Yom Kippur is just hours away and many are preoccupied with seeking forgiveness for this past year’s sins as well as making resolutions to improve in the upcoming year. We set goals to give more charity, check in regularly on an elderly neighbor who has been alone for months due to the pandemic and be a better spouse. As is generally the case with New Year’s resolutions, we often fall way short of having them make a significant change to our character. Well I can say that last Yom Kippur I told myself that I would spend more time with my wife and kids this year. For the first 4-5 months I failed but then one corona caused lockdown and now another one, and I got more family time than I could’ve dreamed of. I guess it really is better to be lucky than good!
To truly be introspective we need not just focus on the future but to take a look back and analyze what went wrong in the past. Where we fell short. Taking time out of our busy lives to reflect on the last year may not fit today’s fast paced, remote control culture, but it’s the only way to truly improve.
Yom Kippur is very much a day of simplicity. No one trying to impress his friend, no fancy clothes, just a focus on repenting for past sins and trying to create a game plan to prevent future ones. In fact there is a custom to wear plain white clothes.
Explaining this custom, Rabbi Berel Wein wrote, “The white garments are also a reminder of the costume of the High Priest worn on Yom Kippur during most of the Yom Kippur service in the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. The main service was conducted then and there with the High Priest wearing the four white garments – shirt, pants, belt and hat – without the four gold garments – the long coat, the breastplate, the head plate and the apron – that he ordinarily wore in performing his Temple duties. The gold garments are not worn on this day of asking forgiveness because they represent hubris, human majesty and are a potential reminder of the sin of the Golden Calf. Yom Kippur is a day of humility and a low and private profile. Fancy garments, especially gold garments, are really out of place and contrary to the prevailing spirit of this holy day.”
I think that we can take this lesson and apply it to our financial life as well. It took me years before I really understood that Yom Kippur is not just a day focused on the spiritual, but as illustrated in the High Priest’s prayer upon finishing the service, physical needs as well. Reviewing the past isn’t just for spiritual improvement. Reviewing your investment ‘sins’ of the last year is a great way to get yourself back on the path to financial stability.
Where do you want to be?
It’s important when trying to get back on the path to financial stability, to know where that path ultimately leads. You need to define your goals. Whether you invest to fund your retirement, to pay for children’s weddings, to leave an inheritance for the next generation or a combination of these, understand your goals and invest with those goals in mind. If you need your money in a year or two to buy an apartment or to pay for a wedding, you may have to accept getting a small, guaranteed return on your investment as opposed to “trying to beat the stock market.” If you understand your goals and you invest with an eye on meeting them, your chances of success will be much greater.
While we say it regularly in our prayers, during the 10 days of repentance it becomes a central focus of the liturgy, when we say “Renew our days as of old” which means it’s time to start with a clean slate. Leave all your financial baggage behind and focus on making smart money decisions.
May we all merit to be inscribed in the book of life.
Gmar Chatima Tova.
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 the author of Retirement GPS: How to Navigate Your Way to A Secure Financial Future with Global Investing. www.gpsinvestor.com; [email protected]