'I started saving at 6': Dubai expat on learning to value money as a child

Natasha Abbas is a British civil engineer who co-founded North 51, a project management consultancy in Dubai

By Melanie Swan

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Published: Thu 18 Apr 2024, 11:51 PM

Last updated: Fri 19 Apr 2024, 11:20 PM

Natasha Abbas has been in Dubai for seven years, and says the “extraordinary” journey so far has been “filled with enriching experiences and endless possibilities”. The British civil engineer, who grew up in Kuwait, is the co-founder of North 51, a project management consultancy in Dubai and says the UAE has transformed her relationship with money.

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

I would write a book, not just a letter, and it would be called “Opportunity”, and Chapter 1 will start as follows: Dear Money, I am so grateful for all the ways I got to spend you the past few years. You were an added resource to my life, enriching it in countless ways. With you by my side, I had the privilege of spoiling the most important people in my life and relishing simple joys.

How was your relationship with money formed?

When I was six, I was instilled with a valuable lesson by my aunt. She taught me the importance of saving my weekly pocket money and then splurging on things I wanted either for myself or my family. One memory stands out vividly — saving my weekly pocket money to buy my mother’s birthday gift of a beautiful ceramic apple tree for 10 Kuwaiti dinars.

What’s been the most profound experience you’ve had in relation to money?

One of the most profound realisations I’ve had in my journey with money is its correlation with happiness is far more nuanced than the simplistic notion of “more money, more happiness”. While financial stability certainly plays a crucial role in our overall well-being, there comes a point when the pursuit of wealth alone fails to bring true fulfilment. In fact, I’ve come to understand that true satisfaction and contentment stem not from material wealth, but from the richness of our experiences, the depth of our relationships and the fulfilment of our aspirations. Moreover, I’ve learned that throwing money at problems, no matter how substantial, does not necessarily lead to lasting solutions.

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

The UAE has instilled in me the profound realisation that time indeed equals money. The country has taught me the importance of prioritising my time, ensuring that every moment is spent with intention and purpose --- whether it’s investing in experiences, education, or personal growth.

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

Learning the true value of money as it holds the power to effect profound change in both our lives and the lives of others. I would advise putting money to good use whether it’s through charitable donations, acts of kindness, or investments in meaningful endeavours, as it has the potential to make a positive impact in the world. When we extend a helping hand to others in their time of need, the abundance of the universe flows back to us when we need it the most. Central to this philosophy is treating money with the same respect and consideration we would offer to a trusted friend. It’s essential to spend with grace, willingness and kind intention.

How much do you save each month?

I don’t follow strict budgeting rules like the 50/30/20 rule. For me, it’s all about saving whatever feels right each month.

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

My plan is to have enough money set aside by the time I hit 65, so I can take a few holidays every year with my family and dearest friends. When I think about my financial future, it’s all about ensuring I have the means to enjoy those precious moments with the people I care about the most.



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