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Money is important, but not the most important thing for Yusra Abdul Ghaffar. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National
Money is important, but not the most important thing for Yusra Abdul Ghaffar. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National

Yusra's path to financial freedom

Yusra Abdul Ghaffar is the head of branches and Islamic banking at United Arab Bank.

Yusra Abdul Ghaffar is the head of branches and Islamic banking at United Arab Bank (UAB), a Sharjah-based lender. Appointed to the position last month, Ms Ghaffar has been in the banking industry for more than 15 years. The mother of three, who lives in Dubai, says working in the industry has helped her with her personal finances, although she believes that money can't buy happiness.

How would you describe your financial journey so far?

As an earning adult, my financial journey has been a steadily upward one. I started my banking career at Commercial Bank of Dubai as a trading manager, then I held the post of head of Islamic banking at Mashreq. This eventful journey has so far been a progressive one. From there I moved to Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank as head of women's banking, developing strategies to build private banking (onshore and offshore) and currently I have taken up another challenging assignment at UAB. What particularly excites me in this new role is UAB is the fastest growing, most innovative local bank in the UAE.

Are you a spender or a saver?

I would describe myself as a prudent spender. If I'm a saver or a spender, it is part of my personality. It's sort of like whether you're outgoing or reserved, or whether you love Indian food or hate it. It's just something about you. Being a saver or a spender isn't good or bad on its own, but either personality can cause problems if it's not managed properly. We probably don't need to look too closely at our own habits to determine whether we're a saver or a spender. If you're a saver, good for you. It doesn't necessarily make you a better person, but you have a great start on managing your personal finances. If you're a spender, don't despair. There's something to be said for living the good life. The only problem is, too much of the good life now is likely to mean less of the good life later. Your financial personality ties in directly to your financial situation, so spenders have to learn to exercise some self-control.

What's your philosophy regarding money?

Money is not everything for those who have plenty of it. But for everyone else, money is the only solution to all their problems. And money can't buy you happiness but it does bring you a more pleasant form of misery.

What are the challenges you face as a woman in the world of banking?

Globally, banking is a male-dominated territory. But I have been fortunate because UAE society is a very open one where hard work and commitment are appreciated and women especially are always encouraged to live to their potential. The many challenges I've faced so far haven't been gender specific, but have only improved my confidence in my abilities as a banker. Women should never be afraid of starting small because, with every journey, we started it with a single step.

Has your career in banking helped you with your personal finances?

Yes, of course. Banking teaches you to manage your personal finances as you are exposed to the best practices in the financial world.

Did you make any financial mistakes along the way?

Over the years, banking has taught me to make well thought out financial decisions, so I have not made any major financial mistakes so far.

Do you believe in planning for the future?

Yes, very much. Decision making and forward planning are essential principles of managerial economics and banking instils this in you right from day one.

Is money important to you?

Yes, money is important, but not the most important thing to me.

What is your idea of financial freedom?

Getting what I want and not cringing about every penny spent. In other words, when my needs and wants are met, I attain financial freedom. There might be numerous explanations about financial freedom. It could be that when you wake up in the morning, you have that smile on your face and you are looking forward to having a great day. You will do what you want to and enjoy it. Your basic needs are provided and you can express yourself freely. Financial freedom is about the right way of saving your money and the best vehicle to put your money to grow. The journey to freedom is when you discover financial planning in your life. Analyse your reality, then act upon it with the necessary actions to accomplish your goals. This what I do in my personal life.

What do you enjoy spending money on?

Jewellery, watches and gifts for my loved ones.


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