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Friday, July 17, 2009

Would the Financial Gurus Fail If Frum?

Hat Tip: aml

I finally took the time out to review Dave Ramsey's book the Total Money Makeover, which I highly endorsed because of its straightforward approach to money management and the ethic behind it. Sure, I had a few quibbles, but in the larger scheme of things, they aren't particularly important.

A number of months ago, I was informed that the CPA who writes for Baltimore's Where What When also wrote a review of the book. At the end he writes that a frum family that is not careful about budgeting "the average frum family can lose a million dollars and more over a lifetime and have absolutely nothing to show for it." I believe that he is very active in the Baltimore community which makes this statement very eye opening. He too liked the book (although he seemed to like the Tightwad Gazette more-different strokes for different folks. I could not finish that book), and recommends it, but he throws a swipe writing:

Ramsey and [Suzy] Orman are preaching to families to stop the cable TV, SUV loans, daily meals at restaurants, and the $4 Starbucks latte habit. That is simple advice to give. If they had to handle frum finances, they wouldn't have it so easy. Frum people have larger families, often with only one wage earner. The expenses are much higher than in the secular world. I wonder if these gurus can imagine making Pesach? Explain to Suzy Orman that some kids need to go to sleep-away camp for the "ruach," because if they stay home they will be influenced by the "outside world." Huh?


It has been said that the more something is said, the more it is believed. The more we talk about just how expensive it is to be frum, the more we believe that we really have no choices and the more permission we give ourselves to just keep spending. After all, there is nothing that we can do, right?

I have no doubt that Dave Ramsey could figure out how to make Pesach. And I think "huh?" is exactly the response that we need to turn around some of the crazy spending on big ticket items. Alternatives can be found when you question the premises.

47 comments:

Anonymous said...

It's funny that he writes that as if frum families are forced to have large families and one wage earner...

tesyaa said...

I am sure that many, if not most, non-Jews spend more on their Xmas gifts than we spend making Pesach.

Some people will always make excuses why they "can't" do something; other people will get it done.

SephardiLady said...

Oops, I met to include that I know the author knows so much more can be done. I just was pointing to the fact that the more we talk about how expensive Judiasm is, the more powerless we become.

Anonymous-I don't know too many one income families. But, when it comes to the very large families, the one income is normally a benefit if the mother hones her frugality skills.

tesyaa-No doubt! We act as if the whole world doesn't have expenses and social expectations to contend with. Everyone from the inner-city single mother on up has costly social expectations.

Anonymous said...

SL said to Anonymous-I don't know too many one income families. But, when it comes to the very large families, the one income is normally a benefit if the mother hones her frugality skills.
-------------
Your living in the past SL, the one wage earner IS the mother. Frugality helps when one parent is the homemaker who can be careful with the money that is coming in. In the frum world both parents are out of the house but with only one wage earner.
One of the factors in becoming a SAHM is getting rid of dry cleaning bills, traveling & lunch expenses, and of course daycare. None of that happens with the current system.

Anonymous said...

Great posts and comments. Excuses never help. I have no doubt that xtian families spend as much on their holidays. They also like to send their kids to camp and take summer vacations Eating organic can be just as expensive (if not more) than keeping Kosher.
And, guess what? Orthodox jews are not the only ones with large families. There are other groups that also have or in the not too distant past had large families.
The only meaningful distinction is private school tuition, but I have colleagues who scrimp to send their kids to Catholic schools, and many middle class families save for college.

As for SAHM's or SAHF's, it's hard to make generalizations as to what is best for the family's finances and well-being. That will depend on the earning potential of each parent, the availability and cost of childcare, the ages of the children, the interests and disposition of the parents, etc. (My mother explained when she went back to work after the youngest turned five that she would go crazy spending her days cooking, cleaning and lunching with the ladies.) I think that for many families, if the Mom (or dad) can work part-time while the children are young and then increase their hours later, that may be the best solution since they stay in the job market, hone their skills, etc. and the family is always safer with two parents with marketable skills and a marketable resume since, g-d forbid, they will be in a real bind if there is only one working/marketable parent and that parent loses a job, becomes disabled, or worse. (Remember, most disability policies only cover 60% of lost earnings and have a cap.) Parents with professional degrees and some solid work experience are best situated to get part-time jobs and jobs where they can do some telecommuting.

alpidarkomama said...

Thanks for another right-before-shabbos laugh. I love the image of Dave Ramsey making pesach! :) "There's only one way to a frugal pesach... and that's with Dave Ramsey." Ha ha ha. (Misquoting the last quote of his radio show every day.) We made pesach ON OUR REGULAR GROCERY BUDGET. I cut back on our budget by 10% the two months before pesach shopping, so I had an extra 20% to spend and THAT DID IT. Yes, we were frugal. Yes, we ate a lot of REALLY good food. :) We even had guests. We bought almost NO extra-expensive KLP items, just got creative with normal groceries for the most part. Anything is possible if you decide to just do it, and creative people can nearly always find a way to make whatever it is happen, with Hashem's help, of course (including being a one-middle-sized-income family). Good shabbos!!!

Avi said...

The gurus would do fine with frum families; the question is whether the frum families would be willing to listen to the advice. The first thing they'd do is say to make Pesach on the cheap, go to a beit din and get out of all your chumrahs, and stop worrying about "ruach" when you can't afford it. But that won't be enough. It's pretty clear that many frum families are deliberately setting themselves up for financial difficulties, even if they never drink a latte, make Pesach on the cheap, take on no chumras, make no big simchas, and never get a credit card or car loan. If you believe in large families and private schooling, you need significant income. If you also believe that men shouldn't work because "Hashem will provide," well... the gurus can't help you if you aren't willing to help yourself.

Lion of Zion said...

AVI:

"If you believe in large families and private schooling, you need significant income."

says who? thousands of large frum families send their kids to private schools without bringing in high income. we may disapprove of how they do it, but it's done.

Miami Al said...

Avi, Dave Ramsey often tells people that they need to increase income. On his TV show, he'll often say that sometimes you need to cut, and sometimes "dad needs to get a second job."

Unfortunately, as long as the Yeshiva system doesn't have a percentage approach, and takes "all spare income" we will continue to be underemployed. Plenty of non college educated wage earners would benefit from retraining at community college, etc, and that simply isn't happening.

But LoZ, you're 100% right, and as long as they have a will and a way, there you go.

Miami Al said...

BTW, anyone who thinks that telling upper middle class busy families to stop cable, meals out, and coffees out is "easy advice," that selling the car and buying something cheap and used, is "easy advice" doesn't know what they are talking about. They are telling them to give up the staples of upper middle class life in the name of long term financial success.

The implication that camp is a necessity for "ruach" to avoid the "outside world" and thinks that meals/coffee out is a luxury clearly has no sense of proportion (or clue who these guys are, the Latte Factor was a different guru). A $4 latte every day is $1460/month, throw in $50/meal for family dinners out at 2x/week, and you've come up with $5000 more... even at $100/mo. of cable, and you're still at $7500 of luxury cuts.

Those are huge numbers, to be sure, and roughly cover one student-semester in a MO Day school, or a single tuition in a Yeshiva.

Ramsey makes people tackle the big ticket items, not the details. Housing, cars, etc. Tuition, camp, "making Pesach" (with a wasteful extravagance of heart-attack inducing red meat filled meals and pre-prepared meals), and the rest are the BIG ticket items. So being proud that you "don't have cable" isn't even in the same league, those detail "frugal" differences ignore the big ticket problems. So you don't fix the finances, but you do feel that you're sacrificing, an emotional response to financial problems.

SephardiLady said...

Anonymous-I hear you loud and clear. Too many families think they have a full income, but because of the husband's kollel and/or underemployment and the expenses (esp daycare), they are really trying to survive on a 1/4 income.

I do believe some kollelim are closing. The short term solution might just be for the fathers to step up to the plate and make the wife's money stretch further.

alpidarkomama-I spend $19 more than my monthly average during April. But I still have 2 frozen turkeys and we bought at least 20 grape juices. So Pesach actually cost less. (I maintain a very flexibl approach to grocery shopping. There have been months I buy almost nothing because we are still eating down the 40 boxes of cereal I got for next to nothing).

Miami Al, Avi, and LOZ-Thanks for the comments.

Anonymous said...

what would david ramsey or suze orman say about $15,000 to $25,000 bergen county yeshiva tuition - there is no way to cut back and still be frum - in fact those that blew money on pesach vacations and fancy homes and $8,000 summer camps now qualify for scholarships while those that were frugal and followed dramsey advice are forced to pay full tuition out of their savings - the frum world is upside down

SephardiLady said...

I believe that Dave Ramsey did have something to say about private tuition for those that can't afford it: don't.

Of course, that doesn't solve the problem of being frum and wanting to educate your children in a way that will give you acceptance (that being the right private day schools/yeshivas).

I personal think the free market will eventually bring this issue into equilibrium.

The frum world is certainly upside down in terms of punishing earners and rewarding others.

SephardiLady said...

BTW-I've never read Suze Orman. I'm sure she has plenty of fine advice, but she lives an alternative lifestyle and without medical intervention is unlikely to have children (wow, I'm beating around the bush here). So I don't believe that she has the same type of advice to offer as a true family man, which Dave Ramsey appears to be.

Anonymous said...

Sephardi: I wouldn't prejudge Suze Orman's financial advice or judgment based on the fact that she doesn't have children or her sexual orientation. She gives some very good, basic advice for people who are completely clueless about the basics. She preaches some strong values about differentiating between wants and needs, personal resonsiblity and the importance of charity. She is very close with her family and faily is mportant to her. She also has a very compelling personal story about working her way out of poverty. Another important thing she teaches is the importance of wives having an understanding of and a role in family finances and not waiting until they are divorced, widowed, etc. when it often is too late. You don't have to have her over for Shabbos if you don't like her lifestyle, but it's irrelevant to whether or not her financial advice is good or bad.

Anonymous said...

I think that the financial planners would say that it's great that you value your religion and traditions and want to send your children to private school, but remember it is a choice and you can't have it all. So, except for the wealthiest that means no or limited vacations, a small home or perhaps not owning at all, not living in the town or neighborhood of your first choice, second hand cars and furniture, etc., perhaps working an extra job. I realize there are many hard working orthodox families who scrimp and still can't make ends meet, but there are also those who expect to be able to send their children to private school and still have the same lifestyle as their secular neighbors. I also think the financial planners would have heart failure learning about how much is spent by middle class families on weddings and other simchas and on wedding gifts.

SephardiLady said...

Anonymous: Thank you for your comments on Suze Orman. Perhaps I will pick up one of her books. I know she is an advocate for women being involved in the finances, which is a subject that I am passionate about too.

Truth is, if I ever met her, I'd be more than happy to not only have her over, but pick her brain.

However, I have been listening to Dave Ramsey whenever I can catch him, and I really relate to him overall. He really sees kids as a blessing (not all financial gurus do). He really believes in men stepping up and supporting their families. And, whenever a man (or women) wants to exclude the other from the financial planning process, he recognizes the big picture of the marriage and knows the heart of the problem is not just a financial one.

I have read some criticism of Suze Orman for not recognizing "shalom bayit" issues vis a vis finances.

But, NO MATTER WHAT, any help from a person who endorses frugality and saving could be of help to our community, as the next anonymous says: financial planners would have a heartattack.

Well, I'm not a licensed financial planner (although I might decide to do so if my circumstances ever lend to it), and I've been having a public heart attack for 3 years now.

Ariella said...

Obviously, there's a huge difference between sending kids to yeshiva versus private school, especially when there are more than 2 children to be educated. And, no questions about it, kosher meat and chicken costs way more than the treif variety. Shabbos and Yom Tov also adds to the household expense as we are supposed to honor those days with festive meals and clothing. Then there are expenses for shul memberships, mikvah memberships or fees, etc. So to some extent he higher cost of a frum lifestyle is inevitable.

But there are other expenses that are not inevitable, even though people regard them as such. Those include sleepaway camps, Pesach at hotels (which cost way more than any but truly wealthy nonJews would spend on their holidays), and elaborate simcha celebrations that can exceed $50K even for a bar / bat mitzvah celebration.

Then there are the frivolous expenses that have nothing to do with being frum. People do not have to pick up their $3.50 cup of diluted ice coffee to "sip & shop" while picking out groceries at the local kosher store that they will then have delivered at an additional charge of $5. And while I do believe in preparing lekavod Shabbos, I do not believe weekly manicures count as such.

Anonymous said...

Hi SL: I'm the one who commented on Suze Orman. I apologize if I sounded a little harsh. I don't think Suze would be your style. Some of the advice on her show is a little basic, but what she is good at is sounding the drum against debt, irresponsibility, etc. and doing it in a somewhat entertaining way so people will listen. It's great that there are different advisors with different styles since a person who might be turned off by one advisor might listen to another. I really don't remember this type of advice and information being so readily available when I was starting out.

Of course, no one has all the answers and whether its Suze or Dave or someone else, they are making a ton of money selling books and tapes. At least they aren't selling get rich quick schemes.

BTW - It would be terrific if you were to become a certified financial planner. I'd hire you:)

SephardiLady said...

I can handle a little harshness and handle it with a smile. I think it is great that there are people out there making a living out of helping people control their money. I guess I'm trying to do the same thing here, although the only money I make is whatever I get from the ads. :)

Anonymous said...

SL: Me again. You are very gracious. That's one of the reasons I enjoy your blog. Nothing wrong with trying to make some money off of good advice. Isn't that what all professionals do. I think you could be the Suze Orman of the frum world. Perhaps schools and shuls could hire you to put together curriculum and teaching materials. A course on financial basics, the pros and cons of credit, budgeting, etc., understanindg compounding (whether credit card interest or for retirement accounts) should be mandatory in all day schools/yeshiva/seminaries, etc. -- perhaps tied to the halaka on debt, business ethics and financial responsibility. Financial basics should also be part of all Kallah and Chosson classes. How about some basic courses on management of non-profits for board members of Shuls and day schools, etc. How many board members can read a balance sheet, understand a budget and how to question it?

Lion of Zion said...

"A course on financial basics, the pros and cons of credit, budgeting, etc., understanindg compounding . . ."

in senior year we had economics for a semester. part of the class (at this point i really don't remember how much) dealt with personal money management, i.e., budgeting, balancing a check book, understanding interest, stock investments, etc.

jb said...

I have read Suze Orman, and found her excellent in terms of explaining terms and concepts, but the book that I read- Young, Fabulous, and Broke- dealt mostly with debt. B'H, I'm young, fabulous, and absolutely NOT broke!

It really shocks me how clueless the people around me are when it comes to money (I may be clueless as to how to invest, but I know how not to live in the red!) It especially irks me the way credit cards are used to make yesh meayin (something from nothing). To quote my husband: The credit card bill is a bill like any other; fail to pay off the electric bill in full, you will be sitting in the dark; fail to pay off the card in full, the proverbial lights will eventually go out. The only reason we even use credit cards is to build a credit history (when we got married, our parents had to cosign the lease because we had no credit history; now that we've built one- through credit cards and paying our rent on time- we were able to renew the lease on our own).

I can't really speak for the higher cost of being frum, because without tuition to contend with, the only issues so far are kosher food, mikvah fees, and shul membership. It adds up, to be sure, but I can't say our wallet is hurting that much at this point.

SL- you could become the financial guru of the frum world! I would love to be a financial planner, but I am terrible at math :-)

Miami Al said...

Ariella, "Obviously, there's a huge difference between sending kids to yeshiva versus private school, especially when there are more than 2 children to be educated."

Nope, situation dealt with by the Catholic Church. Religious Catholics shunned all birth control (family planning seems more common now), and in the post-WWII environment, they all tried to send kids to Catholic schools. They approached things communally, with a leadership model (Conference of Bishops, shutting down under-performing resources, etc., absolutely no reason that Young Israel, where the buildings are owned by the national organization, didn't follow their model and set up schools, other than more communal organization.

"And, no questions about it, kosher meat and chicken costs way more than the treif variety."

Yes and no, they are more expensive than the crappy stuff sold to poor people, but no more expensive than the free range chicken, organics, beef fed, choice cuts, etc. For the poorer Jews, there is a big price disparity, for the upper middle class set, the prices are about the same. My secular colleagues shop at Whole Foods, not the local store that takes food stamps.

"Shabbos and Yom Tov also adds to the household expense as we are supposed to honor those days with festive meals and clothing."

Eh, don't have any Italian friends I take it? Their Sunday night family dinners are usually a bigger deal then our Shabbat dinners. Our holidays, Pesach included, are dirt cheap compared to what well-to-do Gentile families spend on Christmas. The fact is, we get "Yom Tov clothing" for the Tishrei holidays and Pesach... they fancy up Thanksgiving/Christmas (in the US, elsewhere just Christmas) and Easter.

We're NOT that different from the Catholics (big shock given where they got their religion), we just made different choices.

Alexis said...

Miami Al, your comparison of kosher to free range/organic fails--because stam kosher isn't always better quality than the cheap treif stuff. Generally, it's a bit better and the most egregious violations of animal welfare are avoided (because it causes kashrut problems) but it is not the same as organic. I've gotten kosher chickens with telltale burn marks on the bottom (caused by overcrowded chicken houses which are not shoveled out). If I wished to buy meat that was both kosher AND organic I would pay a further cost. I don't, because I draw the line at $20 for a chicken.

What's been missed in the costs for frum families are hidden costs. Frum neighborhoods tend to be expensive. They're almost never new build exurbs with cheap housing, and are often in the top tier of neighborhoods for that city. Even if you don't demand to live in Lawrence, 2 blocks from the shul, your choice of locations is limited. It's hard to get a community started in a more distant area (and then, prices go up. Look at Monsey: still cheaper than many other frum areas around NYC, but inflated relative to the surrounding area) and moving to a cheaper city isn't always an option, or a huge improvement if your salary goes down enough.

Mike S. said...

Of course, SL, your house is larger (presumably more expensive) than it would need to be if you did not store a small warehouse of groceries bought to exploit sales :)

There are two fundamental issues here. One is the need to seriously make choices--if you are going to send a passel of kids to yeshivah you need wither to cut back on everything else or plan, (and choose a career) to have a very large income. The other is to deal with the stifling conformity in the frum community that makes everyone feel they have to do (and pay for) whatever anyone else does.

SephardiLady said...

I managed to stuff groceries into our small apartment too. But, yes, we own a nice house with lots of room, but it is a standard model in our neighborhood.

Oh, whatever... said...

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the show, Suze has a segment called “Can I Afford It?” where people call in to Suze and tell her that they’d like to buy something (car, house, boat, jewelry, personal trainer, etc.). The caller tells Suze how much the caller earns, has saved and how much debt the caller has, and based upon those figures, Suze either approves or denies the caller’s purchase. When someone calls in wanting to buy something way out of their budget (like a $60,000 new car while earning $50,000 per year and not having savings) Suze raises her voice and says, “ARE YOU OUT OF YOUR MIND? YOU CAN’T AFFORD IT!!!”

I can imagine the agony of Suze Orman if a frum person called in and said that he wishes to send three kids to yeshiva even on a decent salary. I can imagine the script as follows:

Suze: Hello Schlamazel. You’re on the Suze Orman show. What do you want to buy?

Schlamazel: Hi Suze. I love your show. I want to send my triplets who are four years old to a Jewish private school.

Suze: Very Nice. But can you afford it. Show me the money.

Shlamazel: My wife and I take home about $8,000 per month (Assume they earn $150,000 before taxes). We have $25,000 in savings and we have a $300,000 mortgage on an overpriced house in a Jewish suburb. Our modestly priced school will cost $10,000 per child, or $30,000 per year, or $2,500 per month.

Suze: “ARE YOU OUT OF YOUR MIND? YOU CAN’T AFFORD IT!!!” You’re earning $8,000 after taxes which I might add is a fairly nice sum. But you can’t take $2,500 of that $8,000 and spend it on tuition. What happens if you lose your job or get sick. YOU ARE SO DENIED!!! OY VEY!!!

I wouldn’t expect Suze or Dave Ramsey to understand the importance of a Jewish education. I think Suze would have a very difficult time with us Orthodox folks. Savings money on groceries or Pesach is nice, but its chump change compared to the big thing.

Miami Al said...

Alexis, the fact that we are being ripped off in terms of quality doesn't change the equation. When my wife complains about cheese prices, I always remind her that before we kept Kosher, we weren't buying Kraft Singles. We didn't replace cheap crappy meat with Kosher meat.

My point is that for a high earning family, Kashrut doesn't really increase costs dramatically. If you look at their income range and go outside the Frum bubble, you find Whole Foods shoppers buying top of the line product.

The Kosher foods are better than the bottom barrel treif meats, they aren't as good as the Choice/Select cuts or the free range hormone-free chicken, but they are better than the bottom barrel stuff.

Regarding hidden costs, down here in Miami, the "Frum" areas are generally in the same suburban areas as the Jews are. In the exurban areas, Chabad is usually there and if the area establishes, there is room for other Orthodox Shuls. The "Frum" areas are definitely more expensive, but there are cheaper areas with a Chabad if you are looking to save money.

Again, look at lifestyle, my secular colleagues are all going out to dinner Friday night, spending more than we spend on Shabbat. They go out on Saturday to see friends, dropping more money than we spend on Shabbat. Those "Frum" costs are in line with the same income bracket non-Frum people's costs...

If you don't think the quality tradeoff is worthwhile, then maybe you should leave Frumkeit. The hidden costs are if you choose to live in a neighborhood out of your price range. The quality hit to housing/meat needs to be weighed against lifestyle benefits. You aren't "paying more" for meat/housing, you're simply getting "lower quality meat/housing" for the same dollars, as a tradeoff against the community and other benefits of a Frum life.

Anonymous said...

Oh whatever: I think Suze could understand the need for tuition, but she would scrutinize every other penny this family spends.

SephardiLady said...

My own experience is that RW Christians, Catholics, Mormans, etc, place a high premium on religious education. If someone wants to call Dave and discuss, let me know what show archive to access.

SephardiLady said...

Oh whatever

The segment sounds interesting. Perhaps I will have to go over to someone's house to has cable and watch.

Oh, whatever... said...

To anonymous @ 10:13am: Obviously I don't know how much of a premium Suze places on jewish education and its very possible she'd be very understanding. But even if Suze were to scrub the budget and get rid of the lattes, cable tv and whatever, I don't think it would make an overwhelming dent for your average family. The people who I know who are struggling aren't struggling because they buy new cars, homes or take expensive vacations; its simply because jewish education is expensive. Getting rid of the lattes might cover your school's registration fee, but it will make you awfully grumpy in the morning. I gave up the Caffe Mochas because they have an astounding amount of calories. I just go for the plain coffee.

To SephardiLady: There are many groups that place a premium on education, but Catholic schools, for example, are much more accessible to those wanting the education. My colleague who lives in Queens sends her two kids to Catholic school partially because she wants them to get the education, partially because she doesn't want them going to the NYC public schools. Grand cost: about $4,500 per child.

tdr said...

Dave Ramsey routinely tells people who cannot afford to send their kids to a Christian school not to do it. He sent his kids to public school.

Miami Al said...

Tdr, so how to we define Orthodoxy in a post Day School world? If we can't afford it, we can't afford. Going into debt to someone "afford it" doesn't really help, you might squeeze one more year out, maybe 2-3, but the debt will take decades to undo.

If we can't afford it collectively or individually, screaming at yelling at the purveyors of financial sanity doesn't help. We need a solution we can afford.

Orthodox Incomes have not grown sufficient to support our increased educational cost. There are a myriad of reasons for this, but no short term solutions.

What's the next idea?

Ariella said...

That some nonJews choose to spend more on education, food, entertaining, etc., does not that the standard for the average nonJewish Joe who does send his children to public school, buy Purdue or Tyson chicken, and has the option of getting married at city hall for just the cost of the marriage license fee. Yes, he may choose to upgrade on any of those things, but that is completely a matter of choice -- not a mandatory component of his life.

As for Catholic school vs. yeshiva tuition, I looked one up and got these figures for Catholic Central High School (Troy, New York):
Middle School tuition is $4,550 and High School tuition is $5,350 for the 2007-08 school year.

In yeshivas in the FarRockaway/ 5 Town area, the average full tuition is more than double that amount-- and that is not at the higher priced schools, like HAFTR where tuition exceeds $14,000 for an elementary school child. In Passaic, the tuition was a little bit lower, but there were huge fundraising burdens placed on the parents that would bring the tuition even higher for one child there than one child here, on average.

Julie said...

Okay, we as a community are smart. Let's dream it: what would financially sustainable Orthodoxy in the diaspora look like? Is it possible?

Anonymous said...

Ariella: Why does a jewish wedding have to cost more than a secular city hall wedding other than the cost of drawing up a ketubah? I didn't know that fancy dresses, lots of guests and rented halls, flowers, music, etc were mandated.

As for the more critical issue, why can Catholic schools afford to set tuition at $5,000ish. Because they've paid off the buildings long ago? Larger classes? They don't have lots of Rosh yeshivot and administrators with large salaries? What can we learn from them and incorporate in other settings?

nuqotw said...

Um, a premium on religious education is not the same thing as a premium on sending one's kid to yeshiva. I (yet to have kids, I admit) place a heavy premium on a quality Jewish/religious education, but a very low premium on the social value of getting that education the way "we have to or else our kids will go off the derekh", i.e. yeshiva / day school. There are a couple reasons for this:

(1) I did a lot of swimming against the social current as a kid. Sure, it was unpleasant at the time, but it made me a much stronger, more independent person today. I do not feel a substantial need to conform. I have noticed this trait in other people who had similar experiences as kids. I believe that my kids' Judaism will actually be strengthened by have to struggle for it. Sooner or later, kids will confront the "outside world". They might as well do it when they are young and I can still guide them as they experience being different from other people.

(2) Despite having gone to public school, my Jewish education / skills are better than those of most people who went to yeshiva / day school. I would pay $30K per kid per year for something worse that I have acquired with one year of formal study just so that my kids could be socially perceived as going to the "right" school etc.? Among those who know more / have better skills, they tend to have at least one of the following traits:

(a) They seriously pursued talmud torah after high school on their own initiative, and often at a professional level.

(b) They learned with at least one parent (typically the father) as kids.

(3) Despite having not been raised religious, I learned to value talmud torah (and indeed, all serious study of any subject area) from my parents, who took time to learn other subjects with me that they thought were important. I strongly believe that staying frum has much more to do with one's home life than anything else.

We are kidding ourselves if we believe that the financial gurus don't understand the "necessity" of yeshiva / day school. They do understand. And they understand that choosing to raise a family in great straits in order to conform to a $30K/kid/year social expectation is not a reasonable course of action from a financial standpoint. Personally, even if tuition became more affordable, I am not sure I would want to send my kids the message that it is worth forking over thousands of dollars a year to conform to a social norm.

Julie said...

Nuqotw:
It is hard to believe that your Jewish education / skills are on par with most yeshiva day school graduates unless you spent a number of years formally learning as an adult. Text skills are not something that you just pick up. And second languages are more easily learned as a child. I was active in my shul growing up; I went to shiurim; and I learned with my father. In college, I took Jewish studies classes, and I even earned a masters degree in a Jewish studies-related field where I had to take classes in Hebrew, Tanakh, Talmud and midrash. And still I would not say that my chumash skills are parallel to the high school students that I work with.

Since you derived lessons from your personal experiences, let me tell you mine. I did grow frum, and I went to public school. Is it possible? Of course. Is my Judaism stronger as a result of having to constantly explain it? Yup. Would I wish my experiences on my children? Not on your life. I have spent my entire life trying to find a place where I would be normal--where I would not have to explain myself and prove to the outside world that Orthodox Jews are not complete weirdos. There was always a difficulty making friends--"I'm sorry; I can't eat your house unless I bring my own food." "Oh, you guys are going to McDonalds--I'll catch you later." School was also an issue--I still get heart palpitations at the end of a hag because I am so stressed about the work that I missed and the homework that I haven't done. (I am married with kids; I haven't had to worry about homework for ten years.) When I moved to the New York area, I felt as if I could truly breathe for the first time.

JLan said...

" Julie said...
Nuqotw:
It is hard to believe that your Jewish education / skills are on par with most yeshiva day school graduates unless you spent a number of years formally learning as an adult. Text skills are not something that you just pick up. And second languages are more easily learned as a child. I was active in my shul growing up; I went to shiurim; and I learned with my father. In college, I took Jewish studies classes, and I even earned a masters degree in a Jewish studies-related field where I had to take classes in Hebrew, Tanakh, Talmud and midrash. And still I would not say that my chumash skills are parallel to the high school students that I work with."

I'd love to know where these students you're working with are. Many of the students I've seen can't deal with gemara on their own, or even with, say, a Hebrew Steinsaltz, but need Artscroll's assistance. I can speak from personal experience that nuqotw does not need that kind of help.

nuqotw said...

JLan - I'm afraid I don't recognize your handle, but thank you.

Julie - I, too, have spent a lot of time trying to find where normal is for me, if it exists at all. It can be trying, but I for one do wish that on my kids and wouldn't give it up for myself. It's certainly not for everyone, and I can understand if it's not for you.

JLan said...

"JLan - I'm afraid I don't recognize your handle, but thank you."

You were at my wedding a little over three weeks ago, if that helps. I haven't seen you learn gemara for a while, but I've seen you learning with others a few times.

Anonymous said...

One problem is that choice flies out the window as soon as you decide you need to live in an Orthodox neighborhood. I live "out of town," where the affordable housing is within the city limits and good schools are in the county. But if someone has financial problems, they can't just send their kids to public school--the city schools are awful.

We gross under $150K and will be spending $30K on tuition this year. I can't imagine how we're going to do that without borrowing. We keep cutting back but, at this point, there doesn't seem to be any more cuts that will make up the several thousand dollar gap between what we have and what they want.

And yes, we could send our kids to a cheaper school where they will get a decent Torah education and a crappy general education, where college is discouraged, and kids have all kinds of restrictions we don't hold by. I've seen left-wing parents who put their kids in right-wing schools. In the end they get a kid who does not share the parents' values. I'd rather ratchet up my debt than not transmit my values to my kids.

Ariella said...

to respond to this:
nonymous said...

"Why does a jewish wedding have to cost more than a secular city hall wedding other than the cost of drawing up a ketubah? I didn't know that fancy dresses, lots of guests and rented halls, flowers, music, etc were mandated." Those things are not mandated; however, it is a long-established Jewish tradition to make a wedding a public celebration with friends and family participating. And they have to be fed something; in fact, the meal would be a seudas mitzvah. That is not to say you need a buffet, Viennese table, and a full bar in a fancy hall. But you do need something more than the certificate.

Part 2: "As for the more critical issue, why can Catholic schools afford to set tuition at $5,000ish. Because they've paid off the buildings long ago? Larger classes? They don't have lots of Rosh yeshivot and administrators with large salaries? What can we learn from them and incorporate in other settings?" My guess is that pooling resources makes some difference. The Catholic schools are all part of a larger Catholic organization which probably helps to some extent. I am also fairly certain that the average Catholic school teacher would not be earning $80K plus as some rebbeim (even in elementary schools) are.

Miami Al said...

Ariella, ""Why does a jewish wedding have to cost more than a secular city hall wedding other than the cost of drawing up a ketubah? I didn't know that fancy dresses, lots of guests and rented halls, flowers, music, etc were mandated." Those things are not mandated; however, it is a long-established Jewish tradition to make a wedding a public celebration with friends and family participating. And they have to be fed something; in fact, the meal would be a seudas mitzvah. That is not to say you need a buffet, Viennese table, and a full bar in a fancy hall. But you do need something more than the certificate."

Again, straw man. The big fancy Jewish wedding is a sign of wealth... wealthy gentiles throw equally extravagant parties. Poor gentiles go to city hall and get a license, why can't poor Jews go get a license, Ketubah, and get married in the morning with the morning Shul minyan there, a la a normal Brit Milah?

#2, you wrote, "Catholic schools are all part of a larger Catholic organization which probably helps to some extent. I am also fairly certain that the average Catholic school teacher would not be earning $80K plus as some rebbeim (even in elementary schools) are.

So can we learn from them? They have kept things way more affordable than us. We are integrated in the greater Jewish world, with Federation money, so we are there.

Is it a teacher cost issue? How can we contain those. Do we need $80k/year teachers for elementary schools? If we could get costs for a low end RW Yeshiva dow around that of a cheap Catholic school, a MO Day school similar to a high end Catholic school, and got the high end MO Day Schools down in price around the independent Catholic schools, we'd solve about 50%-75% of our tuition crisis, no?

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