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Rushing down the street recently I heard someone remark how they couldn’t believe that it’s almost Rosh HaShana again, that a whole year has passed. And I knew exactly what they meant. Rationally we all know that no lunar or solar month was skipped this year, but emotionally it’s a different story. My kids definitely don’t feel the same way. Depending on their age and their stage in life they will occasionally comment on milestones – but they don’t share that ever-present feeling that I have, that time isn’t merely passing but running away, gaining momentum with every day.
And as my frame of mind is more contemplative during this time of year, I can’t help but wonder if this feeling as we age isn’t part of a Divine plan to help us appreciate each moment and take more responsibility for those few areas that are within our control. Although I’ve said it before, it’s a message that bears repeating and internalizing. Many elements of our finances fall within a zone that we can control, and taking charge often gives us the key to our long-term financial comfort and stability – which we ignore at our peril.
The following three areas of our finances offer small ‘doable’ changes that can be incorporated within our personal financial plan and instantly make an impact as we approach the New Year.
Monthly savings plan
Everyone should be putting aside money each month as part of a savings plan. The Israeli government is doing its part by forcing all those in the workforce to have a pension which is a great start, but that pension alone isn’t usually enough to pay for one’s entire retirement let alone help with the other financial goals along the way (even if those funds were not generally locked up till retirement).
How much money and what to do with the funds are beyond the scope of this article, but in this pre- Rosh Hashana period, if you haven’t already done so, take that first step and make sure that you have a system in place to save money monthly for those one-time annual expenses, medium-term goals like funding a vacation, and longer-term goals like helping your kids financially when they get married. If you have that in place, the follow up is to ascertain that you are saving sufficient amounts, and they are in invested in a way that match your risk profile and time horizon for investing. If you aren’t sufficiently financially savvy to set this up and supervise it yourself, consult with a professional.
There are many different management fees and bills that flow monthly, but which we tend to ignore. Take a step back and evaluate what you are paying and why. Ensure that all the amounts you are paying for your home, car, life and any other insurance are competitive. People are often unaware of old kupot and policies that they may be paying and that are complete duplicates. And many legacy financial savings plans often have much higher management fees than the more competitive rates that have been introduced over the past number of years. Management fees for kranot hishtalmut have been coming down over the past decade, so if you haven’t negotiated those fees recently, the chances are you are paying way too much.
If the first point was to make sure you are putting aside sufficient money from your income to add to savings on a monthly basis, this point will allow you to find monthly ‘extra income’ or save long-term fees. A very painless way of boosting your savings. If you don’t know where to start, there are websites that can help. The Israeli government has a website where you can see what policies are listed under your teudat zehut number https://itur.mof.gov.il/. Another useful site is https://www.wobi.co.il/. Whatever means you use, just ensure that you know exactly what is in your name and how much you are paying. In most situations fees are negotiable. Don’t throw your hard-earned funds away by paying non-competitive rates.
Health directives and wills
No one really likes addressing the issues of wills and health directives, but they are critical elements in any financial plan. There are different legal options available, including wills which incorporate halachic considerations, and financial health directives and lasting power of attorney documentation that ensure that everyone’s finances will be structured as per their request should their medical situation change. Don’t be embarrassed to ask questions and make sure that you understand the significance of all these documents. Then get help in drawing them up and keep them safely, with the hope that they will not be needed for many, many decades.
Our New Year prayers are filled with huge requests for health and happiness for all our loved ones. But if we can also find the time to be proactive in one of the few areas that we can actually control, we will be one major step ahead and thus manage to counter balance that feeling we have of time running away from us.
May everyone be inscribed for a happy, healthy and financially successful year.