Saturday, September 22, 2012

If you do just one thing here; Save your cash peoples!

A new study published in 7Days in Dubai today reveals the results of a poll conducted by for the financial website out of hundreds of people asked, one in four don't have enough savings to get by for four weeks if they lost their job.

How can this happen? And are people who don't have more than a month cushion not freaking the heck out every minute of every day?

It turns out yes. The study found that people without this cushion cited worrying about money as their biggest stress in life. And no wonder: living pay cheque to pay cheque is stressful enough in countries where no one is going to throw you in jail if you can't make the minimum on your credit card for a couple of months.

Here, well, that business will not go on very long before police show up at your office and take you away. And try sorting that mess out from a jail cell.

When I ask (rubbing my forehead) how can this happen?, I am not talking about the poorly paid labourers who work building skyscrapers and toiling in mall bathrooms and cleaning everyone's house and taking care of their children: these are the people you see every weekend at the exchanges. They do save their money, almost all of it, and diligently send it home to support large, extended families. Or like Ismeal, the lovely man who takes care of me all day long at work, who in a horrible holdover from British colonial times is known as a "tea boy" and who I respect more than almost anyone on this earth, they save with their brothers to build large houses back in Bangledesh for them.

I am talking about people who move here from other countries laden with those magical options in life so many millions don't have and so many others take for granted. Those people, most of them, immediately experience upwards of a 20 per cent bump in their salary due to the lack of, or lower, income tax when they arrive. How often does the universe hand you this kind of a bonus? And what do you do with it? Make it count? Or buy an Audi you can't really afford to impress people you just met?

My second impression is fear. If you lose your job here, you lose your visa. That means you have to leave the country. Sometimes companies give you a three-month grace period so you can find a new job. But you aren't going to last very long in the UAE without a paycheck, right? Not even four weeks, it seems. You would be very lucky to find a new job in four weeks. What if you can't find a job and you have to move home? How are you going to fund that massive life change?

 Not to mention those bills you can't pay in the four weeks after you lose your job will catch right up with you at the airport, where you can be arrested and jailed until you come up with the cash to cover them.

It's not too late to fix this. If you can't save money after coming to the UAE for a job, you need to take a good long look in the mirror – and at your spending habits - and figure out why. Then change the way you live. (And get out of the mall. Just get out.)

Because unlike in the West where debt is a way of life, the alternative isn't just emotional, spiritual and physical poverty. It can be much, much worse.

For my list of tips on how to avoid some of the pitfalls associated with moving to the UAE, go here.

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