Financial considerations for Aliyah in a covid-19 era
I recently had the privilege of participating in zoom webinars for potential olim, run by NBN, and was very excited by the hundreds of potential olim who attended. If you are contemplating Aliyah during this covid-19 reality, mazal tov – and you are in good company. Since the outbreak there has been a major rise in applications in the US and Canada in addition to other countries around the world. In order to ensure that your Aliyah is a financial success, especially during these challenging times, it is important that you are aware of and prepare for a changed reality, seeing as no-one really knows how long this will last.
Where to live is always a major question, with both the geographical and financial elements to consider, and the additional question of whether to rent or buy. Covid-19 created a different working reality when all those whose jobs permitted were forced to work from home. Employers saw clearly that productivity was not impacted, so that even once the economy opened up, many businesses are continuing to recommend that employees work from home some of the time. This then should be a consideration when you are choosing the type of home you want to live in. A potential home that has a place where a home office can be carved out, has a huge advantage over one that won’t be able to offer similar space. Another consideration is outside space. When we were all in lockdown, those people who could enjoy being outside in a garden or decent size balcony, had vastly increased quality of life, compared with those who lived in apartments with nowhere to go.
Naturally these two elements, a potential home office and outside space, will increase the purchase price or rent being asked for the larger property. It could be that in pre-covid reality you felt you could afford to live a certain way, but you now need to consider different options. If the higher price you will potentially be paying for accommodation is something you need to minimize, you might want to consider broadening your geographical horizon. Homes outside of the major cities are cheaper and generally offer more outside space. Obviously everyone’s situation is unique to them and there are exceptions, but as a general rule I recommend that people start off by renting, so they can see how comfortable they are in their location, before committing to buy a home. This is even more appropriate if you are now checking out areas you hadn’t originally considered.
With huge global unemployment, including industries that were considered relatively safe and stable you need to recognize that finding a job might be much more challenging. Not only are there fewer positions available, but there are less ‘face-to-face’ meetings and social networking is more restricted. This doesn’t mean that you won’t find a job, but it means it is even more important that you create a financial plan to support yourself during a potentially longer period of unemployment. Consider keeping your current employment situation in your home country if your employers are amenable to the idea, even if it is not something you had originally wanted to do. Start thinking creatively about how you can generate multiple streams of income, for example a hobby that can be developed into an additional sideline. The less dependent you are on a single stream of income, the better your long term revenue stability will be and the less pressure you will have to find a single job that satisfies all your needs.
Bear in mind the covid-19 reality when planning what to buy and put into your lift for your life here in Israel. There is always a delicate balance between how much to bring and how much to buy locally. Buying locally allows you to find appropriately sized furniture for your apartment but leaves you with more to do when you arrive. On the one hand be aware that your lift may be delayed if the ports, auxiliary companies etc aren’t working at full capacity, leaving you weeks or months to work out a temporary livable situation. On the other hand remember that flying may be much less of an option, so stock up on items you consider worthwhile that you might need in the future, as you may not have the luxury of returning to your home country for a ‘top up’. For example if you are thinking along the lines of a home office see what supplies are cheaper in your home country, and plan accordingly. If you have children consider arts and crafts that can occupy them in a more restricted lifestyle.
Plan, budget, track
Planning, budgeting and tracking are crucial elements of your pre-aliyah preparations, irrespective of covid-19. However, with all the financial havoc that the virus has wreaked it is even more important that your finances are planned properly. Transition costs need to include not only lost income while finding a new job, setting up costs and possibly sending a lift, but also needs to include a budget for tutoring, language acquisition costs and other unexpected expenses.
‘Rainy day or emergency funds’ are liquid accessible funds that always should form part of your financial plan. But it is important you ensure that given the increased uncertainty, you have sufficient emergency funds to cover unexpected situations. The current unexpected situations are on an unprecedented level globally, so ensure you have the resources to get by for a longer period of time if needed.
Remember that whereas drawing up a budget is crucial; you must track your expenses and income regularly to ensure that you are keeping within your plan, to avoid unpleasant surprises.
Never before has the whole world been fighting the same enemy simultaneously. With all the research being done it is everyone’s hope that a vaccine is found, and medication to treat covid-19 becomes available soon. However, I believe it is in all our interest to learn from the lessons and experiences we have been subjected to since the virus became a part of everyone’s lives. Hopefully the ‘new normal’ we are living through will return at some point soon to the ‘old normal’, but it is a wise person who prepares for the worst and prays for the best.