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Sunday, February 06, 2011

42 and Never Employed, Now What?

Kollel Guy writes of what the 42 year old, never employed person should do. And he suggests (you guessed it) something creative with a very high potential return. The sky is the limit! And of course with shidduchim rapidly approaching, one needs money now. Forget about developing the hard and soft skills, just go out there and sale, sale, sale. No need for a fancy degree, no need for computer skills. No need for minimal experience. Just be confident, present a great argument, make connections, and (like magic) those people skills can magically create income.

Let's ignore the fact that making the sale does involve some actual skills, such as market research targeting the correct market and just cut to a different issue: people skills aren't all that natural. Just like other skills, mentoring is something worth seeking out.

While 'Kollel Guy' suggests just getting out there (after all, giving a chabura or convincing someone of your Torah is great training), I'd suggest a more traditional route, combined with an entrepreneurial spirit.

There is certainly nothing wrong with looking large opportunities, but there is much to be gained by seeking regular (low paying) employment, watching other people in action, and taking advantage of the mentoring therein. By all means, if a lucrative opportunity presents itself, spend time pursuing it. But, don't discount the value of career development through a more normal track. . . even in your 40's.


David said...

Ouch. I did work in sales for a few years, and it's very, very hard - it's particularly hard to know if what you're doing is why you are (or are not) successful. I would not recommend that someone with such a limited set of experiences go into it, because it can easily send unpleasant messages and be highly unfruitful.

Anonymous said...

Give the guy a break at least he's willing to try. My 37 year old brother is in Kollel and just gets by with government assistance. You have to be careful though because my observation is that some or these guys don't really have great social skills.
Ex-Kollel Student

Anonymous said...

I work is sales and do well, but it took me 10 years of hard work to get where I am now. I wish that I had gone to college because it can be a very unstable income. You have to really stick with it and not give up to make it. Unfortunately, a lot of guys I know who study do not have the personality to really do well at sales and it could actually turn out to be a negative rather than a positive experience of them.

Miami Al said...

Okay, most of us think that his success level will be low, but so what? How does our negativity help?

He's 42, he has no work experience. Well that sucks, but telling him that he should have gone to college and worked for the past 20 years is pointless advice (suggesting cultural changes to help that happen in the future is one thing, you can't change the past).

One of the things you tell people when changing careers is to look at the skills you have that are transferable. Maybe persuading someone of "your Torah" is transferable to sales, maybe not. However, since his job skills seem to largely be:

1. Persuading one of a Torah argument
2. Public speaking to people exactly like them

That's not a huge starting point. But oh well, that's the hand he was dealt, now it's up to him to play it.

Good luck to him... and hopefully, he advises his children to make different decisions than him to not be in that space (that latter one seems to be missing here).

tdr said...

Dave Ramsey always recommends this book to people looking for work, no matter what the circumstances:

48 Days to the Work You Love

I have not read the book. But here is the 1-liner from Amazon: "48 Days to the Work You Love is not about finding a new job. It is about finding out what you are going to “be.” "

In any job-seeking situation one must learn to maximize the positives, but first you need to know what the positives are. Vocational counseling might be helpful to someone in this situation though a good vocational counselor could be pricey.

Conservative SciFi said...

I agree with Miami Al that he needs to focus on the future, not the past.

If he has the right personality, (sales schmooze, comfortable with people, outgoing, confident), sales can be a very successful career. He might try to match some other interest as well. If he likes cars, auto sales, if he is into property, real estate sales, etc.

I think there are probably lots of other jobs that such a person could get if they would be willing to spend a few months or years in training. While these might be "blue collar", the wages are not necessarily that low. Auto mechanic, electrician, plumber, carpenter, etc. can pay reasonably well, particularly once you have a steady client base.

We used a gentleman to remodel our bathroom who was well trained, charged about 70% of what the big remodeling companies charge, does the work himself (mostly) and still probably makes on the order of $1500-2000/week. Even if he only works 48 weeks a year, that is 72,000 annually. (And charges in New York are probably a little higher than in my city). But he has the carpentry and plumbing skills (and simply electrical skills, for complex stuff he still calls in an electrician).

I think anyone can reinvent themselves if they try.

Anonymous said...

Even at the ripe old age of 42, going back to school or vocational training (whether full or part time) should be a consideration. If one is fortunate enough to maintain his health, there are another 25-30 years left to work, so its worth investing some money and time to develop a career that will be satisfying and enable this man to support himself and his family. I know two people who went back to school in their 50's to obtain nursing degrees, while working part-time lower wage jobs as nursing assistants or home helath care aides. It is not easy, but it is doable and possible to remake yourself.

JS said...

I agree the focus needs to be on the future - this guy can't go back in time and rewrite 20+ years of educational and vocational history. That said, the article bothers me with it's get rich quick attitude. The article doesn't say, "If you work at this sales job really hard you can make a respectable salary of $35k (or whatever)" - it says you can make $120,000 (a salary far, far, far above median salary, especially for someone with no experience). And it doesn't just say you can make $120k, it makes it sound like it is downright easy - ALL you have to do is make 1 sale every month. How hard that can that possibly be?

I have a few friends in sales and it is a VERY difficult job. There's a reason salesmen are given a very low salary for about 3-6 months and then move to straight commissions - it's because the failure rate is enormous and only a small percentage of the class of new salesmen can make enough sales to support themselves on commissions only.

Also, commissions are usually 2-3% (or some comparably low number). I have never once heard of a sales job where the commission is around 15%+. The article says a typical sale is $100k with 60-70% being profit and that of that $60k-$70k profit, the salesman would get $10k. That is a ridiculous commission - at least as far as my conversations with friends in sales goes.

All in all, I fully support the idea of people going out to work and figuring out how the skills they have translate into the job market, but let's at least be realistic. Enough with the get rich quick schemes and the notion that anyone can just go out there and earn $120k off the bat by "just" making 1 sale a month.

It's this attitude that is killing the employment in this sector - I should only work if I can easily make $120k. Without realistic expectations, people can quickly become hopeless and wonder why they're having such a difficult time and whether it's even worth it (after all, I can learn and collect checks from the govt with no effort).

In short, it goes back to the conversation about scrubbing floors - you'd never see an article telling someone to scrub floors for $20k a year. That's hard work with little return (and unfortunately what a vast percentage of the population experiences - hard work, for less than adequate compensation). It's always an article about easy work for tons of rewards. This is troubling to me.

Miami Al said...


In my industry, standard commissions are 20%, superstars make 25%. Depends on the field.

But yes, when you suck down benefits, there is a poverty trap, in that the benefits level provides a nearly median income lifestyle, so it's easy to get stuck... even more so if your cultural influences encourage that.

Working will initially result in a lower quality of life, since you have expenses related to work, and you will likely not see an income increase at first.

This allows frauds to claim working it Bittul Torah and other nonsense, trapping people.

Oh well, first step in fixing a problem is realizing that you have one. This guy is in a worse situation than he thinks, but at least he knows that he has a problem and is taking the first step.

Anonymous said...

JS: I agree about sales. It's not easy and you only hear about those who make it, not those who don't. Also, in many sales positions you need a good understanding of the product/service and the industry, particularly if you are not selling residential real estate, cars or commodity items (not to say you don't need some knowledge for those areas). For example, I know someone who sells hvac and alternative energy systems for use in "green" industrial buildings -- new and retrofits. He has to speak the language of architects and engineers and understand architectual and engineering concepts (civil and mechanical engineering as well as some electrical), and zoning/permitting among other things. It really helps that he has an engineering background. Not everyone off the street could do that job.

tesyaa said...

It's a fine line giving someone enough encouragement to make him enter the job market, and being so soberly realistic that he gives up before he even tries. $120,000 is overly encouraging, certainly, but if you tell a 42 year old man who feels he's been doing the right thing for the last 20 years that the best he can expect is a menial job at minimum wage, he might give up right then and there.

Dave said...

Not showing reality is not doing any favors.

If you want a $120k/yr job, you need to find a career where that is a reasonable salary, and then figure out how to get from where you are to there.

The problem is, at 42 (an age where people with decades of experience in a field start running into age issues), there quite simply may not be any of those within practical reach.

Dave said...

Or, to put it another way:

You aren't going to make more than twice the national average *household* income at a job that requires no experience, no special skills, and no rare talents, unless that job is extremely dangerous or criminal, or both.

Otherwise, everyone making less than six-figures would be doing that job instead.

Miami Al said...


I have a relative (not frum, if that matters), that burnt out on corporate America in his late 30s. He went to law school, then went into private practice. He has done quite well ever since, maybe not NYC Partner well, but supported his family nicely well, in part because when people spoke to him, they assumed he was an experienced attorney, despite having just passed the bar.

Perhaps that sales channel will work, maybe it won't. Maybe it is the time of product that is best sold by recent Kollel drop-outs to major companies at the pace of 1/month.

I really have no idea.

Mark said...

Did anyone see this?

Oy vey!

Dave said...


Sure. Mid-career changes are a lot easier for someone with a solid work track record and a College degree.

I knew one man who decided in his 40s that he did really want to be a Doctor after all, and he went back to school to become one. Of course, he did that decades ago, when school was much cheaper.

Hell, if we were in a torrid economy, he might have a shot. But highly qualified applicants can't find work right now.

Miami Al said...


Sure, it would be easier for this man if he had a career the past 20 years. Oh well, split milk.

Lots of things are easier if you've been making good decisions. That's not the case.

This gentleman is trying to start a career when he is 20 years older than a college graduate, has no work experience, and no college education, and he wants to make double the median income.

That seems like a tough nut to solve, but suggesting that it would be easier if he had an easier problem to solve is a little bit unfair.

Dave said...


My point is that first, he needs a more reasonable target (at least initially) than $120k/yr.

Second, I would assume that whatever he targets as his career, he doesn't have the skills to do it right now.

So he needs to work backwards. To do X I need Y. To do Y, I need Z, and keep going back until he finds his current state. That gives him the path to pursue.

Most of the trades are going to be out, simply because they are hard on the young and fit. Senior members of the trades do well because they have the experience to offset the effects of age. Since that isn't an opportunity here, they are probably not worth pursuing. Skilled jobs that are more sedentary would be a better path.

Any field which has a large supply is going to be problematic, because he's frankly a lousy applicant at this point. This also leaves out unskilled jobs, for the same reason.

So what he needs to do is look for a field with a reasonable supply of decent paying jobs, that requires a credential that he can earn in under 4 years. Preferably in under 2. Those jobs are not going to be $120k jobs, for the same reasons I gave earlier. And there are likely to be things about them that are unpleasant.

Avi Greengart said...

My problem with this advice isn't that it's bad advice, but that it's irresponsible advice.

It may not be bad advice for this particular individual - if you must earn six figures with no experience, sales is probably your only shot.

But it's terribly irresponsible advice. The chances of success here are vanishingly low. Sales is a brutal business that most people wash out of - that's why it can pay so well. Kollel does not give you general business social skills, does not give you industry-specific skills needed for sales, and does not give employers any reason whatsoever to hire you for a high potential sales position in the first place. So when you publicly proclaim to the kollel community, 'hey, there are tons of six figure jobs just waiting for 40-year old kollel men to claim them,' you are telling every 20 year old considering spending the next 20 years in kollel that there's no income tradeoff to doing so. That's downright dangerous.

Anonymous said...

Maybe he can start his own kollel or open a combination seminary/respiratory therapist institute. for Bais Yakov girls.....there are just so untold opportunities awaiting someone with this young man's skills.

Anonymous said...

No joke. A local rabbi started a seminary for girls in his basement. He charges for tuituion and private "counseling" services. His wife was alarmed when one of the girls became upset and suddenly wanted to go home and contacted one of the counselors at the Federation office I work at for advice. Hopefully nothing funny was going on, but at the very least it shows that lengths that some people will go to to make a few bucks.

EP said...

The shidduch crisis. With so many young women in desperate straits, unmarried, socially marooned and losng hope of having children of their own, one woman's desperation can be a an unemployed man's solution. The 42 year old man should take up some semblance of parnassah so as to make him marriagable. Once he has a minimal income, he divorces his wife. He finds a well to do shidduch victim who has been in a well paying profession and saving her money. As her dowery, she agrees to pay yeshiva tuition and marriage costs for his 4-5 or 6 children. She achieves social legitimacy, a sheitel, a life. He achieves a new house bought with her money, some comfort for the first time in his life. His first wife takes consolation from her children. All is done al pi halacha. This solves problems for two people. The third maybe not such a great solution, but at least she has her children to console her. You think this is impossible to be done? I've seen it happen.

Ariella's blog said...

Actually, quite a lot of people succeed at sales with very little education. It really is a lot more about who you know than what you know. For example, anyone well-connected in the frum community would be welcomed by a real estate broker who want to gain those customers and their properties. Successful real estate agents who have then gone on to build their own businesses attribute their starts to being able to sell to their friends. That is not to say it takes no work; any job requires an investment of time and energy. But knowing all about the industry helps you a lot less than knowing a lot of people who feel socially obliged to give you a crack at the commission over others. Many rely on this model for other forms of sales, like insurance, mortgages, cars, or advertising. And it does get them a good running start.

Look I'm all for education, but I know that what you learn in school does not necessarily translate into a lucrative position.

Miami Al said...

Ariella, agreed.

The thing to remember is that, in aggregate, the single most highly correlated variable with lifetime income is years of education. In aggregate, the second most highly correlated variable with lifetime income is parental years of education.

Education is the key to societal advancement. We all heard stories about what our grandparents/great-grandparents did when they came to America, but they all got their children educated. Two generations later, massive growth in Jewish income can be largely attributed to two generations of education.

This plays out in a myriad of ways. A "first in the family to go to college" story is always amazing, but they get educated but aren't prepared for American educated life. They get their bearings, but not at 22. Their kids, however, enter with that advantage.

However, for anyone individual? Opportunity strikes in the strangest of circumstances. If it presents itself, taking it is a good thing.

So I agree with Avi, while I think that the advice on here for one individual is good, it is scary to tell a 18 year old not to bother with education, because it all works out in the end.

His likelihood of reaching his desired salary is probably < 10% of what it would be if he went to college and started working at 22, his likelihood of hitting $120k by age 42 would be pretty decent then.

Dave said...

If I recall correctly, the swingle highest correlation with lifetime income is parents income quintile.

Miami Al said...


Might be just a slight difference in when we read this stuff. But I recall that one being 3rd.

Anonymous said...

I am in kollel and see no problem with supporting myself on my stipend and my wife's wages. We are happy and don't bother anyone else. Not everyone is a go getter and there is value in studying. It's the same as the guy who goes to graduate school to study philosophy.

Anonymous said...

We are happy and don't bother anyone else.

The second half of your statement is key. If you are not relying charity and able to pay your bills, it's no one else's business whether you are in kollel or not.

As for the grad student in philosophy: no one studies philosophy for 20 years. No university will keep even the slowest doctoral candidate in a program for 20 years.

Anonymous said...

The idea of studying at a Kollel is in my opnion very much like being a graduate student in something like philosophy. I know that they get govenment support for stipends and tuition. They don't study to get some high paying job but because they get something of value from their studies. I suspect that many who say negative things about the Kollel are either ill informed or might not have been willing to make the commitment involved and now have sour grapes.

Dave said...

Graduate students are there for a limited period of time, and are expected to produce an actual product at the end of that limited period of time.

Dave said...

Oh, and to carry things further, if we were actually trying to align Kollel with Graduate School, we could fire all of the religious teachers in the High Schools, and replace them with Kollel members teaching for their stipend, with a handful of advanced classes taught by Rabbonim.

Miami Al said...


Grad students are either tuition paying students, or students with stipends and tuition waivers. In the former, it's between them and their parents. In the latter, they have conditions, usually an Research Assistant or Teacher Assistant position, where they work for their tuition waiver and stipend. They are paid a stipend much less than their BA/BS should support on the open market because of the tuition waiver, and they generally work pretty hard.

TAs teach classes, hold office hours, grade papers, etc.

RAs work in labs, libraries, etc., doing research on behalf of their professor.

That allows them to be at the university tuition free and conducting their own research toward their PhD.

The PHd will take between 4 and 9 years, depending on program, if they have a Masters already (otherwise, 1-2 years is in coursework), etc.

At the end, they have published, defended their research, and received a PhD. If they aren't making progress, eventually the University will tire of them and send them on their way.

However, they are expected to produce something.

Oh, and at the end, they are very much shooting for the six-figure position as a tenure track professor. Most won't get it (there is a glut in the academy), but none expect to get married and support a family indefinitely on their stipend. All think that they are getting tenure track positions at Harvard, many will end of high school teachers, some will drop out with a Masters Degree and find a non academic job (or teach in a high school).

I'm sure that some people are serious in Kollel.

But Kollel seems to be indifferent between the serious and the not serious.

That's not my problem or my business, but if you think that being in Kollel is the equivalent of a PhD at a real University, you are seriously mistaken.

Avi Greengart said...

"I am in kollel and see no problem with supporting myself on my stipend and my wife's wages. We are happy and don't bother anyone else. Not everyone is a go getter and there is value in studying. It's the same as the guy who goes to graduate school to study philosophy."

Simple question: do you have an exit strategy? Sure, you're not bothering anyone else today (and in fact, you may be helping the world by studying Torah and internalizing its messages). But are you postponing having a family (and the expenses it brings) while you have limited income? If not, can your stipend and your wife's salary support a large family? If not, and you aren't a "go getter" then how do you expect to pay for tuition/food/medical/housing for your family down the road? Because if you don't have a clear answer to this then you will certainly be bothering people - taking their money - as soon as your expenses outstrip your income.

It gets worse. If you knowingly assure you will require tzedaka by not preparing yourself with an income source so that you can learn Torah instead, then you are essentially stealing later to learn Torah today. And stolen Torah is worthless.

I have tremendous respect for those who learn Torah - full time or part time - do not impose on others and live within their means. I have no respect for people who do not do even the most basic planning and claim it's ok because they were learning Torah and "Hashem will provide." The Avot were shepherds. Rashi was a vintner. Rambam was a doctor. The Chofetz Chaim was a grocer. Pinchas Kehati worked in a bank. None of them sat in kollel and went on tuition assistance and Section 8.

Anonymous said...

I am the kollel student who posted earlier. I admit that my situation might be a little unique. I actually teach a boys' Mishna class in addition to my studies and I have a wife with a good job. My father-in-law also values my being a kollel student and has a very generous state pension. He has offered to support me once our first child comes if my wife decides to take an extended leave from her position. I have to add my observation that my friends who work full time feel free to put down my choise to study are also the ones who were not strong Torah students and who I suspect feel a little jealous of my opportunity.

Anonymous said...

If the fellow learned in kollel for 20 years, (and was not freeloading for 20 years) he must be quite intellegent (or he would have lost his mind years ago). He has better chances than average high schools grads and average entreprenuers.

With 6 kids (as opposed to an average of 6 hours of TV/day common among today's young adults) he is probably more focused, hard working, and determined, than many entering the workforce.

Certainly he's at a disadvantge witohut an education, age discrimination, and $120K/year seems overly ambitious, but he probably has many strengths that need to be considered before you write-him off.

Anonymous said...

To Mr. Unique in Kollel-
Your father inlaw may have money, may have said he wants to support you - but deep down doesn't want to. Does everyone realize how many parents are killing themselves to support kids and grandkids out of guilt/social pressure/shidduch extortion?

Anonymous said...

I disagree. Many parents and inlaws do get pleasure out paying for kollel studies. My father in-law had to go to work at a young age and could not study. He often asks me to come to discuss what I've learned during the week and says that he's impressed with what I have mastered. He has assured that he would have the means to support me for as long as I want to study. He also says that even if he might to make a few small sacrifices it would be his pleasure for his to support his Torah scholar.

EP said...

That's very lovely, Anon. 7:46 a.m. But remember it's very different supporting a young couple with one baby from supporting a growing family of 5 children with the oldest in school and expenses always increasing. You need to have a plan for self support in five years from now for your own serenity and for the serenity of your aging parents and in-laws. Kollel can't be forever. Please think about where you see yourself 5 years from now.

Dave said...

How large a family were you intending to have?

Moreover, much as it might be nice, your Father-in-Law will not live forever. How do you intend to support yourself when that day comes, if you are dependent on him now?

Miami Al said...


I'm sure your parents and in-laws get tremendous pleasure. It is there money, and it is wonderful that they want to spend it this way.

When your children are old enough to marry, will you be able to offer the same deal to them and their spouses? Or was this a one shot deal for you and your children are back to the grind?

Shabbat Shalom

conservative scifi said...

Kollel Student,

My father-in-law recently passed away at an advanced age. While he was not supporting his daughters, who were all married to gainfully employed men, he has two older sons living at home, at least one of whom depended on his father (and his father's pension) to pay for health insurance. Now that the inevitable has happened, the pension is no more. God willing your father in law will live to 120, but if he and your MIL pass on, there will be no pension. They will not have been saving money, since they were supporting you, so you won't be able to expect much inheritance. What's your plan then?

Separately, I think Miami Al's focus on the Academy is only accurate for those majoring in the liberal arts. In the sciences, while many Ph.Ds would like to become faculty members at a university, there are significantly more options available in industry and government. A Ph.D. in molecular biology (after a few postdocs) can try for a faculty job, can work at NIH, for a biotech company, or a pharmaceutical company. Probably with some business background, this person could be a biotech analyst in a stock firm or research for a mutual fund.

megapixel said...

getting back to the sales conversation. It is VERY hard. I have been doing it for years so I know. In fact, I have hired several salespeople to work for me at a very high commission - 50% and they each dropped it after a very short attempt.

to the kollel guy: learn from my experience-I was a kollel wife for many years , and you WOULD be wise to have an exit plan, as some commenters here are advising you. Of course your learning is of great value, but as a young newlywed you cannot even fathom the expenses you are in for. At least 1- get your head wrapped around the idea that your current finances are not going to be forever.
2- consider what direction you would go in vis a vis a career
3- start taking courses - could be done slowly --evening classes, online courses and what not.
when the time comes that you need to leave, a starting salary will not be enough for you. so prepare yourself!! ( dont feel guilty about this- it does not take away for the seriousness of your learning. It is a mitzvah)

Anonymous said...

Mr. Unique Kollel Student here. I am surprised that you are so concerned about my father-in-law's health and what is seen as my lack of planning. First, my father-in-law is only 62 and in good health. His father is still alive and almost 90. Second, he has a life insurance plan that will take care of me and my wife if something happens to him. Third, my wife actually would prefer to be a kollel wife and is prepared to make sacrifices as needed. I do get a nice stipend that could be extended for as long as I need it, and I figure that I could always ask about teaching a few more classes at the Yishiva. We do not need much, and I do not see it necessarily as a bad thing if down the road we get some benefits from the community (not money but many discounted tuition) because we have contributed to our community.

Orthonomics said...

I have to comment on the previous exchange between the Kollel Student and my posters. When you mentioned the life insurance policy your father carries, it sent chills through my spine. I am a huge advocate of having life insurance. There are some in the frum world who are opposed to it because they feel it is either a lack of bitachon or because it could invite some sort of ayin hara. I do NOT agree with this reasoning in the least, but I feel you just made a case for such an argument for your comments.

Secondly, regarding discounted tuition (which is money, just doesn't come in the form of cash), please do consider that there are many parents out there staring at their tuition bills this month trying to figure how much longer this is all tenable because they have been told that they are not discount eligible and yet there simply isn't enough left to continue absorbing increases. We are biting the bullet for next year's schooling costs. But I know we are not alone when we ask ourselves, where the limit is?

Anonymous said...

My father-in-law got the idea for term life insurance from the Clark Howard Show. Also, not to be disagreeable, but I've noticed that those who are the most opposed to the kollel lifestyle are my former classmates who were not exactly the best students. They make it sound like we are a bunch of freeloaders, when it fact most, if not all of us, are among the biggest contributers when it comes to education or community services. My understanding is that in other professions also have certain perks that go with it to make up for low pay. For example, my father-in-law retired at 60 with lifetime health benefits and a pension. Once again, I think that those who criticize do not fully understand the lifestyle and what most of us do contribute to the community.

tesyaa said...

My father-in-law got the idea for term life insurance from the Clark Howard Show.

Level term life insurance expires at 65 in most states. You can continue until 85 or 95 at exorbitant premiums, ten or twenty times the initial premium. No one pays more than one or two premiums after the level period expires, and those people know that they are sick and dying. You say your father-in-law is already 62?

I'm wondering this prolific kollel commenter!

tesyaa said...

Let me correct my previous comment. Level term continues to 85 in most states. But you say your wife's grandfather is already 90. Surely it's likely your FIL will live beyond 85?

tesyaa said...

Also, I'll apologize for casting any aspersions on Anonymous Kollel Commenter. Perhaps the father-in-law bought permanent insurance instead of term, and the commenter misunderstood.

Also, the commenter has not addressed the questions about how he will provide the same lifestyle, which he praises so highly, for his own future sons-in-law. You don't want your daughters to marry the kind of critical fellows who you say "were not the best students", do you?

Has your father-in-law bought policies to provide for your many, God willing, future sons-in-law?

Anonymous said...

To clarify. I do not know the exact specifics of my father-in-laws insurance. I tried to call him but he was out. I do know, however, that the funds are to go into an irrevoable trust for the benefit of my wife and myself and for any children we might have. He set this up with a financial planner with a good reputation. I will admit that one flaw in my planning is that I will not benefit from the trust if something happens to our marriage, but I don'f see that happening. I also want to clarify that I might very well decide to leave the full-time Kollel studies some time in 5 or 6 years. I have thought about going into education admininstration but want to leave all possibilities open. Once again, my main beef is with some of my former classmates and their comments.

tesyaa said...

Anonymous, if you truly believe in what you are doing and you have a financial plan in place, why on earth would you let your former classmates' comments bother you?? Especially since you already hold a low opinion of them.

As they said on the old sitcom, different strokes for different folks.

Abba's Rantings said...

"The idea of studying at a Kollel is in my opnion very much like being a graduate student in something like philosophy."

this is ridiculous. anyone who can make this comment clearly has no experience what is involved in being a phd student. there are regular exams, many papers, orals and a dissertation. and failure to mainting reasonable standards means expulsion. does any of this sound like kollel? and if we're talking about a grad student who is being funded, then he is likely also publishing articles along the way in peer reviewed journals and delivering original lectures at professional conferences. how many funded kollel students are doing anything even remotely similar to this? and of course the funded students (at least in philosophy and other humanities) are expected to perform at the top of the class or risk losing their funding. again, how common is this in kollel?

Anonymous said...

As a financial planner, I will tell you that there are indeed insurance and investment programs that would allow a parent to support a child and even grandchild through adulthood. This of course depends on how much money you put in initially, and these programs are usually set up for those with various disabilities.

Anonymous said...

these programs are usually set up for those with various disabilities

correct, a special needs trust supports a disabled person through adulthood. In general, those for whom such a trust is set up do not have many dependents, if any, of their own to support (unlike a kollel family), so I'd think the amount needed to support a kollel family or families would be far greater than that needed for the living expenses (not the medical expenses, which may covered in other ways) of a disabled person.

Anonymous said...

unique kollel guy:
your needs are few NOW
your wife likes to sacrifice NOW.
well, needs grow, and wives get tired of it. she may need to stop working alot of hours and stay home with lots of small children. My neice had one special needs child which threw all her careful plans out of whack.
I had ONE child who needed special Kriah tutoring at $75.00 a session, three times a week for almost a year. (thats $225 a week!) That threw my careful plans out of whack.
I have that high needs child that "needs" alot of encouragement and incentives to learn and that involved purchasing expensive toys and clothing I would not normally do- but I had no choice. (by the way for anyone that may be interested, none of this helped. He is now almost grown and in no better shape after all that. but we had to try)
I had a child who had a miserable year and I was advised by his mechanech that he NEEDED a month in camp, so he doesnt start the new year in the same mode.
so you see, dont be so cocky. Nobody knows what life will bring. Everyone gets hit with something that was not in their life plan.
Not to say that I dont wish you the best.

Avi Greengart said...

Kollel Guy,

Best of luck to you - may you have much success in your learning and your family. I'll join the bandwagon in pointing out that your plans are fairly short term, but your expenses will grow exponentially if you have several children. If you plan to have multiple children, you should plan some way to pay for them, too.

Anonymous said...

Wow. There seems to be growing resentment between learners and earners in the community. I wonder if those who advise our young men and women are aware of this and what it suggests about the future of the orthodox community. It seems life a house of cards to me.

conservative scifi said...

Anon (and Kollel guy),

I don't think it is resentment (or the second best guys getting upset). I think it is a legitimate concern that many young people are not being permitted to realistically plan their lives.

If his FIL was very farsighted and has the means to set up trusts to protect his children for their entire lives at living standard acceptable to the children, kol hakavod. This would be one of the rare situations where lifelong kollel may make sense (The other obvious situations being where the kollel guy himself is financially independent for life or is such a "super star" that he will always be given a living stipend).

I suspect, however, that a significant fraction of people are not in these happy circumstances. The concern is that when after having 7 or 8 children, they will no longer wish the privations of kollel life, but will not be suited for any other career which can be meaningful to them and provide them with the means to live. I don't think it is jealousy to suggest that these people may wish to plan their lives somewhat differently, so they can enjoy the life that we were given by Hashem.

Miami Al said...

Unique Kollel Guy:

Agreed, I think it is terrific that you and your father in law were able to set up such a solid arrangement. That said, Term runs until Age 85, the idea that he has a Permanent Life Insurance or Investment portfolio that will support you your entire life seems unlikely (but who knows, if generous pension was after a career in management, maybe it does). I think you are good for 23 years and thereafter as long as your father in law is alive.

That is a long time, but it also means that it is a long time for you to prepare.

A little bit of work here. Two online classes a semester to earn a University degree over 8 years (perhaps in education), perhaps even a graduate degree in law or accounting, fields that you could wade into without a full time commitment.

A lawyer entering the workforce in his 40s or 50s isn't likely to make partner at a major firm, but could perhaps find some part time work that pays well.

My only concerns for you are three-fold:

1. Your children will not receive this benefit that you have, whereas the money being given to support you could set up VERY generous trusts for your children to give them a head start in life, instead of supporting you forever.

2. Your middle-age and senior years are likely going to be a problem. Again, unless your father in law is extremely wealthy, it seems that the support will decline over the next 23 years (his Term 85+ payments will likely go up faster than his pension COLA), and thereafter will be fine as long as he lives. However, in your later years, you will be at the mercy of the Kollel world (which looks to have declining finances, and is a world oriented to young up and comers, not older hanger ons), you will not have a pension, and you will likely not have much in the way of social security as you get older.

3. If your father in law's health declines, all bets are off. If he dies, the term insurance kicks in and takes care of you. But what if he gets sick and needs ever increasing medical care for 10 years? That wiped out an extended relative of ours, because you watch assets get drained quickly.

That said, you seem to have a relatively good thing going. That's a huge advantage. With a little forward planning, you can likely keep it going.

Anonymous said...

Miami Al: You can't get a law degree through an on-line course, at least not one that will qualify you to sit for the bar exam. Most undergrad on-line degrees also are not particularly well-respected in the job market, but its probably better than nothing.

Miami Al said...


There are online courses offered at normal universities. I was thinking more of schools in the NY/NJ area where you could take some of the coursework online (or part time, or at night, or whatever), I wasn't thinking of the virtual school options.

I'm not advocating this, just suggesting that he does need a post-Kollel plan, even if it isn't a huge rush.

Anonymous said...

How about saving all this advice to people who deserve it? I am talking about post child rearing women trying to get into the work place.

Anonymous said...

How about advice about how to qualify for more government benefits? In my opinion, we are often too reluctant to take advantage of services that we are entittled to a citizens of this country. This would also take some of the stress off our own community's finances. Other groups do this, but I believe they are more often more affiliated with the Demoncratic Party than we are. This is a serious post and no I am not a troll!

Anonymous said...

Also, it might be helpful to learn about trusts that a parent or grandparent could set up to support Torah learning.

Dave said...

Right, because it was a Democratic President who was lobbied into making Chassidic Jews eligible for special government programs as a "historically disadvantaged minority" (hint: it was Reagan).

And because Kiryas Joel has been so poor at getting government funding or programs for its residents.

Yeah, Orthodox Jews are terrible at taking advantage of government programs.

Miami Al said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

I guess it's a matter of values, but I see nothing wrong with the MO community appealing for more govenment assistance. Many non-Jewish groups already do this. Also, it might be intesting to be creative and do reseach with regard to insurance or investment product that a parent could invest in to support the son or grandson's kollel studies.

Anonymous said...

I guess it's a matter of values, but I see nothing wrong with the MO community appealing for more govenment assistance. Many non-Jewish groups already do this. Also, it might be intesting to be creative and do reseach with regard to insurance or investment product that a parent could invest in to support the son or grandson's kollel studies.

tesyaa said...

but I see nothing wrong with the MO community appealing for more govenment assistance.

What's wrong with this? Most of the MO community is relatively wealthy in comparison to the majority of Americans. Sure, private school expenses mean that some families are strapped. That doesn't mean that government assistance is warranted. And as has been pointed out before, the states are basically broke. Services are being cut, not added to.

If a family is poor enough to qualify for government benefits, it doesn't matter whether they are Modern Orthodox, chassidic, Buddhist or Martian, right?

Anonymous said...

A lot of families feel a sense of shame when applying for assistance and/or do not know how to maximize their benefits. It's also not necessarily that one has absolutely no money but figuring out of you qualify for assistance that might make your life a little easier that you happen to qualify for or that can be advocated for you by community leaders. I also personaly do not think that the states are all that straped it actually depends more on what the govenment chooses to spend money on. once again we are citizens too and perhaps we need to be more assertive.

tesyaa said...

once again we are citizens too

Yes. We are citizens too. We have a right to anything citizens of any other religion get, including public schooling. Catholics who want a Catholic education pay for Catholic school. Presbyterians who want a Presbyterian education pay for Presbyterian school (if it exists). And so on. We're entitled to what other citizens are entitled to.

Miami Al said...

MO Get "plenty" of government money.

The biggest "tax break" in the tax code for individuals is the mortgage tax break...

The Obama administration caught hell for trying to limit the deduction for mortgage interest and charitable giving to 28%, so people at the 32%/35% tax break wouldn't get the full deduction. That failed.

Modern Orthodox Jews are often in those brackets, live in over priced homes, and give 10% of their income to charity. So those are two large tax breaks that are "for the rich" tax breaks that favor rich people with over priced homes and high amounts of charity... that's Modern Orthodox Jews. (While both deductions are available to all, for various accounting reasons, those deductions are HEAVILY tilted toward top earners, the 2% of top earners claim like 32% of those deductions).

Modern Orthodox Jews predominately attend University, often through graduate schools, schooling at that level is HEAVILY federally subsidized, directly and indirectly.

The problems affecting Modern Orthodox Jews is not supporting children in Kollel, it's a general upper middle class squeeze in this recession and an inability to cut costs. Their gentile counterparts could switch back from Whole Foods to a grocery store, MO Jews didn't have cheaper meat suppliers. The schooling bill kept growing.

We're not entitled to "living beyond our means" subsidies.

Moderate income families with children in private schools generally suffer in the housing department, have smaller families, and frequent religious schools that cap payments instead of escalating with each child.

Anonymous said...

"The idea of studying at a Kollel is in my opnion very much like being a graduate student in something like philosophy."

More likely a perennial high school student. A perennial high school student is usually not self supporting, and often has no plan for the future other than continuing in his present circumstance;which he thinks can go on and on and on.

Eileen said...

My 32 year old nephew's wife has asked me to write his resume. He has absolutely no qualifications for his chosen field, chinuch. Most all all, he lacks he key qualification, he is not the son or son in law of a rosh yeshiva or principal of a yeshiva day school.

What am I to say to her? She has no idea that qualifications are needed, so she has no concept that he has none, that learning in kollel for 10 years qualiies you to learn in kollel for another ten years and then to collect for the weddings of your children.

What should I say that would be kind? His resume would take up aout as much paper as the "while you were out slips" that used to be a fixture in offices.

I am looking for some kind words or something like: Oy vey, I have to move to Oshkosh, there's a terrible family crisis, I'll get back to you as soon as the crisis is over. Or if emes is an issue, I could tell her her husband has never worked in a camp, has never taught substitute in school, has never spent summers doing anything chinuch-related, in fact, has done nothing that is job related, particularly nothing that is chinuch related.

What kind of resume am I supposed of write for a mature man with absolutely no qualifications?