“Hanukkah Gelt 101”

Itzik went into the toy store after Hanukkah. He amassed a small fortune of coins, 450 shekel worth! Some from Grandpa, some from Grandma, some from his parents, some from unlces!  His brother bought a Karaoke his sister an organ but Itzik will buy toys. The salesman is happy to help him part with his money giving him a whole pile of toys and games to choose from. His mother at home is deciding whether they can afford another chicken for lunch.

Yocheved sees her teen age daughter buying an expensive designer umbrella. She thinks, “Where did my daughter learn that she needs such an umbrella? What’s wrong with a regular umbrella?” But Yocheved wants her daughter to fulfill her dream. Is she right?

Reut sees her daughter buying gobs and gobs of candy. “How can she do that?” Thinks Reut.Why can’t she think one step forward. But Reut wants her daughter to learn from experience, perhaps then she’ll realize the benefits of saving and investing. After the candies are all gone she’ll realize she has no more money for what she wants.

Chanukah is a time of “Chinuch” educating, training. In Hebrew Chanukah and Chinuch share the same root spelling. When you train someone, it’s towards a specific goal. It prepares him for the future. Does the world have endless possibilities? Will our children’s future include getting everything they want? The world as we know it demands preparing for more realistic living which has real boundaries.

Do you tell your children “We don’t have the money”? Even if you do, it’s not a pleasant experience. We so much want to tell our children that we have, and we want to bestow upon them whatever makes their life good. But does flooding them with plenty benefit them long term or only for the short term?

Many parents plan for their children’s future and invest in it so that when he starts out in life he’ll have something to start with. He should have money for life’s landmark events.

There are parents who take a broader approach. They see weddings and establishing a house.  Not only do they want financial stability for their children they want their children to have a healthy mindset about money.

Shuli talks about her dreamy childhood: “I was an only child and my parents’ business was very successful. We always took expensive vacations and never gave money a thought. When you close deals for 200,000 shekel you don’t think about 100! My parents let me spend without giving price a thought. We really didn’t need to worry about it so why make a big deal? Our reality changed almost overnight. My parents business was based on products that became obsolete with advances in technology and they were caught totally unaware.”

“My parents gave me everything but an education about saving money. So when things got tough it was really hard for me.  But today things are totally different. I make minimum wage and value every hour of my work. I don’t allow myself to miss work because now the money is very important to me. I have a clear goal, to cut costs and avoid unnecessary expenses that might burden my parents. I know how difficult it is for them and how much they would still like to give to me. But times have changed and I can’t buy anything I want. My parents sold their business. The product we sold had other cheaper substitutes that my parents needed to invest in to make the change. They had no capital and were lucky to sell their label and pay some debts with it. They now work as employees instead of employers making a fortune.

“I now work in a store and stay overtime to organize the storage rooms. The rest of the time I do tutoring and odd jobs. This pays for my studies. I soon hope to open a savings plan and always put something away for a rainy day. This is the bitter lesson my parents taught me that they learned “on their own flesh”.

Every parent can identify with the desire to give their children. This is inborn human nature. Every parent wants his child to have it good, comfortable and pleasant. But part of that “good” must be educating them to the realities of life and giving them a healthy perspective on money so that they can cope. Part of the “plenty” we can give our child can be the ability and knowledge to save and conduct oneself wisely and economically.

One mother says, “I deliberately let my kids spend their Chanukah money as they wish. I don’t think they need to be tied to money. Financial decisions like what job I should take or other major decisions are done in private. But the day to day things are deliberately discussed in front of them. One day they will have to know their own home economics. So when I discuss what to buy and what a good price is, I discuss it in front of my children.  It’s good for them to hear what’s worth it and what’s not, what’s expensive and what’s cheap, what’s necessary and what is extra. This teaches them and accustoms them to decision making, maturity and standing up to temptation.

“I don’t tell them what to do with their Chanukah money but I will guide them with questions like, “what do you want to buy?” “What will you do with it?” “Will you be happy with it after a few days?” How long will this pleasure last?” You get the idea. My questions sometimes make them reconsider the whole purchase and sometimes they feel they need that sweet or exciting electronic toy. Last year my son bought a remote control car. We all told him this was not a quality toy and warned him not to buy it. But he bought it used it and in a short time had to throw it in the garbage. So he paid for a lesson on listening to advice of people who care about him. Now he values their opinion. It’s a lesson worth paying for.

What is 50 shekel today? It isn’t much, but bit by bit it can add up to a great  sum of money one day.

Starting this January in Israel, the National Insurance is depositing 50 shekel a month per child from birth till he’s 18 for parents eligible to receive childrens allowance. Experts suggest putting that money in a separate account for the child in his name. Parents could then match it with another 50 shekel from their childrens allowance.

Many parents are interested in this program and at the same time will be able to teach their children a mature economic approach to life.

Noam tells his 10 year old son Joshua, “I opened a savings plan for you.” Joshua asked for a speed bike and his father told him: “Joshua, I didn’t buy you a speed bike but I opened you a savings plan. Even if now you think I don’t care about you, one day you will appreciate what I did.”


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