x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Good life in the UAE makes it hard to teach value of cash

Expats should avoid giving in to pester power of children.

Danielle Ghanem, with her two daughters, is keen for her girls to start saving.
Danielle Ghanem, with her two daughters, is keen for her girls to start saving.

DUBAI // Teaching children the value of money is a tough task for expatriates in the UAE, as many live a life of luxury.

They say the tax-free environment and better salaries give most foreigners access to a lifestyle they would not be able to afford in their home countries.

PIC, a financial consultancy based in Dubai, recently published a handbook to help parents teach their children what money means.

"Many of my clients worry about their kids when they are brought up here because they are spoilt a little bit," said Mark Williams, a PIC consultant.

Mr Williams said A Kid's Guide To Money, aimed at children from the age of four, had received interest from several schools.

The 16-page interactive handbook has pages on which children can write their own personal goals and create a budget outline.

It also helps children to calculate how much money they would need to save to buy a particular item and tells them "money doesn't really grow on trees".

"We understand the importance of educating children on the value of money," said Mr Williams. "We have the responsibility to give our children a solid platform on which to build their future."

A primary school head teacher in Dubai said people "don't realise the true value of money".

Giving children chores so they can earn pocket money was the way forward, she said.

"Eventually, they'll have enough to buy what they want. The sooner you start, the better."

But Carmen Benton, a parenting educator at LifeWorks Counselling and Development in Dubai, said she did not believe pocket money should come from chores.

"That is simply your obligation as part of the family," Mrs Benton said. "You shouldn't get paid for emptying the dishwasher."

She believes parents should give their children a weekly allowance they can save in a piggy bank.

Mrs Benton said children growing up in the age of the internet and smartphones were used to "immediate gratification".

"Money is a difficult concept," she said. "It's hard for them to learn if we just shower them with all they want."

Full-time working parents in the UAE often "feel guilty, as they don't have as much time for their kids as they want", she added.

But not all parents feel that life in the UAE is much different to what they experience in their home countries.

Danielle Ghanem, a Lebanese mother of two, said having a maid or nanny was normal in her country, as it was "affordable for almost any family".

"It all depends on the parents, whether they give the responsibility of raising their kids to someone else or get involved," Mrs Ghanem said.

When she goes shopping with her daughters, she gives them a few dirhams and makes them pay for their favourite treat at the till themselves.

Mrs Ghanem said they were still too young at three and seven to get pocket money, but she wants to teach them the value of money from an early age.

Mrs Benton said the average age for children to be able to start saving was between eight and 10.

Financial problems among young people has recently been part of a public debate in Abu Dhabi. The Emirates Foundation for Youth Development has started quarterly debates to discuss the challenges young people face while trying to manage cash.