Ghassan Khalaf was upset after investments he made in stocks turned sour.
The Palestinian, 55, watched with anguish as shares he bought at Dh40 a piece in 2005 tumbled close to Dh3 during the global financial crisis.
"I will keep my money invested for when the stocks pick up again," says Mr Khalaf, who works as an electrical engineer at Abu Dhabi Water and Electricity Authority.
Officials hope more UAE residents will follow Mr Khalaf's lead by taking a long-term approach to saving and investing their cash.
For that to happen, the culture of spending ingrained in many parts of society has to be changed. Shops, restaurants, hotels and car showrooms all encourage people to splash out rather than stash their cash.
Results from the National Bonds UAE Savings Index gives some cause for optimism. More respondents than last year and the year before said they were saving regularly.
Dileep Bharath, 34, began putting more cash aside when his wife had a baby two years ago.
Like many new parents, he felt his priorities had suddenly shifted.
"Before, saving money wasn't so important but now I need to save because of my family," says Mr Bharath, who works as a consultant in the construction industry in Abu Dhabi.
He soon realised depositing more cash in the bank was not going to build his wealth quickly.
He invested Dh5,000 (US$1,361) in National Bonds last year and earned a 2 per cent profit. He plans to invest a further lump sum in the scheme when his wife, Prabitha, and son, Deekshith, return from visiting family in Kerala, India in two months.
"Just putting money away isn't enough," he says. "I've thought of other ways to grow my money."
Still, the number of those not saving regularly remains high. A total of 65 per cent of people said they were not putting money aside on a regular basis.
Delve deeper into the results and differences between nationalities emerge.
Western expatriates had the most positive outlook on savings. A total of 41 per cent of those surveyed said it was a good time to save. Fewer Asian and Arab expatriates shared the same sentiment. Emiratis also had a less positive savings outlook.
It is, perhaps, among Emiratis where officials are most keen to encourage more saving. The Government had already started workshops to educate people about the need to save money, says Mohammed Qasim Al Ali, the chief executive of National Bonds.
Last year, the Government launched a Dh10 billion (US$2.72bn) fund to help Emiratis who had run up large debts. It also raised pay from this year for Emirati public sector workers by 35 to 100 per cent.
Mr Al Ali suspects large chunks of the pay hike are being spent rather than saved.
"Many are locked into the consumerism spree," he says. "Unfortunately, in this part of the world, financial planning is not something we are used to. Financial planning in schools is not drilled into us."
The National Bonds survey also reveal differences in what people spend their money on. While grocery costs accounted for a major part of spending for western, Asian and Arab expatriates, they were less of an expense for Emiratis. In contrast, Emiratis spent more on luxury items.
Among those saving regularly, differences also exist in how people choose to invest. Sharia compliance was the leading priority for Emirati and Arab expatriates, while an attractive return was the most compelling reason for western and Asian expatriates. The level of returns was only second most important for Emiratis and other Arabs.
Saving for retirement, children's education and purchase of property for personal use were deemed the top three reasons for all nationalities.
Mr Khalaf has been saving for his children's education.
"In the last few years I have had to liquidate my savings to pay for my three children to go through university," he says.
He is also saving money for when he and his wife eventually retire outside the UAE. Officials hope other residents will follow his example and put cash aside themselves.