Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 9 July 2020

Don't support friends and family if you cannot afford to sustain yourself

Be generous with your time and advice rather than with your money, says Zach Holz

Residents may have to consider less money home to their families. Global remittances are set to fall as much as 20% this year, their sharpest decline in recent history, due to the Covid-19 crisis, according to the World Bank. Pawan Singh / The National
Residents may have to consider less money home to their families. Global remittances are set to fall as much as 20% this year, their sharpest decline in recent history, due to the Covid-19 crisis, according to the World Bank. Pawan Singh / The National

The financial stress some people are experiencing during the Covid-19 pandemic is hard to watch. For some, stress is at an all time high, as jobs evaporate, salaries are slashed and health issues multiply, with financial challenges not even considered five months ago now blooming around us like uncontrollable weeds.

If your own finances are at risk, you might not have enough to sustain yourself let alone anyone else.

Zach Holz

I've seen numerous surveys documenting how most people would like to give back to their community or support causes they believe in - but they don't have the financial means or time to do so. The need to put food on the table and pay their children's school fees can be a constant pressure and that stress can make the idea of helping others inconceivable.

But if your friends and family are in an even worse situation than you, you might feel under pressure to dip into your wallet to help them out. Before you do this, however, take a step back. If your own finances are at risk, you might not have enough to sustain yourself let alone anyone else. So, you need to put your own needs first, before you try to help others.

Sadly, this could mean cutting back on remittances to family members until you know more about your own situation and your own job. If you are making cutbacks in your living expenses as a result of job loss or a salary cut, then they need to as well. This can be a brutal decision to make, but until your own life is stable, being generous could be the difference between having enough money for rent or not. After all, sometimes even trained lifeguards end up being drowned by the people they are trying to save.

Global remittances accounted for $714 billion (Dh2.62 trillion} last year, according to the World Bank, however, they could fall as much as 20 per cent this year, their sharpest decline in recent history, due to the Covid-19 crisis. Low-income countries such as India, Pakistan, the Philippines and Nepal are all huge benefactors from the UAE, as residents send home money to family members.

Economic shocks such as Covid-19 can disrupt this system. This is why it’s so important to have carefully considered plans in place. If you need to, have a serious talk with those who depend on your salary so that you all have a clear picture of how everyone can handle a drop in income.

This is another reason I pursue Financial Independence, where I spend less than I make and invest the difference until the income from my investments covers my expenses. Not being worried about money gives me the mental space to give my time and energy towards those around me, to help others by volunteering and donating to causes I believe in. My Dh0 credit card balance and cleared student loans allow me to be my best self.

While I will volunteer my time and sit down to give people advice, until I have my own situation sorted out, I’ll be putting more money aside in case I need to survive a longer downturn. I recently volunteered to be a financial coach for university students here in the UAE through Finllect. Also, as a native English speaker, this summer I will offer free online English classes to help people build their language skills and hopefully secure better jobs in another field. What skills do you have that could benefit others?

If you're in the process of digging yourself out of financial hardship, the lessons you learn now will help you stay solvent for the rest of your life. Understand that the less things you own, the more space you have in your bank account and your calendar because you don't have to pay for that "missing" stuff or maintain it.

Use your passions as side hustles to create things that give value to people and put money in your wallet. At the same time, cut back on your spending so that you have enough money for everyday needs, and then, once you are comfortable, you can invest wisely.

Even if you are short of money in these times, you can still invest in your community, but sometimes the best way to do that is by investing in yourself first so you have the firm financial footing you need to safely help others.

Dubai schoolteacher Zach Holz (@HappiestTeach) documents his journey towards financial independence on his personal finance blog The Happiest Teacher

Updated: June 26, 2020 10:47 AM

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