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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 21 May 2018

Money & me: Early financial lessons pay big dividends

Serial entrepreneur Steve Flawith reveals how gaining experience of investing while a youngster has really reaped rewards

Stephen Flawith, serial entrepreneur and owner of Hasbox.com. Antonie Robertson/The National
Stephen Flawith, serial entrepreneur and owner of Hasbox.com. Antonie Robertson/The National

Steve Flawith was around eight years old when his mother first sat him down with a copy of the Financial Times and told him he had £1,000 to invest. It was an early lesson in forecasting that has had an enduring impact on his finances. The 30 year-old Brit, an entrepreneur and head of strategy at 1762 UAE, which operates a chain of delis and owns the upmarket food brand Appetite, started out his career as a fine-dining chef. From there he moved into front of house and eventually into setting up F&B businesses for others. Most recently he co-founded his own company, Hasbox, a secure online vault where people can store important documents such as images, videos, wills, testaments, accounts and even passwords. Mr Flawith tells us about his relationship with money.

How did your upbringing shape your attitudes to money?

I was brought up by my mum in the UK. She was an investment banker. She started out very poor in life and she worked her way up through JP Morgan and really made a name for herself in the company. She was a fantastic mentor to me on my journey of [personal] finance. She taught me everything about finances. She used to sit me down at the kitchen table and give me the stocks page from the Financial Times. I didn’t realise at the time, but she gave me an imaginary $1,000. I thought I actually had $1,000 for real! She told me to invest it, and in the process taught me about forecasting and how to look at markets.

How old were you then?

I was eight or nine, so quite young. She brought about this sense of really valuing the money you had, and how much it’s worth and how far it can go. And that is why to this day I still forecast all of my finances and investments because of my upbringing from my mum. She’s an incredible woman.

Did you get pocket money?

Yes, but I had to work for it. I believe I had to vacuum four rooms. I had to do the washing up every week and mow the lawn. I had to really work for my pocket money.

Would you have made money through your investments if it was real?

I don’t remember. I am going to ask her that when I next speak to my mum.

Are you a spender or a saver?

I am a saver and I invest where I think it’s wise to.

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Where do you make your investments?

Hasbox, and other start-ups. Start-ups and property are the best financial investments to make historically. That’s where you are going to get your biggest return.

What’s your favourite possession?

My surfboard, funnily enough, because the return I get on my surfboard is happiness and peace. When I spend time out on the water, it’s really where I get peace and tranquility to think about where my finances are going and where my life is leading. So from that sense I would say my surfboard is my best investment.

So you have invested in your start-up. Do you have shares? Are you investing in the stock market for real this time?

I am in the UK right now in real estate. But I also save in the UK, that’s where I put my finances right now.

What are you saving into?

Just ISA accounts.

What is your biggest financial regret?

I don’t really have any big financial regrets, if I am honest. I think everything happens for a reason in that sense. I have faced times in my life where money has been tough, when I was younger. But I always return to that long-term forecast. Every decision was made to try and take a different path or route to success. So I don't have not so many financial regrets. But I have definitely had times of hardship which have taught me to value the success that I've had.

When was the money tough, and what did you have to do to get by?

When I was training as a chef I was earning £120 a week. I was working 14 hours a day, six days a week. I remember that after eight montgs they gave me a pay rise of £20 pounds a week, which I thought was fantastic. I remember a point where I would go to a barbeque at my friend’s house and I wouldn’t be able to afford to bring meat. I would buy my clothes from a charity shop. And that gives you the perspective to value what you have and when you have it.

When did money get easier for you?

I moved from being a chef to front of house to take on the management side, and then from there I progressed through the hospitality trade, but I always wanted to shift into a slightly different area. I learnt the food, I learnt the service. I learnt the operations. From there I moved into more of a marketing and events side of things, and then I moved into more of the business and financial aspects of the trade.

Do you have a financial plan for your future?

Definitely. For financial security and success, you have to have three, four or five revenue streams coming in. I think that’s very important. Property is an aspect of that. So are start-ups such as Hasbox, and I'm nearing the point where I might look at opening a restaurant as well. So property, Hasbox, and sourced income from my day job or my own restaurant are the big three revenue streams to start with. I'd like to build on these areas over the coming 10 years and eventually have five to six revenue streams.

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What do you enjoy spending your money on?

When it comes to travel and food I am all in; when it comes to good food the financial planning goes out of the window. It’s definitely a big part of my life. I recently took a trip to Hong Kong which was all about the food. I was there for six days and ate in 34 restaurants. It was focused on experiencing as much food across as many different styles as I could fit in. That for me is just happiness and joy!

Have you ever bought anything on impulse?

Yes I do impulse buy. I think it’s important to treat yourself. I spend money on holidays and anything which gets me outdoors, whether it’s surfing, snowboarding, skateboarding, or camping. I like being close to nature.

Is there anything in your personal finances that you are still working on, you wish you were better at?

Everything to be honest. I am still learning with my finances as I go, especially for things that crop up out of the blue and how you deal with those.

Do you still ask your mum for advice?

Yes I do and she still gives me advice, even if I don’t ask for it! She's retired now. I was discussing with her the other day about buying a knife set, because I love cooking. And she was like, ‘But it’s only if you have that disposable income available to you right now, otherwise you need to wait’. She is still telling me how to deal with my finances!