A veteran insurance manager from Budapest, Tamas Kassai has made countries from Vietnam to Malaysia his home. Today Mr Kassai, 45, works as a senior consultant at Gargash Insurance Services while raising a 10-year-old son and daughter, 13, in Abu Dhabi. He talks about his financial journey across Europe, Asia and the Middle East.
How would you describe your financial journey so far?
Bumpy, bumpy - because there have been some good decisions and some bad decisions. Previously I wasn't that aware of the financial planning concept, and I feel much more confident now. I have been an insurance expert all my professional life, but avoided life insurance approaches. I didn't know what I was escaping from. But one day I just understood it was a necessity and I regret I didn't recognise it earlier, because I would be sitting on more savings.
Are you a spender or a saver?
I'm a saver, but I have been a spender. I've travelled in 55 countries and I've basically spent all the money I got. The more you make, the more you spend. It's that easy. So it doesn't matter how much you actually make - you still can save some.
Is money important to you?
It is, yes. Because money gives you choice. It gives you freedom of choice.
Have you made any financial mistakes along the way?
Yes I have. I invested in a real estate [asset] which went up in the boom years, but it has been coming down for several years now and still the bottom is not visible. It was a sentimental decision to stick with that property. If I had invested that money somewhere else, I would have got out of it at the right moment and might be able to buy two or three of these properties today. It really doesn't make sense to stick to a property.
Do you plan for the future?
I do plan for retirement. Retirement is a long-term concept; in my case it's a 20-years-on plan, but there are some other minor goals on the way as well. I plan to increase the percentage I'm saving, because the more I can actually save in the coming years, the easier it will be later on because of the compounded effects.
What has been your biggest financial lesson?
The 2008 crisis is a lesson in terms of the good old strategy that diversification is important because if you put all your eggs in one basket, you run an unnecessarily high risk. So let's just be reasonable and not too greedy, but just have a reasonable diversification in your portfolio. Let's have some property; let's have a systematic savings plan; let's have some equities and let's have some fixed income. You can save in different currencies. You can have five-year savings or 15-year savings. You can have geographic diversification: emerging market, Africa, Europe. The more you diversify your portfolio, the better your chances that they will be good long term. And then you don't have to intervene too often.
What do you spend your money on?
I love spending my money on two things: investing, and things which give me the most fun. I invest in books; I invest in travelling places that inspire me; I invest in taking courses that would take me further in my profession. Part of the money goes to entertainment, and part of the money goes to invest: investment in myself, investment in my family.