If you are struggling with understanding the financial system in Israel or just aren’t financially savvy, we have someone you should meet, personal finance consultant and founder of the extremely popular Living Financially Smarter in Israel Facebook group, Rifka Lebowitz.
Known for her sound financial advice, Rifka was constantly chased after by individuals and businesses, and decided she would turn that into her own business. Rifka specializes in making finances relatable and understandable to everyone, and helps clients create a real financial plan that works for them. Rifka has a diverse finance background as an investment adviser and foreign currency specialist at a bank, and has appeared in The Jerusalem Post, Times of Israel, Ha’aretz, and various US and UK publications.
We had some time to chat with Rifka and get some great quick tips and advice on reaching financial stability as well as some things you can do right now to save money.
Thank you for taking the time to chat with us, Rifka. Please tell us about yourself professionally and personally.
I always say I’m a different kind of financial adviser. I take the responsibility of reshaping people’s financial lives which has an impact on many other aspects of their lives. I become involved in every financial decision until people feel they are able to make smarter decisions themselves. It’s about helping on a number of levels in order to implement the financial plan. I am a member of the Israeli Union of Home Economy Advisers, I was a banker here in Israel, I ran the investment and foreign currency desk at the branch, and was a licensed portfolio manager for 9 years. I am married and have 4 children. I’m originally from Scotland, (but much to many people’s disappointment I don’t have a Scottish accent). I completed my degree in Business and Finance when I had 2 very small children and one on the way, while also working full time as an Investment Adviser at a bank. As you can tell, like to keep busy.
Who do you help and why?
People who don’t like dealing with their finances, in their business or home or both. These are successful people in other areas of their lives, who tell me they feel their spending is out of control, they don’t like dealing with money or don’t know how to get financially organized. I also help Olim get a grasp of the Israeli financial world and help set themselves up to be “financially smart” in Israel.
What is your approach to helping people reach financial stability in Israel?
My approach is values based wealth building. This includes working with business owners to make a more profitable business plan. Then it is about educating people to make wiser decisions, giving them tools that will help them long term. Building a system, budget, and plan that takes their values and lifestyle into account. I believe that people can see a long term positive difference in their financial situation just by making changes in their decision habits. I often work with people both on their business and personal finances, getting the whole financial picture into place; it’s like a puzzle and I get to fit it all together.
What is the single most common question your clients ask you and how do you answer it?
Well, there are two questions I get a lot. 1) “We make a lot of money, but we have been overspending and financially irresponsible since we got married, is there any hope?” 2) “Is this the worst case you have ever seen?” My answer to both questions is simple: There is hope! It is probably not as bad as you think. Let’s get started!
You said you help business owners – any tips for them?
Yes, if you love what you do and are good at it (great ingredients for a successful business), make sure your business plan can actually make you money, and it is taking the more profitable route to get there, taking into account Bituach Leumi (National Insurance) Income tax, accounting fees, VAT etc… It sounds very basic, yet in many cases the business model just doesn’t make the monthly income you expect, then, instead of spending your time doing what you love, you end up stressing about paying bills.
Any tips for new Olim?
When considering where to live and what kind of home you want to buy or rent when you make Aliyah, make sure that, if you will be relying on an Israeli job, you can sustain that lifestyle with the expected income, taking into account expenses that you may not have had in the past. Expenses such as ulpan, tutors for kids, unemployment until your first job, setting up a home, visits back to your home town. Also, if you have income from abroad, take into account the NIS foreign currency rate fluctuation when planning your transfer as that can affect your lifestyle. It is about setting yourself up correctly from the beginning which can make a big difference long term.
What are some things we can do right now that will save us money on a regular basis or return money to our pockets?
Here are a few tips: A. Anglos hate paying banking fees – cut down your fees by being aware of what the banks charge you for. Avoid the extra fees. For example, avoid the teller fee (6.5 NIS) and use the machines instead (1.3 NIS). B. Even if you are employed and pay income tax, while you don’t have to give in an annual income tax report, you can get money back on donations (against receipts with seif 46 on them) and life insurance. C. Get financially organized – it will save you far more money than you think.
Where can we get more information on saving, budgeting and banking in Israel?
Nefesh B’Nefesh have many resources and articles on financial topics on their website, or join us and ask personal finance questions or share tips on our Facebook Group “Living Financially Smarter In Israel.”