The popular image of the UAE as a nation of spenders, not savers, may need to be revised, The National's YouGov survey suggests. Three quarters of the sample said they put money aside each month and a fifth hold on to more than 30 per cent of their income. That indicated "quite a healthy saving culture", in contrast with most popular perceptions, said James Thomas, the regional director of Acuma Wealth Management in Dubai.
However, Emiratis are not as likely to save. Sixty per cent of those questioned said they did not save anything. At the same time, they accumulate very little debt. Almost 70 per cent of Emiratis reported that they did not carry any card debt and 93 per cent did not have a mortgage, both figures higher than any other nationality. The UAE savings rate is comparable with most western countries. A survey in the United States last year found that 73 per cent of Americans were saving. The figure for UAE residents is 72 per cent.
Overall, the survey appears to reinforce anecdotal evidence that residents, particularly expatriates, have changed their attitudes about money due to the financial crisis. "It's been a dose of reality," Mr Thomas said. "The approach now is, 'Let's not buy that flashy car or let's not take that flashy holiday. Let's think about our savings, and remember why we actually came here in the first place'."
Thirty per cent said they had no debt whatsoever. Just over half (54pc) had no credit card debt, and 80 per cent said they owed less than Dh11,000 (US$3,000). Only three per cent admitted to owing more than Dh36,000. Perhaps not surprisingly for a country with so much rental accommodation, comparatively few people have mortgages. One in six (17 per cent) carries a mortgage in the UAE, and just over one in four (28 per cent) have one in another country.
However, when asked why they were saving, more than half said their motivation involved property, either a future mortgage or a deposit on a property. Only 19 per cent said they were saving for retirement. "The mentality still is that property, as bricks and mortar, is something safe. The reality is different," Mr Thomas said. Other than credit cards, the most common type of debt was car loans, with 37 per cent saying they financed the purchase of a vehicle.
This was one area where Emiratis were more likely than other nationalities to borrow. Thirteen per cent said they owed more than Dh165,000 for car loans. @Email:firstname.lastname@example.org