Your Investments: Financial tips for new olim

Take pride in the courageous decision you made to live in Israel.

First and foremost I want to wish a big mazal tov to the thousands of North American olim who have arrived in recent months. I hope you all have an easy acclimation process. As I am sure you already know, you are definitely in good hands with the tremendous support provided by Nefesh B’Nefesh and the Jewish Agency.
As the euphoria of your aliya starts to wane and reality starts to sink in, you need to get yourself settled – not just socially but also financially. Here are a few tips that will make your financial aliya a bit smoother.
New budget While it may seem easier to wait until you are settled before practicing fiscal discipline, it is extremely important to make a budget as soon as possible. Chances are you will blow through the limits of this budget with the various miscellaneous expenses that will arise at the beginning of your new life in Israel.
Nevertheless, getting used to living within a framework is important.
As time goes by and you get more accustomed to your new life in Israel, your budget should be flexible enough to be able to accommodate your new lifestyle. Keep in mind that while certain things in Israel are much cheaper (your children’s education), other things may cost more (appliances and cars), and there is a good chance you will be making far less money than in the old country.
It may be very difficult to save at the beginning due to unexpected expenses that often occur, but you still should try to set some kind of time frame for when you can start to save.
Don’t forget your IRA New olim (as well as veteran olim) need to keep their IRAs (Individual Retirement Account) up to date. One of the most common issues I see when I meet with prospective clients is that they haven’t looked at their IRAs in years.
I fully understand that tending to retirement accounts for a new immigrant is not at the top of the list of things that need to be done upon arrival. Finding a place to live, getting your children adjusted to their new surroundings and schools are more urgent issues that need to be attended to.
It’s just that I find when it comes to overseas retirement accounts and investments, inertia tends to sit in. Olim tend to forget about these accounts altogether, only to wake up in a decade or so to realize that the value of their account is the same as it was before making aliya.
Earlier this week, I met with a couple who were perspective clients. As we were going through their assets, I asked both of them about any retirement plans they had received while working in the United States. Both of them said they had IRAs, but because they were relatively small in nature, they rarely, if ever, looked at statements.
When I asked them the size of their IRAs, one said $29,000 and the other said $68,000. I then asked each of them what the value of these accounts was when they came to Israel, and they both said they had roughly the same amount then as they do now.
I can’t tell you how many times I have heard similar stories. If you have a long-term savings account and you never look at it, you are doing yourself a disservice. In fact, you are defeating the whole purpose of these types of accounts.
While you may think that $29,000 is a small amount of money, in 15 to 20 years, that “small” sum can – and statistically should – turn into a much larger sum. By putting off dealing with these accounts you could potentially lose tens of thousands of dollars.
Again, I understand that getting children settled takes precedence, but it can be costly to leave your finances unattended.
Next week I will provide some more tips to help in your financial aliya. In the meantime, take pride in the courageous decision you made to live in Israel. Aaron Katsman is a licensed financial adviser in Israel and the United States who helps people open investment accounts in the US.