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Making It

Chaia Frishman

In a monthly series, Mishpacha speaks to real people in our communities who are struggling — and succeeding — to “make it.” Learn their strategies, secrets, fears, and dreams as they share the wealth of their hard-earned experience

Wednesday, July 13, 2016


Photo: Shutterstock

It seemed like only yesterday that they began their lives and began to raise their families. Yet soon enough, the day finally came when they were liberated from tuition, high grocery bills, and co-payments for more pediatrician visits than they could count. How odd to be responsible for only two. Or are they? Meet three couples who prove that parenting doesn’t end just because everyone flew the coop. 

While everyone goes through different stages in life, I never realized that life could also have sub-stages. Sure, childhood, adolescence, and marriage follow a projected trajectory. But when more than one marriage is thrown into the loop, the results are more unpredictable. 

When I got married for the first time, my husband and I were living simply on a small stipend in graduate-school housing. By the time we had three kids, we were both working, lucky not to have any loans to repay at that point. We made aliyah right after graduate school and rented out our house. When living in Israel didn’t work out, we came back to find out that all our belongings were stolen by our tenant and we literally had to refurnish our life from scratch, in more ways than one. We got divorced soon after. 

Life didn’t get easier after that: My second marriage dissolved quickly, although, luckily, my finances remained intact. 

Then, 22 years ago, I met my soul mate. Keith was devoted to taking care of me while I took care of my children. Today I’m a freelancer but then I worked as a bookkeeper until my last kid graduated. I paid every college tuition on my own and then got a job working for Keith in his plumbing supplies business. 

At that point we had one joint account where we put all our investments and another joint account for bills. I still kept a separate account to use to buy gifts for my kids and for “mad money.” To this day, while Keith loves my kids and buys them things (and my grandchildren call him Grandpa), I like to use my own money to spoil them — especially since we have such different spending styles. It’s just easier not to consult with him on every purchase. For example, I think a birthday gift for a grandchild should cost about $50, while he would be happy if I just bought a token item for $10. 

We never supported our kids once they got married, but gave them a nice stipend for two years until they got on their feet. If we went for Yom Tov, we would pitch in a few hundred dollars to pay for food. We were also always available to lend them money, even going as far as to forgiving a loan, especially when it was for tuition for their children.

Photo: Shutterstock

At one point we were on the verge of retiring. Keith is a fabulous money manager and the money from the sale of his plumbing supplies business went straight into our investment portfolio. 

At that point, he paid a certain amount for his mother’s eldercare so that she would always be well cared for. He needed to commit $100,000 for her to get the best care before Medicare kicked in, and I asked him whether that amount of money would make a difference to our future. Baruch Hashem, at that point it didn’t make a difference, so we paid. We were in a great place financially. We traveled a lot — kosher cruises, months in Israel, Pesach at Gateways — and enjoyed the prospect of a beautiful retirement. 

That is until the day we joined many other Americans in discovering that our retirement funds weren’t as secure as we had hoped. The call came Erev Shabbos. 

We always had a nice nest egg earning a great return. Our financial advisor was a close friend who we trusted implicitly. 

And unfortunately, he also trusted Bernie Madoff. The Ponzi scheme that robbed so many people took a huge bite out of our comfort zone. Our advisor had given a bulk of our retirement money to another investment company, which in turn gave it to Madoff to invest. 

I have to say that Keith was amazingly calm. Till then, he would frequently check online to see what his net worth was for that day. After that, he had one mantra. 

“This is Hashem’s way of saying ‘you will get what you are supposed to get.’ ”

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