What is the point of saving? It's a question I'm asked all the time, particularly by today's younger generations, for whom the concept of saving for saving's sake is an old-fashioned ideal. Mention the word "investing" and suddenly it seems more exciting and dynamic, but talk about "saving" is dismissed as something more relevant to the older generation. Well, the worrying truth is that people in this country, young or old, are not saving enough or don't save at all.
Historically, saving was about empowerment. It was about taking back control of your life through discipline and freeing yourself from subservience to ancient class systems by having access to money in times of need. Even up until the mid-20th century, saving was the recognised route to fulfilment.
Today, however, many say why save when credit cards and loans offer the same dream in a fraction of the time?
Over the years the world has changed immeasurably, and not all for the better. A generation of conservative spenders and ardent savers has given way to credit-fuelled consumerism and an aversion to financial security. Short and medium term "investors" risked everything for quick profits and invariably lost.
The lesson for all involved was that thriftiness, not risk, is the only reliable way to sustained profits and the fulfilment of one's aspirations.
Today, adults in the UAE save less than their parents may have done a generation ago, while average earnings - especially in the Emirates - have grown significantly. As our average life expectancy and lifestyle expectations are on the increase, our ability to finance ourselves into retirement is decreasing.
According to the National Bonds UAE Index just 11 per cent of UAE adults say their savings are adequate, while a mere 1 per cent describe their savings as being more than adequate. My message to the other 88 per cent is that saving is no longer an option - it is an imperative.
The UAE's fast culture - fast food, fast cars and fast returns - puts pressure on all of us to have ready cash available all the time.
Hard-earned money is easily spent. Our confidence in the UAE's buoyant job market and tax-free environment is lulling us into a false sense of financial security. This cycle of entitlement through easy credit and a culture of spending is leaving our savings worryingly thin.
That said, fledgling steps are being taken in the right direction. National Bonds' 2012 Index for the UAE, based on the outcomes of a survey gauging respondents' savings potential, the savings environment and their own financial stability, rose 2.8 points to 101.8, up from 99 in 2011.
The savings potential, the expectation to save, went up from 72.16 per cent to 73.32 per cent, while the perceived ability to save given the economic environment also rose to 48.98 per cent from 46.41 per cent. Respondents were also more confident about their personal financial stability -up from 59.98 per cent to 61.11 per cent.
Saving is now also becoming simpler. Savings products offer the chance to make regular contributions via direct standing order - removing the need for any human intervention and increasing the chances of successfully building a good habit that lasts. It is that lasting element that is so important to the development of a savings culture, for which the industry is not exclusively responsible.
It's time for the people to follow. And by working to a plan and avoiding common savings mistakes, such as attempting to save too much too quickly, new habits will form.
Saving can be a rewarding experience - however large or small the amount. For argument's sake, Dh2,000 a month for 20 years would give you a savings pot of about Dh480,000 without factoring in any profit. It is, therefore, a safe bet that you focus on the cast-iron guarantee that through discipline and good choices savings will bring you good fortune in the long term.
Based on feedback from some of our bondholders, we've learnt that the incentive to save goes beyond the mere obvious benefit of financial stability; children's education and ownership of assets also rank a top priority among both residents and expatriates. People save to spend, and we strive to reward their savings every minute of every day through prizes that go over and above monetary returns.
The message, ultimately, is that success in life is about balance. Like personal fitness, fit and healthy finances require discipline and structure. With a healthy savings culture as a foundation, you set yourself free. You then afford yourself the privilege of guilt-free spending. Not the other way around.
It is important to remind ourselves time and again that savings ensure ours and our family's future financial security. Savings offer freedom.
Secure savings will aid good health, offer you the liberty of choice and ultimately allow you to make your dreams a reality. You decide how those lasting emotional factors compare with the short-term gratification of the latest gadget or a designer bag, and then ask me what the point of saving is.
Mohammed Qasim Al Ali is the chief executive of National Bonds