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The Money Trap: Let Your Lawyer Read It First

Gila Arnold

The most basic rule before handing over your money to someone else: Get everything in writing. Because in a business deal, the contract is king

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

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T

he Players

Names: Alex and Natalie Brodsky

No. of Children: 1

Ages: 57 and 52

Place of Residence: Ramle

The Lure

The investment deal is sweet. The broker is someone you trust. And the contract looks straightforward enough. What could go wrong?

The Background

Picture the scene: You’re sitting in a plush, well-appointed office, across the table from a person who’s just spent the last hour speaking eagerly and earnestly about the great financial opportunity he has for you. It’s the deal of the century, a sure-fire win, and, lucky you, since you’re getting in on it early, he can guarantee you an unusually high rate of return.

He shows you figures and statistics to back up what he’s saying and presents you with a list of impressive credentials. Now, he pushes a contract across the table to you, and impresses upon you once again what a hot deal this is. You’ll be able to marry off your children! Retire with riches! All your money worries are gone! And then he hands you a pen and urges you to sign and get started right away.

Now here comes the quiz. Would you a) coolly thank him and say you don’t sign anything without having your lawyer review it? Or b) sign, with a silly grin on your face as you picture the fortune soon to be yours?

Okay, so most of us reading this know very clearly what the correct answer is. But that is only because we are reading this, and not sitting across the desk, with the prospect of lifelong riches being dangled temptingly in front of us.

“Once the lure of money is involved, people tend to sign on all sorts of things that they would never do in a more rational moment,” says Yosef Daskal, a Jerusalem-based real estate lawyer with ten years of experience.

We might think we understand what we’re signing. We might even believe we have enough business savvy to catch mistakes or tricks in a contract. But the truth of the matter is, unless we have been trained in the finer legal points, we are setting ourselves up for trouble if we don’t run a contract by an expert.

The following story illustrates this principle all too well.

Alex’s Narrative

I made aliyah from the Ukraine about 12 years ago. I came with my wife and daughter, my dreams, and my life savings. The dreams were to build a Jewish life in the Jewish country. The savings amounted to $200,000 and were my ticket to fulfilling my dreams. With this money, I would buy an apartment, raise and educate my daughter, and marry her off.

I settled in a community with other Russian olim and started adjusting to the new culture and environment. My line of work was insurance, and I began looking for a job as well. Since my Hebrew was close to nonexistent, I looked for work in the Russian sector, and, thank G-d, was able to find a job. It wasn’t the highest of salaries, but it paid the bills.

However, that was just about all it paid.

I was working hard, but wasn’t getting any closer to achieving my financial goals. We were still in our small rental apartment, with barely any money left at the end of the month. My $200,000 was sitting in the bank, but I knew that even that amount wouldn’t get me very far in life. If I hoped to buy my own home and give my wife and daughter the sunny life I’d dreamed of, back in wintry Russia, I would have to do something to grow that money. (Excerpted from Mishpacha, Issue 705)

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