‘I’m a financial hoarder’: UAE resident says banks should do more to help people manage money

UAE resident says banks should do more to educate, help people manage money

Gina Bou Serhal. Photo by Shihab

By Melanie Swan

Published: Thu 4 Apr 2024, 7:07 PM

Gina Bou Serhal is a working mother. A geopolitics researcher, the American expatriate, 42, has lived in Dubai with her husband, Jad, and family for 17 years. Going back to work after a 10-year break has made her face the reality of dealing with finances and triggered deep reflection about the thing that makes the world go round.

If you had to write a letter to money, what would you say?


Dear money, we work tirelessly to earn you. But it would be great if you could work harder for us too. I need you to multiply, but also remain stable — I do not want to continue to worry about you during my golden years.

How would you describe your relationship to money?

I have become a financial hoarder. I feel I have a lot of uncertainty about the future and would rather have my money in the bank where I know it is safe. I have a lot of distrust with the idea of investing in real estate or hiring money managers.

How do you think this relationship was formed?

I was never taught how to manage my money; what is the best way to save; or what should be a long-term strategy to prepare for retirement. This has left the financial landscape a complex place for me to navigate. My biggest worry is making sure we are never a financial burden on our children later on in life.

Who do you speak to about money matters?

I find it helpful to gain insight from ‘well-to-do ’friends about their investment strategies. I’d rather trust working with an investment manager who has been personally referred by someone I know.

What has been the most profound experience you’ve had so far in relation to money?

It’s always terrifying to see others suddenly lose their life savings and/or assets overnight due to various reasons. This has taught me to remain cautious with my spending and savings. Amassing some form of ‘financial fortitude’ is critical to anticipate life’s unforeseen obstacles and setbacks.

How do you think living in the UAE has changed your relationship with money?

The lavish lifestyle here, undeniably, has an impact on our spending habits. Many expats relocate to the UAE in hopes of a better quality of life while receiving much higher salaries than we would back home. This often leads to uncharacteristic ‘high-roller ’spending.

If you could give your child or your younger self one piece of advice about money, what would that be and why?

Always have a financial safety net. Even if it’s only enough money to get you by for three months.

What do you consider splurging?

Fine dining. It’s often hard to justify paying a fortune for a meal.

Do you long-term plan your finances, and if so, how?

Unfortunately, no we do not. I think this is where a lot of my insecurity surrounding finances, and the future, stems from.

How much do you save each month?

Considering my husband and I both work fulltime, we typically put one salary into savings each month,.

How much do you plan two have by the time you are 65?

I would be content with a modest roof over our heads, money to take a senior citizen-style cruise once a year, and keep enough food in the fridge to feed the grandkids when they visit. Simplicity will suffice.


Melanie Swan

Published: Thu 4 Apr 2024, 7:07 PM

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