Thinking of aliyah? Here are some tips from Israeli financial experts Rifka Lebowitz and Baruch Labinsky:
Adjust your expectations and be open-minded. Don’t count on replicating your North American standard of living, career or salary. Consider alternatives and recognize that Israel is a different culture and a different financial world.
Information is power. “I encourage people to do research,” says financial expert Baruch Labinsky. “Speak with people who have made the transition, and professionals, if necessary, to work out a plan in order to determine whether aliyah will work or not. There are so many olim who are willing to give information. People also take pilot trips to get a sense of what kind of community they want and the kind of expenses they might incur. And, of course, there is a lot of information about finances and aliyah online.”Nefesh B’Nefesh (www.nbn.org.il) offers free financial webinars that are recorded and available for viewing on its YouTube channel following live sessions. The NBN website also contains sample budgets and reams of financial information for olim at various life stages, including Israel Money Diaries, where olim of varying ages, backgrounds and income brackets document their daily spending in a diary over seven days.
Create a personalized budget. While helpful, “sample budgets don’t reflect individual circumstances,” says Labinsky. “To personalize it, ask yourselves, where are we going to be living? What is the price of purchasing or renting and the associated costs with running a house? What is the cost of transportation, given our circumstance? Include travel, entertainment and food. Make sure that your budget is balanced and that you have enough leeway to account for emergencies and to handle the unexpected. We’ve all learned in the last year and a half that things don’t always go as planned. We need reserves and the ability to turn to Plans B and C. Israelis are good at doing that.” To create a realistic budget, “you need to know yourself,” notes financial consultant Rifka Lebowitz. “If you’re a person who loves going shopping, or spends a ton on miscellaneous, you need to put that in your Israeli budget. Your personality isn’t going to change just because you change countries. It’s not a copy paste of your life prior to aliyah; your habits come with you, but the expenses and how they break down (what proportion each one is) can be very different in Israel.”
Try to pay off all your debts before moving.
If you’re of working age, come with as much ability to get a job as possible. This may mean retraining in North America or considering a career pivot.
Reevaluate your budget annually once you move. “Finances are dynamic, especially for young families,” says Lebowitz. “For a baby you could be spending 2,000 shekels a month on private gan, depending on where you’re live, and then once he or she reaches age three, it’s free. People adjust their budgets once a year in Israel; this has nothing to do with making aliyah. Your budget in your first six months or year of aliyah is not going to look the same as the following year. You’re buying stuff; you’re fixing up your house. The next year might look totally different; you might have a job in place, you might need a car by then. And I think people need to be somewhat on top of it, more so than in their country of origin, because it’s a new culture.”
Aviva Engel is an award-winning freelance journalist and a director of communications in Montreal, Canada.
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