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Shutting the Pipeline

Barbara Bensoussan

Young couples often need financial help. But when should they start going it alone?

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

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Photo: Shutterstock

Our community is in a bit of a quandary. 

We marry our children off young, when many of them haven’t yet finished training for a profession. We want our young men to learn Torah for as long as possible. Our married children start families at the same time we’re finishing putting our younger kids through yeshivah and while we’re still trying to marry off the others. On top of that, we want to retire at a reasonable age and not be dependent on our children for support. 

All that’s a pretty tricky juggling act, especially today, when the costs of housing, health care, and education have skyrocketed and left the middle class gasping for breath. 

“Salaries aren’t keeping pace; even professionals are taking home much less money than they used to,” points out Dr. Yisrael Feuerman, a psychologist specializing in money issues. A recent Atlantic cover story, “The Secret Shame of the Middle Class” (May 2016), claims that nearly half of Americans are so squeezed they’d have trouble scaring up an extra $400 in a crisis. 

So what’s a frum family supposed to do when they marry off their children? Our young couples typically need financial help because they simply aren’t capable of covering rent and living expenses while still in kollel, school, or earning a meager salary from an entry-level job. But with parents saddled with so many other obligations, how long can they realistically commit to helping their kids? And how can they gracefully withdraw without leaving their children in the lurch? 

When Shoshie ran into her friend Basya in the grocery store, Basya asked how her married children were doing. When Shoshie mentioned that her eldest was now working in real estate, Basya looked surprised. “He’s not learning full-time anymore?” she asked.

Photo: Shutterstock

Shoshie frowned. “I have seven children who, baruch Hashem, are growing up, and my husband simply cannot afford to support him anymore.” 

Many families, in fact, are zocheh to have multiple children in kollel long-term, and quite a few have several couples receiving help at least in the short term, in any case, whether they’re learning or working. Psychologist Dr. David Lieberman wonders whether our collective capital may run out. 

“If the first generation supports a bunch of kids,” he says, “is the supported generation capable of supporting their children?”

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