Meet the Olim Stars – Behind the Scenes At LFSII

Meet the Olim Stars – Behind the Scenes At LFSII
We are delighted to announce the launch of our new blog series, #OlimStars. Over the coming weeks, we are profiling heroes that are giving back to the community, enabling Olim to make a soft landing and thrive.

We are tremendously excited to feature in our first post, the three professionals behind the scenes at “Living Financially Smarter in Israel.” (LFSII). We want to ‘dig under the bonnet’ and read the inside story on why the group was set up, and the benefits for both new OLIM and those thinking of making Aliyah.

Today, it’s an honour to welcome group founder Rifka and her LFSII colleagues Binyamin Radomsky and Danny Newman.

First off, could you each introduce yourselves?

OlimStars Rifka Lebowitz profile image
Rifka Lebowitz:

I am a personal and small business finance consultant. I spent a decade in the Israeli investment and banking industry, before I went out on my own to pursue my dream: helping business owners, individuals, and families to be smarter about – and with – their money. I’m a speaker and author, I live with my husband and four kids in a Moshav near Bet Shemesh.

OlimStars Binyamin Radomsky profile image
Binyamin Radomsky:

I am an accountant, assisting Olim to keep more of their hard-earned income, whilst being able to sleep at night, by ensuring that they are both compliant with the necessary tax authorities, and doing everything to legitimately keep their tax bill as low as possible.
I live in Gush Etzion with my wife and four children

OlimStars Danny Newman profile image
Danny Newman:

I assist people in providing insurance and pension planning solutions. Prior to Aliya, I was a Financial Consultant with Sun Life of Canada in London. After the best part of a decade working in the non-profit world (including the UJIA and Jewish Agency), I returned to the world of finance in 2006 joining the Goldfus Insurance team. I am a fully licensed Elementary (General) Insurance and Life & Pension Agent in Israel. As a non-tied salaried (as opposed to commission) based agent, I am able to put clients’ needs at the forefront, providing them with all the tools necessary, for them to make informed decisions. I live in Ramat Shilo, Bet Shemesh, with my wife and 4 kids.

Rifka, what motivated you to set up Living Financially Smarter in Israel?

OlimStars Rifka Lebowitz profile image
Rifka Lebowitz:

I love helping people and taking the fear out of finance, making it less scary and more approachable. Facebook at the time was in its infancy and I would get a lot of emails with financial questions. While I was happy to answer and help people individually, I knew others could gain from reading. Facebook was the perfect place to share them. When I first set up, the group was going to be called Rifka Lebowitz – Financial Consultant. But the power of good advice paid off, (never underestimate it). A marketing expert said to me “No one cares about you” but they do care about their money, use your business tag line instead.

Rifka, why did you bring on board Binyamin and Danny to LFSII?

OlimStars Rifka Lebowitz profile image
Rifka Lebowitz:

I did not know either of them. I saw that both Danny and later Binyamin were consistently giving great professional advice on the group, in their respective fields, without selling themselves. As the group grew we needed a “team”. As professionals in complementary financial fields to mine, who were contributing great content and answers, they were the perfect fit.

Binyamin and Danny, the two of you are busy professionals in your respective fields. What drew you to LFSII?

OlimStars Binyamin Radomsky profile image
Binyamin Radomsky:

Boredom at work :) Seriously, I came across some posts and saw an opportunity to give some [correct] advice. There’s a thrill of helping out another person, and knowing that you’ve put them on the straight and narrow.

OlimStars Danny Newman profile image
Danny Newman:

When I left the Jewish Agency in 2006, I was determined to still give to people by paying it forward, even though I was moving back into the commercial world. I guess I learned this from my father who as an accountant, volunteered for many years for the local Citizen’s Advice Bureau where I grew up. Whilst continuing to give free lectures and talks all over the country to various Aliya organisations, LFSII gave me the perfect opportunity to help those seeking answers to questions to which they may not otherwise be able to find quality and accurate answers to in English.

Why do you think the group grew so fast?

OlimStars Rifka Lebowitz profile image
Rifka Lebowitz:

Honestly, when I set out and my mum and a few friends joined that first month, I didn’t expect we’d get to 2,000 never mind almost 20,000 members (and growing). The group grew because people like getting real value. There is a lot of value in others willing to share of their expertise and help, providing tips and comments about financial things they would not have otherwise known about. LFSII became an incredible resource which caused exponential growth. It became THE place for Israeli money talk. Never underestimate the power of social media.

OlimStars Binyamin Radomsky profile image
Binyamin Radomsky:

I’m no FB expert, so a little difficult to give a reasoned answer. But I think that a large contributing part is that LFSII is the ONLY group dealing with these types of issues. You often find multiple groups discussing the same things, so the fact that no-one else thought of such a group until LFSII became big enough to attract everyone else certainly helped.

OlimStars Danny Newman profile image
Danny Newman:

Unlike many Facebook groups, LFSII was able to stay relatively focused. From the outset, Rifka made sure that any off the topic posts were deleted, setting the tone and style of the group. The English speaking community in Israel has always been a large family, with people wanting to help others who made the big A (Aliya). I guess the accessibility; instantaneous answers by many quality members of the group and moderation by leading English speaking financial professionals make it a perfect combination.

How do you ensure quality and relevancy in all the posts?

OlimStars Danny Newman profile image
Danny Newman:

Guidelines were drawn up, and are listed in the description of the group, which are accessible to everyone. Most members keep to this. Anything off topic or not relevant gets deleted. Accuracy is moderated (and corrected if necessary) by Rifka, Binyamin and myself.

What do you find are the most popular posts and discussion points?

OlimStars Rifka Lebowitz profile image
Rifka Lebowitz:

Anything about monetary wedding gifts is going to be super popular :-)

OlimStars Binyamin Radomsky profile image
Binyamin Radomsky:

What it boils down to, as I see it, is new Olim adjusting to a new country and culture. So anything financial based around those changes (especially “big” topics such as taxes, insurances and Simcha gifts) is always a topic that people will bring up.

OlimStars Danny Newman profile image
Danny Newman:

It goes in cycles. With the group constantly growing by hundreds each month, new members may end up asking similar questions to those raised previously. Current popular topics tend to include regulatory changes in Israel such as the new compulsory self employed pension requirements and potential US tax issues relating to PFIC. A few months ago it was the new government Child Saving’s plan.

In your view, what are some of the key personal finance mistakes New Olim make?

OlimStars Rifka Lebowitz profile image
Rifka Lebowitz:

I see too many people setting themselves up for a life they are going to struggle to afford. Being mindful of their spending, aware of their finances and having and tracking an Israeli budget could change that.

OlimStars Binyamin Radomsky profile image
Binyamin Radomsky:

Not knowing that they should be asking questions BEFORE they jump in and do something. Do your research, ask (even what seems like stupid) questions, and only then take the necessary steps. And that’s even truer for those without good conversational Hebrew.

OlimStars Danny Newman profile image
Danny Newman:

Lack of thorough advance financial planning. From an insurance perspective, don’t cancel policies from overseas before speaking to a professional here in Israel. Some policies may be worth continuing. Certain planning can be done in advance of moving to Israel, to ensure one is not only better covered, but spending less on coverage that one may wish to have.

Could each of you give one silver bullet tip for a family looking to move to Israel?

OlimStars Rifka Lebowitz profile image
Rifka Lebowitz:

Knowledge is power. Plan a life you can realistically afford in Israel.

OlimStars Danny Newman profile image
Danny Newman:

Research and ask questions. Feel free to ask the group or the 3 of us anything. If we do not know the answer, we are likely to know someone who does.

Any other exciting future plans for LFSII?

OlimStars Rifka Lebowitz profile image
Rifka Lebowitz:

Yes, many exciting plans. The first LFSII book will be coming out this month “Smarter Israeli banking” an insider’s guide to personal banking in Israel, followed in the next few months by some exciting online courses.

OlimStars Binyamin Radomsky profile image
Binyamin Radomsky:

In general, just keep on giving helpful and useful advice

OlimStars Danny Newman profile image
Danny Newman:

Other than what Rifka and Binyamin have said, if anyone else has ideas to how we can further assist people living financially smarter in Israel, we are open to suggestions.

Daniel Abrahams, CEO of CurrencyTransfer.com, the world’s first online marketplace matching businesses with the most competitive international payment quotes. Follow Daniel on Twitter and Google+