The OM Economics story begins, like any significant story, with murder.
Saturday evening, March 21, 1980, at a nice and spacious home, in Hampstead, Montreal, Canada, a suburb populated by mostly middle-class Jews, sits a family, a mother and four children in the living room. The dining table is nicely arranged for Shabbat . We are waiting for our father to come home for the kiddush, (the blessing on the wine that marks the beginning of the sabbath). He is uncharacteristically late, and we start to wonder what's going on. My dad is still not coming, so I go to the window, and see the lights of a police car. Uncle Zvi comes to the door and enters, behind him are two uniformed police officers. I return to the couch to snuggle up to my mom. He approaches her, hoping the children will not hear what he has to say, but I am sitting right next to her. He cannot whisper quietly enough, that his following words will not resound in my five-year-old ears, and subsequently for my entire life: "Ralph was murdered."
Ralph, my father, worked as a legal advisor and the vice president of Canada's fourth-largest real estate company. He discovered a double land deal fraud within the company. A group of purchasing agents was sent to Texas to buy land for a shopping mall development. They bought the land from the local farmers, then connected to a white-collar mafia family and forged the deal contracts in order to show investors that they bought it at a higher price than they actually paid. They pocketed the difference.
My father was about to bring this fact to trial, and the defendants, who were supposed to stand trial, hired assassins with knives. They waited for my father by the car in the underground car park of his office building, and sent him, along with the evidence to the grave.
From that day at the age of five, which I will never forget, I explore two issues: life and death, and family finances.
My mother was 43 at the time, with a mortgage, debt and four children in Jewish private education. In the following years, she took us from law firm to law firm, accountant to accountant, and CEO to CEO to get on top of our money situation. My mother returned to work as a nurse, and for a period of time, we lived from community charities until we slowly unraveled the mess, and started putting back the pieces of our family finances.
The first task was to get out of the mortgage my dad took from the real estate company where he worked.
We wanted his company to relinquish our debt, given that my father sacrificed his life for the company.
We went as a family to a meeting with Steinberg CEO, Mitzi Dobrin, daughter of Sam Steinberg, founder of the Jewish Family Empire in Montreal, a subsidiary of the real estate firm my father ran.
When we proposed our request to forego the mortgage, she began to tell stories about the economy in the country and the world, and about the difficult days, the challenging period that the company is going through, etc.
I, aged 9 at the time, like the child in the "Emperor’s New Clothes" (or the Motley Fool) , asked her directly, "But what do you think, Mitzi?"
In that very meeting, she signed a permit to release our mortgage debt.
We then got more funding from my father's life insurance money, and that brought financial breathing room to the family. When I was about 13, my mom decided to share all the family's savings between the three brothers. The amount we received that day was to be the amount that we receive from our parents for life. We no longer expected any inheritance on the horizon. Since that day, I have actually run an investment portfolio. In retrospect, I think this action my mother took was ingenious. Thanks to her, I learned so much about myself and how to finance a family life. Of course I made many mistakes, but there is no other way to learn.
Two months before my father passed away, my parents began practicing yoga and meditation at a center run by a Jewish family in a nearby neighborhood. This center was a kind of commune, with happy young hippies living there. This was a place of respite, an oasis, in the traumatic days after my father's death.
The source of all the knowledge and joy at the center, which has become the center of our lives, was an Indian spiritual teacher in a Himalayan valley.
When I was ten years old, my mother, my older brother, and myself picked up and went to move to an Ashram in a small village in northern India. . The life education and financial management skills , which I received there, was the most relevant education one could get.
In India I met a community of Western people of all ages who did not work. Most of their activities were meditation, yoga, studying texts, languages, hiking, playing music, mountain trekking, philosophical talks, cooking, eating, tea parties, gardening, infatuations, falling in love ,river swimming, card games and chess. Up to this point, I had lived a cold reality in North America, where I was exposed to greed, evil, and death (meanwhile my sister, Yael, died at the age of 13 from cancer, but that is a story for another time). I finally returned to the garden of eden of childhood. I could be a kid again.
The formative conversation, which created my approach to financing one’s life - Om Economics - took place on a trip in the northern Himalayas, in a green valley near a waterfall. Swami-ji, the revered teacher suddenly turned to me personally: "Do you want to know why I have been practicing yoga and meditation my whole life?"
"Tell me," I asked, thinking he would say something like, "it’s healthy," or,"it will help you with studies and tests," or "because it will connect you with people." I had already heard such catchphrases in the parlance of the place.
However he said something unexpected, : "Because, I just want to play my whole life through . The real life begins, when you gain financial independence. Everyone in this space, no matter what age, is already retired. That means you too, my dear student, Dan."
It was healing music for my teenage ears, who until now had grown accustomed to hearing bad news, shock and grief. I already had formed negative paradigms about work and career, and I had a clear stance against taking part in the insane, false world I left behind. I also just wanted to play and besides, I was already getting interested in girls.
"How do you fund such a life?" I went on, I already understood a thing or two about the need for money.
"My money is in the pocket of the whole world," the teacher replied.
"Wow," this sentence gave me research material for life.
So how does one implement such a philosophy?
The community had a small group of high-tech professionals, academics and real estate owners who had made “exits”, and lived off their savings. In addition, there were several heirs of wealthy families.
The cost of living in India at that time was really low, so with the amount we managed to get organized from my father, we were considered rich there, when in Canada we were barely scraping by.
I saw how a micro economy was formed around me; There were administrators of the ashram, party caterers, wellness professionals, yoga teachers, and private lessons on all kinds of topics. For example, I did all my high school and matriculation correspondence from Canada with the help of private lessons from local tutors. In addition, I learned the skills I practice today - gardening, investing, and yoga, as an apprentice to my mentors in the community, who shared their knowledge with me.
There were also, of course, quite a few hippies without money, who could not generate sources of income and were supported by the community for their "spiritual work".
One of the locals had a reputation as a "financial genius." Many people in the community who had a sufficient amount to live off of the interest, chose to use his services as an investment portfolio manager.
"He is one of us, and he understands money, not like us, who refrain from materialism. We are spiritual, why would we pay someone materialistic in far off Canada to handle our money?" (This was of course before the age of the internet).
We as a family did not know how and did not want to deal with "dirty" money, it is not fun. However, we did want to live off the interest, and not return to Canada to work. So we also decided to invest with him.
He was a revolutionary from the 1960s, a draft dodger from Vietnam, who seemed to have figured out a way to hack the Western economy.
We were already disillusioned by the Jewish conservative financial world in Montreal, where we experienced only crime and negligence. Everyone here in this amazing community trusts him, so maybe he will be our savior, who will rid us of our concerns about our economic existence?
And here begins the next chapter in Om Economics.
This man worked independently through a huge North American investment house, and traded options through a private broker there. His theories didn't work, and he started losing money. In an attempt to cover the losses, he made deal after deal, and went into a downward spiral, losing his sanity in the process. He didn't rob us of our money, but just wasn't honest enough to tell us that he was a loser, and we weren't alert enough to catch it in time.
The only one to gain from the whole thing was his Canadian broker, who took advantage of his throwing good money after bad, and pocketed a huge fortune in commissions. The broker hid his dubious actions from his employer, because he knew they would not allow him to continue this way of doing business. Luckily for us, another, more alert customer of our portfolio manager, a doctor in the ashram, discovered the whole thing, after finally noticing that most of his money was gone.
Suddenly we were again thrown into the cold reality of dealing with money. The family was again on the verge of bankruptcy.
The economic expert was expelled from the community, returned to the trailer park where he grew up in Massachusetts, had a brain tumor and died.
Luckily my big brother, who did not come to live with us in India, studied law and real estate, just like my father. He got a lawyer and approached the investment House in Toronto. They proposed a compromise.
Their offer was like this: They are willing to compensate us for half the amount we lost, about 100,000 Canadian $, provided we were quiet, and did not make a scene in the media or take them to court.
The second alternative was to go to trial with them.
When I heard the options, I made the first totally business decision of my life, with no emotional interference.
I had already started reading about the stock market and the power of time and compound interest . I told myself that if I get half the amount now and start investing it right away, and live within my means, in five years I'll double the amount and get my money back. The second option is to get into lawsuits, which will take a long time, and the end result may be that I get nothing. There was no sense of revenge or justice in my thinking, but a realistic reading of the situation and an independent decision based on the data. I can say that was the day that Om Economics was born.
When I got the amount from the settlement agreement, I was in my early twenties, working as a yoga teacher and organic vegetable grower in the small village. I knew that was what I wanted to do in life. I also knew I wanted to buy a home and land and start a family in the West, because raising children was no longer relevant in the aging community in India. And I also knew that for that, I would need more income than what I was getting from my yoga and vegetable business.
By that time, the Internet had already reached the Himalayas, and there was a growing class of young pensioners in the community. These people took small sums and invested in the stock market over the Internet. I sat with them several times. I saw how simple, easy to implement, interesting and even ethical it can be. And I also saw the tremendous advantage those who practice meditation and mindfulness have, because this training enabled them to stick to their goal and ride out the emotions that come up with the ups and downs. All you need is an internet connection and $ 500 to get you started. I decided that was what I wanted to do.
I signed up for the Motley Fool site and newsletter. The site provides information about companies and their prospects, and recommends companies to invest in. Their goal as financial educators is to empower a person to take responsibility and enjoy being one's financial manager, without relying on "experts". At the same time, overcoming the noise from wall street. I had already decided from past experience that I will never let anyone else run my finances again. I realized that financial management is like physical activity or eating, no one else can do it for you, and on the other hand you can't do it alone. Motley Fool accompanies me to this day, and they, for their part, have earned with great respect the service fee I pay them - win-win.
With the help of these amazing people, I took my life into my own hands, took responsibility, overcame outside noise and internal concerns, and took on the challenge of doubling my money in five years.
Thanks to the lessons that life has taught me, and despite the corrupt and distorted people that were a part of this journey, I was able to accumulate a sum of money, which allowed me to buy a home without a mortgage, as well as provide me with passive income. Along the way, I acquired the most lucrative assets in life: security, independence and satisfaction, which come from the experience.
I have been through a lot during these years - I moved to Israel and started a family of my own. I am happily married with two amazing boys. Here, too, in the realities of this country and its intense economic and political climate, I continue my research and application of finance, life wisdom, with the wonderful people around me.
I have built a financial/spiritual education business for Israelis, omeconomics.com that spreads the word about the power of the stock market and mindfulness through lectures and courses. Many a student of mine has signed up for the Motley Fool, the gift that keeps on giving.
Another gift I received thanks to the method, is a precious thing to my heart, that is lacking for many people in our country: time. Time to be with family and do the things I love, without too much stress to gain immediate financial compensation. And today I'm fulfilling another dream: I volunteer at the “Bells” organization, which helps the common man get out of debt.
The road is still long , and like everyone else, I go through my ups and downs in my heart, my soul, and in my investment brokerage account. I have accepted them as an integral part of life, and I am increasingly discovering the joy that lies in doing my part the best I can.
I know that despite all the ups and downs, the overall trend is up.
I and my partners at Om Economics, believe that the end of every story is happy.
And if it's not happy, it just means that the story isn't over yet.
So what's your story?
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