Wednesday, February 10, 2016

We decide to move back to the U.S., and old money problems resurface.

My wife and I just had a conversation this morning about the stresses of having upside-down work hours here in Israel, and after last night's fiasco (dealing with Israeli taxes with accountants -- supposedly good ones -- who didn't know what they were talking about), I woke up this morning in a panic that we cannot stay here.
This does not have to do with anything negative about Israel -- NO, it has to do with the DIFFICULTIES of living a double life, with half of my life complying with burdensome US tax and banking rules, getting around geographical restrictions, because for some reason, being an "expat" US Citizen living abroad makes them think that you are a criminal!  I simply don't understand why I need to hide from my bank the fact that I am outside of the US?  I don't understand why being a successful attorney who moved his family out of the US to give his kids a good Israel experience in the midst of threatened economic and social collapse -- why is this criminal behavior?

Anyway, there is more to that story, and it appears that before I left, I upset the wrong person because as soon as I arrived to Israel last year, all of my funds in one of my US bank accounts (where we held most of our money) was frozen because they suspected "terrorist" activities.  Really?  From a frum Chabad Jewish lawyer with a beard, six kids and a kippah?  Anyway, the problem slowly got worse, and the so-called "flag" spread to my other accounts -- so much so that every time I call in to check a balance, or to pay bills or do banking transactions, I get forwarded to the "VIP" department, because I am a "special" customer (my wife has started joking that "VIP" really means "terrorist," and I'm really starting to wonder.)  Anyway, now I need to do a wire transfer to some Israeli Manpower Organization in order to comply with taxes here in Israel, and I'm concerned that this was the same kind of wire transfer that got my main account shut down when we first moved here.  But worse, if it happened, it would be to my law firm's bank account, which is the source of all of our funding, our food, our rent, everything.  This is the holy grail of bank accounts, and the Israeli accountants need for me to do a wire transfer FROM THERE to their organization to create a paper trail, or whatever their reason.  I'm nervous as hell that this will freeze this account too, and I'm not comfortable doing it, but I will in order to comply.

Then there is the prospect of severe increased costs when I return to the US.  There, I made a lot of money.  Here, I am not making a lot of money (likely because of my severely diminished number of work hours).  I calculated with my wife that if we moved back, I would need to make at least another $50,000 just to keep the same level of expenses that we have now because of yeshiva tuition, a mortgage, healthcare, etc.  I was willing to do this, even though it would mean that I would have to work harder just to make ends meet.

But then, as soon as we decided to move back... my wife got the "money bug" back.  We sold our Denver home for roughly $250K (at a net loss), which was good for us because we purchased it for $185K and put roughly $75K into it [these were improvements that we did for OURSELVES to live in this home forever, such as knocking down walls, gutting and redoing the entire kitchen, getting the best kind of granite countertops (well, the kind that my wife liked), purchasing an expensive refrigerator, the best rated appliances, etc., but it all seemed to feel like "fate" when we were presented with buyers who wanted to purchase the home from us just as we were speaking to real estate brokers to rent out the home once we made Aliyah.] 

In hindsight, because we were moving to Israel and we were committed to not leaving anything behind, it was nice to sell the home and not to need to worry about dealing with two homes -- one in the US, and the one we would be renting in Israel.  But then, we had to sell (really, give away) all of our possessions so that our basic necessities would fit in a "crate" to ship across the sea.  We had to sell our new car at an offensive low price, I had to sell my car for a measly $300 just to get rid of it, and when we came to Israel, we had to buy a car for 75,000 NIS because that was the cheapest car we could fit that came close to holding our six kids.  Then my wife crashed the car and wrecked the front of it which cost us another 10,000 NIS to repair, and then another few hundred dollars each month in insurance costs (oh well), then I lost about eight month's of salary to a home theft (yes, that happened), but that was part of what it cost to move to and dwell in the State of Israel.

Now when we move, we will again need to give away a few thousand dollars worth of items we purchased here so that everything will fit back in the "crate."  We will need to practically give away our new 70,000 NIS car (which will be worth almost nothing because my wife wrecked its value by being in an accident), we will pay another $15K just to move our belongings and fly ourselves back, and only then I will need to work extra hard to be able to pay for the increased expenses of healthcare, yeshiva tuition, etc.

On top of that, I was sharing with my wife just yesterday that the larger homes have electricity bills of $600 per month for many months out of the year, while the smaller homes (still large by anyone's measure, but "small" for what we were used to in Denver) have lower electricity costs of sometimes $200-$300 per month.  This pocket of change makes a big difference because with the larger homes, we are either heating or cooling the entire house because the indoor space is that much larger to temperature regulate.

This morning when I told her that I wanted to move back, and we spoke at length and decided to move back in June when the kids are done with their school year, (not January as we were considering beforehand so that we can give Beitar (Israel) a chance,) she got the "money bug" back that she had when we lived in the US.  "I want a big, giant dream house... with a Jaccuzzi and a pool... and a big magnificent kitchen with high ceilings, real wooden floors -- not the "fake" wooden floors we installed in our old home (I spent over $5,000 to install those wooden floors [which was a splurge], and yes, I think they were laminates or something but we researched the quality and decided that those were the best quality for the money we were paying)... Immediately, I almost had a heart attack because I remembered in the US our old fight that she did not respect how hard it was for me to work to make the money I made, and now she is already spending money in her head that we don't have.

I don't get this.  What is going on?!?  How the hell can she switch back to the "I want a big giant house with riches and diamond and beauty and, and, and, and..." when we just spent a year in Israel [I thought] teaching the value of austerity.  We lived a six-figure lifestyle here which was a meager lifestyle here, but it was certainly luxurious compared to the meager $35,000 salary most people in Israel live on.  Hell, some of my friends here can't even afford the weekly bus pass to pay for transportation to work (let alone good food on their table, clothes to wear, or any sort of comfort), and here she is suddenly going back to dreamy "I want everything" mentality that threw us into marriage counseling the first time we were in Denver.

I have nothing wrong with buying a more expensive house than we had the last time we were in Denver.  After seeing the millions of shekels a small measly home goes for here in Israel, even the most expensive home in Denver is cheap, comparatively.  But there is a difference between looking for an above-average lifestyle and going for a lifestyle that would only draw the attention and envy of the community.  Why can't we be like everyone else, and live a regular lifestyle within our means life everyone else?  Why this sudden desire to get the biggest and the best?  Did she not learn anything during our time here in Israel?!?

NOTE: Image taken from Pixbay, CC0 Public Domain, Free for commercial use, No attribution required.  Link.

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