As originally appeared in The Jerusalem Post on May 4, 2017.
Close your windows, the bonfires are coming, and that means lots of smoke. When will the bonfires take place? Who knows? With the mess that the Education Ministry has made of Lag Ba’omer, we very well may have to keep the windows closed both Saturday and Sunday nights.
There are two great figures that are front and center on Lag Ba’omer: Rabbi Akiva and Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai.
End of mourning period
The 33rd day of the Omer is a happy day because the students of Rabbi Akiva stopped dying. As it is codified in the Shulhan Aruch (Code of Jewish Law): “The practice is not to get married between Passover and Shavuot – until Lag Ba’omer, because during this time the students of Rabbi Akiva perished.”
Why did they perish? According to the Talmud in Tractate Yevamot: “It was said that Rabbi Akiva had 12,000 pairs of disciples from Gabbatha to Antipatris; and all of them died at the same time because they did not treat each other with respect.”
Rabbi Akiva is famous for his principle that the command to love your neighbor as yourself is the fundamental principle of the Torah. Similarly, in Tractate Shabbat there is the famous story about a man interested in converting to Judaism. He asked Hillel to teach him the whole Torah “while standing on one foot.” Hillel instructed him: What you would not want done to you, do not do to others.
While loving your neighbor is a beautiful concept and can lead to a much more cohesive society, the question is what does it have to do with investing and personal finance? The answer is that there is a third milestone that we mark on the 33rd of the Omer, and that’s the beginning of the wedding season.
Before I get into the money issues, I want to give a small bit of advice for newlyweds (it’s also good for anyone married). Remember that “loving your neighbor as yourself” applies to your spouse as well. We jump when asked by an elderly neighbor to change a light bulb or carry a heavy bag for them. But if our spouse asks us to bring them a cup of water or take out the garbage, the response is usually, “I’m in the middle of something. I’ll do it in two to three minutes.”
No one wants to speak about divorce before or immediately after a wedding, but one of the biggest reasons for divorce happens to be money issues. So if the couple can be of one mind when it comes to finances, the chances for marital success increase substantially.
Each partner in a marriage needs to treat the other with respect, especially when it comes to money issues. While it’s not so easy at the initial stages of a marriage, the couple need to be on the same wavelength when it comes to financial decisions. Both should know about all bank, investment accounts and debts. In other words – no financial secrets.
The newlyweds need to be patient. Trying to bring two individuals with different financial backgrounds and approaches to work in sync can take time.
There are a few things that can be done that will get the couple on the right path. Make a list of all income, assets and debts, including credit cards and loans that you each bring into the marriage. You may need to change and add names to bank accounts. You will also need to name your spouse as beneficiary on certain investment accounts.
Start keeping track of all money spent and earned. Remember that you are no longer single. You can’t spend money like you used to. You need to spend in coordination with your partner. Make sure that monthly and annual expenses do not exceed income to avoid getting into an overdraft situation.
The new couple should start a disciplined savings plan. Use some of the money from wedding gifts for this purpose. The earlier they invest and save, the earlier they become financially secure.
Reinforcing good financial habits at the beginning of a marriage means that there is a great chance they will live financially smart over the long term. This will go a long way in avoiding the pitfalls of financial mismanagement that plague so many marriages.
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 a licensed financial professional in Israel and the United States who helps people with US investment accounts. He is the author of the book Retirement GPS: How to Navigate Your Way to A Secure Financial Future with Global Investing. Member FINRA, SIPC, MSRB, FSI. For more information, call (02) 624-0995, visit www.aaronkatsman.com, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.