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Wisdom to share with new immigrants after my 31st year in Holy Land

 New immigrants from USA and Canada arrive on a special " Aliyah Flight 2016" on behalf of Nefesh B'Nefesh organization, at Ben Gurion airport in central Israel on August 17, 2016,  (photo credit: MIRIAM ALSTER/FLASH90)
New immigrants from USA and Canada arrive on a special " Aliyah Flight 2016" on behalf of Nefesh B'Nefesh organization, at Ben Gurion airport in central Israel on August 17, 2016,
(photo credit: MIRIAM ALSTER/FLASH90)

Here are a few tips that will make your financial aliyah a bit easier.

In just a few days, I’ll celebrate 31 years of living in Israel! As I’ve mentioned many times, I came straight out of university and landed here with nothing other than a suitcase and some books.

While it wasn’t easy at first and it took a bit of time to land a stable job, I am proud to boast that 31 years later I have my own company, an awesome wife and five great kids who routinely make fun of my Hebrew.

Despite speaking the local language with a heavy American accent, I have managed to get by and establish my roots here.

In a few days, a planeload of 215 olim will land in Israel. Kudos to co-founders Rabbi Yehoshua Fass and Tony Gelbart, the rest of the very hardworking Nefesh B’Nefesh (NBN) staff, Israel’s Ministry of Aliyah and Integration, the Jewish Agency, KKL, and the JNF-USA, who continue to bring record numbers of olim.


Special shout out to the 50 future lone soldiers, 22 medical professionals, Software engineers, social workers and educators among many various professionals who are coming to be a part of history by helping to build the Jewish state.

Shekels and dollars (credit: THOMAS WHITE / REUTERS)
Shekels and dollars (credit: THOMAS WHITE / REUTERS)

There is a buzz around aliyah that NBN has generated that certainly didn’t exist 31 years ago. When I came, I was asked why I decided to move to Israel. I would answer that I ‘lost a bet’! When my in-laws announced they were making aliyah with their family over 40 years ago, friends figured that they were going upscale and moving from Hillcrest, Queens to Jamaica estates. No one could comprehend they were actually moving to Israel.

As an experienced immigrant, I’d like to pass along some financial tips to help the new olim make it financially in their new home. I fully understand that getting kids acclimated to a new school and learning a new language is more time sensitive than what is going on with the stock market.

That being said, if I can give a tip based on my years living here and professionally working with immigrants, it’s to take care of your finances. I can’t tell you how often I have met North American olim who neglected their finances and are now paying the price.

Here are a few tips that will make your financial aliyah a bit easier.


Keep saving

Just because you are in a new situation doesn’t mean that you can neglect the fundamentals of personal finance. You still need to pay yourself first. 10-15% of income needs to go into savings. Too often I hear complaints that with low Israeli salaries it’s impossible to save. Well, it is very possible if you are dedicated to building wealth for the future.

If you stop saving you are doing major damage to your long-term financial security. I understand that, for those olim fresh off the plane, the need to get settled and create a budget can take a few months, so if you miss a few months of “paying yourself first” it’s not a big deal.

Don’t forget about your IRA

One of the most common issues I see when I meet with prospective clients is that they haven’t looked at their IRAs (Individual Retirement Account) or 401k’s in years. The thought process is usually that, since this money is for retirement, there is no sense in worrying about the money now.

Immigrants 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 pre-aliyah. In fact, just a few hours before I sat down to pen this column, I spoke to a man who had been living here for at least 15 years. He said that he thought he had a 401k plan with about $70,000 in it, but actually hadn’t seen a statement in six years, because his statements were going to an aunt’s address.

Just last week, I Zoomed with a couple that moved to Israel about 13 years ago. They came with a couple hundred thousand dollars, which was used to buy an apartment. They told me that their biggest mistake was with their IRA’s. He had one worth about $60,000 and his wife had about $40,000. They panicked during the financial crisis in 2008 and sold their investments and moved to cash. Then as they were preoccupied with their aliyah, they never re-invested.

Fast forward to 2023, and the account has barely moved higher and, after factoring in inflation, they have lost a significant portion of their purchasing power.

Also, very important, make sure that the firm you have been working with in the US will still service your account in Israel.

This has become a huge issue as many people have received letters that say that they are no longer welcome to do business due to their foreign (non-US) address.

I know it’s tough, but take some time to get your financial aliyah in order as well. It will go a long way to help enable you to become financially secure in the future.

Good luck and welcome to Israel!

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.;