x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Designer lives by lessons of youth

Paula Letelier demands value for her dirhams, and ensures it for her clients.

AD200810115909722AR
AD200810115909722AR

My childhood influenced my attitude towards money immensely. Growing up I was never just given things. A certain amount of work had to go into it. Having no pocket money meant that chores, attitude at home and performance at school turned into real jobs for me. Good actions would be rewarded with items we wanted or trips we wished to take. I am very grateful for my parents' decision to raise my family this way. I feel we grew up with a different appreciation for things in life. I don't mean just the value of money. I mean the value of work, partnerships and responsibilities.

These days I feel that my behaviour towards money is generally the same, except now I actually have it. Given the way I was brought up I tend to be conservative, but I do make allowances. I make sure that at least 10 per cent of my income can be spent on whatever I want: updating my wardrobe for example, an item for my home or spa treatments. There is no wasting money in my life. It's a constant awareness. But if there is a need here and now I can and will spend the amount necessary. Once my car needed some serious work and I had to pay Dh8,000 (US$2,177) in one go. I didn't even think about it. It had to be done and I paid it in full. I also spend on my family and close friends as I would spend on myself.

When it comes to work and dealing with money in that environment, it is not my money and there are always budget limitations. I also have worked with some large budgets. One project entailed the complete restoration of a home, and I had Dh10 million to carefully budget. I have a credit card, but if asked, I say cash. Straight away you know what balance you're left with. With cards, credit or debit, if you're not careful you can easily get carried away and find yourself in a bind. If the cash is not in your wallet, that is a straightforward way of gauging your situation. But with any form of money, one should always keep some sort of record.

Not to claim that I am super-organised, but keeping receipts is a good start. Nor do I ban use of my credit card. For example, hotels require one for reservations. At the end of a stay in a hotel, I prefer to pay with my card. The most expensive thing I have invested in was a house in Australia, which I sold last year after having already moved to the UAE. That was a necessity buy at the time because I had married and we needed a home. I made some profit off the sale and placed it into a savings account, awaiting the perfect time to invest it, perhaps in another home. Until then, I'm keeping the profits in my savings account.

I would say it's easier for me to save money now than before. First off, I earn more and feel I need less. The most expensive thing for me now is paying my rent in Abu Dhabi. It's a budget killer if I ever saw one. But I feel quite at home. I moved here this year after spending five years in Dubai; it was time to move on and I was attracted to the more culturally orientated Abu Dhabi. Money is a tool and I treat it as such. It should not change you, however, especially if you're not used to it. Money often goes to people's heads. I tend to avoid money issues between friends and if I do loan a close friend money I tend to think of that money as a gift, not owed to me. I believe that avoids any resentment.

I do save money, of course. I always aim to set aside 60 per cent of my income for that purpose. It isn't always possible, but that is the goal I set myself. I save for security. It could be for a house or for some other investment I might want to get into. I don't think about retirement in my profession, so I'd have to say I save for security, no matter what that may be. I don't own any stocks nor am I looking into that at the moment.

My main focus is my career, so all my time and attention is spent on that. I'm not at all into online banking, but with an overseas account I have little choice. I also do not shop online, nor do I give my credit card information out online. My personal accounts in different banks locally and my overseas account I handle myself. Here in Abu Dhabi I go to my bank or have someone come to my office.

As for the option of a financial adviser, I do not have one nor am I keen to find one. It's like having a lawyer who tells you what to do with your money at a cost. Not my preference. Don't call me I'll not call you is my thought on that. I do have time to manage my own personal accounting, therefore I do not feel the need for an adviser. Should the need arise, I'm sure there is a sea of choices out there.

* Patricia M Santos