Gaurav Sinha arrived in Dubai aged 20 in 1993 from Delhi. He spent six years in advertising and a further three as marketing manager at Hilton International before setting up Insignia in 2003. The company is a brand, communication, public relations and representation specialist for the travel industry and has generated more than Dh180 million in revenue since inception. It employs almost 60 people in Dubai and has offices in London, Delhi and Sydney. Here he talks about his approach to personal finance.
Are you a spender or a saver?
I save before I spend. I think it's important to plan for tomorrow but not at the expense of not living well today. I don't believe in champagne lifestyles and lemonade incomes, but recommend lemonade lifestyles with a champagne income. It's important to enjoy the good things in life but you need to have clear convictions about what is invaluable versus purely indulgent - balancing that is very important to ensure you live well and save in parallel.
What is your philosophy towards money?
It's not the most important thing in life but it definitely makes the journey easier. I would rather be a person of value than purely a man who's successful. If you respect money, then money respects you back. Saving for tomorrow is essential and everyone should have a nest egg for rainy days. We all earn a wage every month and pay our bills but it's important to first pay yourself for the hard work you've done and then pay third parties. If you pay a nominal amount to yourself for your efforts in the form of savings, then it becomes habitual and it's easy to budget for your expenses accordingly.
Have you made any financial mistakes along the way?
In my early days as a young expat I was easily swayed by credit cards but quickly realised they are the most expensive form of debt you can take on. Today, I ensure I maintain a zero balance and don't believe in leveraged lifestyles.
Do you plan for the future?
I am a father of three children so it's critical for me to plan for the future and be a responsible parent. I believe in a diversified portfolio of investments, which include cash reserves, investments in property, gold and an exceptionally robust life insurance policy. It's always hard to map out the perfect investment portfolio because life brings its own challenges and one needs to be nimble enough to act quickly if situations change. Liquidity in today's times is very important, you cannot lock yourself into investments that don't give you room to manoeuvre.
Is money important to you?
Money is not everything in life. Health is what matters most and keeping your family happy and safe is paramount to my life goals. It's important to have purpose beyond profit alone and giving back to your community is very important. That's why we established Harmony House, a day shelter for street children in India - charity is wealth in a different form.
What is your idea of financial freedom?
I imagine financial freedom is when you have enough behind you, allowing you to sit back and enjoy your sunsets without worry. "Financial freedom", however, is a bit of an oxymoron in my opinion as managing wealth can be as arduous as earning an income. Sometimes we're too busy chasing rainbows and forget that freedom actually comes by how you treat every day and live life to the fullest. Who knows what tomorrow brings.
What do you enjoy spending your money on?
Great experiences. Travelling with my family is something I cherish and I believe great holidays create some of life's most memorable milestones. I would rather save money and take my family away to different parts of the world and open their eyes to different cultures and values, allowing them to enrich their own outlook on life. Material goods and gifts fade away but memories of great journeys resonate over the years to come. I also love dining out and we're spoilt for choice in Dubai.