‘Do not covet’ an­other’s life­style

Jerusalem Post - - BUSINESS & FINANCE - • By AARON KATSMAN This ar­ti­cle re­flects the opin­ion of the au­thor and not nec­es­sar­ily that of Port­fo­lio Re­sources Group, Inc. or its af­fil­i­ates. The writer is a li­censed fi­nan­cial pro­fes­sional in Is­rael and the US and the au­thor of ‘Re­tire­ment GPS: How

'If a man has tal­ent and can’t use it, he’s failed. If he uses only half of it, he has partly failed. If he uses the whole of it, he has suc­ceeded, and won a sat­is­fac­tion and tri­umph few men ever know.' – Thomas Wolfe

This quote is not just in honor of my sec­ond-fa­vorite au­thor – no one holds a can­dle to Hem­ing­way – but a les­son I try to preach to my chil­dren. I re­mem­ber when I was around nine years old and read­ing Sports Il­lus­trated. It had a quote sec­tion and one quote made such an im­pres­sion on me, I re­mem­ber it nearly 40 years later. I be­lieve it was Butch van Breda Kolff, for­mer pro­fes­sional bas­ket­ball player and coach, who when asked about the po­ten­tial of a cer­tain player said, “Po­ten­tial is a French word mean­ing that you aren’t worth a damn yet!”

Only by track­ing in­come and ex­penses can you start a re­al­is­tic sav­ings plan and start build­ing wealth

The im­por­tance of try­ing to fig­ure out your own spe­cific tal­ents and then turn­ing them from po­ten­tial into re­al­ity is the def­i­ni­tion of in­di­vid­ual suc­cess.

It’s Shavuot eve, and many peo­ple are fo­cused on what to serve for their cus­tom­ary dairy meal. While cheese­cake steals the head­lines for Shavuot, let’s not lose sight of the real rea­son for the hol­i­day. While there is an im­por­tant agri­cul­tural as­pect to the hol­i­day – bring­ing the Omer of­fer­ing – the main rea­son is that we are celebrating re­ceiv­ing the To­rah at Mount Si­nai. While lasagna and blueberry cheese­cake are an im­por­tant ma­te­rial as­pect of the hol­i­day, on a spir­i­tual level it’s the read­ing of the 10 Com­mand­ments that takes front and cen­ter.

Forget about your neigh­bor

The 10th com­mand­ment is Lo Tach­mod, “Do not covet.” The To­rah be­gins by warn­ing against cov­et­ing some­one else’s home (Lo Tach­mod beit rei’echa). It goes on and pro­hibits de­sir­ing an­other’s wife, ser­vants, ox and don­key. As I have men­tioned be­fore, in ex­pla­na­tion of this rather odd for­mu­la­tion, Rabbi Zev Leff, sug­gests that the root of cov­et­ing an­other’s as­sets is a lack of sat­is­fac­tion with one’s own lot in life.

“If only I were that other per­son,” rea­sons the cov­eter, “I would have hap­pi­ness!” Hence, all of that per­son’s re­la­tion­ships and as­sets are equated, since the cov­eter wants to be that per­son rather than de­sir­ing a spe­cific one of his items. Per­haps this is the rea­son the To­rah be­gins by warn­ing against cov­et­ing an­other’s house, fol­lowed by a sec­ond warn­ing con­cern­ing spe­cific items: It is the de­sire to be an­other per­son in gen­eral – to have his house­hold – that leads to cov­et­ing his spe­cific pos­ses­sions.”

Wax your skis

When sit­ting with clients, I am some­times shocked by what they choose to spend money on. I will ask, “Why did you take the whole fam­ily on a week-long ski­ing trip to France, when in or­der to pay for it you had to blow through your bud­get and dip into sav­ings?” Typ­i­cal an­swer: “We re­ally couldn’t af­ford it, but our son’s good friends all went with their fam­i­lies and he felt left out so we de­cided to take the fam­ily.”

The 10th com­mand­ment teaches us not to try to “keep up with the Jone­ses.” A year or two ago, I re­ceived a call from clients who live in the US. They wanted to buy a huge house. It turned out they were tak­ing on a mort­gage of over $1.25 mil­lion! Their in­come was very good, but six months be­fore the call, they were both un­em­ployed and had $50,000 of debt. I strongly sug­gested wait­ing and build­ing up sav­ings and then, in a year or two, they could buy with a much smaller mort­gage. The an­swer I got was that all their friends were buy­ing and even if they couldn’t af­ford it, ev­ery­thing would some­how work out.

It’s about you

Forget about ev­ery­one else and try and ful­fill your fi­nan­cial po­ten­tial. Live within your means. That doesn’t mean that you can’t en­joy life and spend money on a va­ca­tion. Just make sure it’s ac­counted for. How? Make a bud­get. I can’t stress enough the im­por­tance of tak­ing con­trol over your spend­ing. Only by track­ing in­come and ex­penses can you start a re­al­is­tic sav­ings plan and start build­ing wealth.

Then start saving. You need to start in­vest­ing. With dis­ci­pline, the won­ders of com­pound in­ter­est and the growth of the stock mar­ket, over time you will cre­ate a com­fort­able nest egg.

It’s of ut­most im­por­tance to max­i­mize your re­tire­ment ac­count con­tri­bu­tions. There is no bet­ter in­vest­ment than a tax-de­ferred in­vest­ment. Make sure you are max­i­miz­ing con­tri­bu­tions to your Keren Hish­tal­mut and Kupot Gem­mel. Keep the money in­vested and you will be shocked at how much money you can ac­cu­mu­late over the long term.

Forget about ev­ery­one else and fo­cus on im­ple­ment­ing these steps to get on solid fi­nan­cial foot­ing.

Now back to the cheese­cake. Chag Sameach!

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