Your investments: Things are pretty good, but they can get even better

Even in biblical times the Jews always complained.

A man counts New Israeli Shekels. (photo credit: REUTERS)
A man counts New Israeli Shekels.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
A few weeks ago, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gave his famous “sour pickles” speech. Regardless of your opinion of the PM, he had a point in castigating the opposition for continually preaching how bad we have it in Israel. Sure there are economic issues that need to be tackled, and I am the first to point them out. But all in all, things in the holy land are pretty good. Israel has been an economic sea of tranquility vis-à-vis the rest of the world over the last decade.
I guess it’s really nothing new; after all, even in biblical times the Jews always complained. Nothing was good enough for them. But it seems to me that society has taken whining and complaining to a new level. Go on social media to various personal-finance groups, and it’s a chorus of complaining how hard it is to make ends meet in Israel, how employers are evil, how it’s not fair that people are rich.
Not fair
A few years ago our building put in a request to build “safe rooms.” The permit process allows for neighbors to object to the plan. We had some objections and had to go to court. It turned out that basically the reason some of our neighbors objected was because we would get the rooms, and they weren’t eligible. This is what we call in Hebrew tzarut ayin – jealousy that someone has something that we don’t have. Heck, if I can’t benefit, no one will benefit! A great example of this is the current debate over tax cuts in the US. Critics complain that it’s not fair that wealthy individuals will get a corporate-tax break. Ignore the fact that the top 20% of earners pay over 90% of all taxes, and that if corporations make more money they will hire more people. Facts are not important. Emotions rule the day.
The fact that those same complainers will also keep thousands of dollars more than they do now is lost on them, because someone else may keep more than they do! It’s just not rational. Who cares how much money your neighbor earns? What’s important is improving your own financial situation. Stop worrying about keeping up with the Joneses, and take control of your own financial situation.
We are all blessed
As I always tell my children, life isn’t a bowl of cherries. So it’s hard out there. Ask your grandparents or great grandparents; or heck, go back in time and ask someone what it was like to live in the 1500s. I think we have it pretty good. We all need to take a few minutes and think about the blessings we have, and we all have been blessed.
Instead of focusing on what we lack and how good other people have it, how about starting to highlight the good that we have. I am far from being some new-age personal-growth guru, but I wholeheartedly believe that if we begin to show appreciation for what we have, we will create individually happier lives and on a national level be much more at peace with each other.
Take control So how do you go about taking control of your finances? Live within your means, make sure your income is more than your expenses, and when you make a purchase, make sure you can afford it.
Then get out of debt. How? The method I like to use is to list all your debts from smallest to biggest, and start attacking the smallest debt. I know that there is a school of thumb that says it makes more economic sense to pay off the highest-interest debts, but I like to have some mini wins – where the couple can actually get rid of a debt, enjoy that feeling and give them the confidence that they can succeed.
In fact, none other than personal-finance guru Dave Ramsey subscribes to the same view. He said: “The math seems to lean more toward paying the highest-interest debts first, but what I have learned is that personal finance is 20% head knowledge and 80% behavior. You need some quick wins in order to stay pumped enough to get out of debt completely. When you start knocking off the easier debts, you will start to see results, and you will start to win in debt reduction.”
Finally, it’s imperative that you start to save money and invest. You work hard for your money; now it’s time to let your money work hard for you. Every month, take between 10%-15% of your take-home pay and invest it. Sounds intimidating? Keep in mind that any employer contributions are counted toward this number, so it’s very doable.
Forget about how much everyone else has, and start focusing on yourself. It will make you both happier and wealthier.
The information contained in this article reflects the opinion of the author and not necessarily the opinion of Portfolio Resources Group, Inc., or its affiliates.
Aaron Katsman is a licensed financial professional in Israel and the United States who helps people with US investment accounts. He is the author of the book Retirement GPS: How to Navigate Your Way to A Secure Financial Future with Global Investing.