felt that I was too unassertive. Rather, I was an Anglo-Saxon, who did not shout and scream at every opportunity. But over time - when he saw that I was able to achieve and even outmaneuver other employees, including himself, by strategizing and hard work - he admitted that he had misunderstood my mannerisms. He gave me what he intended as an insult, but under the circumstance I took as a compliment. He commented that I was "a wolf in sheep's clothing." Strategy 2: Speak your language English is our language. There is no law that we cannot use it, especially when we are being disadvantaged by not being able to communicate clearly in another language. Israelis use English when they want to impress others. I was at a multidisciplinary workshop meeting last week at a government office, which was naturally conducted in Hebrew. I was surprised how much English terminology was slipped into the presentations by the speakers. Strategy 3: Make noise Often Israeli businesses try a tactic, and do not want any negative publicity from it. The minute a spotlight is shone on them, they recoil. Recently my company used an international courier service. The account was denominated in US dollars, and converted to shekels at a fixed exchange rate of NIS 4.25 to the dollar, when the real exchange rate was about NIS 3.8 to the dollar. That represented a 12 percent markup. I approached the company and was told by the clerk answering the phone that this was company policy. I complained to the Israeli Consumer Protection Council and a chamber of commerce to which the courier company belonged. Once the company received negative publicity, they became much more amenable to finding a solution. Strategy 4: Propose a solution Bureaucracy, at the best of times, is fearful of making a decision and will go along the path of least resistance. If a solution is proposed that fits into their given parameters, they will adopt it. In the previous case of the courier company, once the company was willing to solve the problem, I proposed a solution, which they agreed upon. The solution was that the payment of the dollar amount owing would be collected via my credit card in dollars, thereby avoiding a conversion into shekels. Strategy 5: Threaten (No, I don't mean physical violence, although you may be tempted.) Resorting to threats is a desperate strategy. If the threat carries consequences that are undesirable for the person being threatened, then it carries a good chance of being effective. A friend of mine had a dormant account with one of the main Israeli banks. He eventually came to live in Israel. In the interim, the bank had moved its overseas dormant accounts to a new branch and changed account numbers. Contact between the person and bank had been lost. My friend came to the branch at which he had originally opened the account and was brushed off by the branch manager. He phoned me in panic. I told him to tell the manager that he would report to the police that his money had been stolen. It took the manager less than an hour to find the new account. Strategy 6: Go to the top When all else fails, this is a time-tested strategy. I am a customer of an Israeli bank, and felt that I was getting poor service. I reported this to the branch manager, whose response was that I could leave the bank. When I threatened to report him, he responded that he was not scared of anybody. The next day, when I used my credit card, it had been canceled. This called for all-out war. I sent faxes to the branch manager, copied to the bank's managing director, requesting that my credit card be reinstated. After the third day, the manager phoned me and asked me to stop sending faxes to the managing director. I informed him that I would, as soon as my credit card was reinstated, which is was the same day. Despite the enormous energy required in fighting the system, it is an essential survival skill that goes against the grain of Anglo-Saxons. I hope that this article will encourage a greater awareness of your rights, and facilitate being in greater control of one's personal financial situation. pbraude@anglocapital.com Philip Braude is an accountant, personal financial planner and licensed investment marketer. He is CEO of Anglo Capital Limited.