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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 24 June 2018

Money & Me: 'Everything changed when my husband lost his job'

Redundancy and having a baby have transformed how South African entrepreneur Angela Boshoff Hundal views her finances

Angela Boshoff Hundal, the founder of Scribe content agency, says owning her own company has made her spending habits much more conservative. Pawan Singh / The National
Angela Boshoff Hundal, the founder of Scribe content agency, says owning her own company has made her spending habits much more conservative. Pawan Singh / The National

Angela Boshoff Hundal is the founder and head of copy at Scribe content agency. A South African, she has spent eight years in Dubai. The 34-year-old’s attitude to money changed dramatically when she and her husband were forced to tighten their belts due to redundancy in 2008 and after having a child three years ago.

How did your upbringing shape your attitude towards money?

I wish I had been taught more about how to manage money. I am the last of four children, with a 14-year gap between me and my youngest brother - a “late lamb” as we say in South Africa. I was born in Johannesburg but grew up in the Western Cape, in Hermanus. We were middle class, not wealthy, but I usually got the toys I wanted. My mother used to do work from home, my father worked nights as a musician. Money wasn’t really something we spoke about. But I don’t like to spend willy-nilly, which could potentially come from my parents - they were quite cautious, not risk-takers.

What do you think you are doing differently as a parent?

I am trying to teach my son how money can make you money, because I wasn’t taught that. He’s very little, nearly three, but he already understands where money comes from and that we work to make money. I am starting to give him money to put away, so he can understand about saving. Schools don’t talk enough about money - either how to save or spend. Spending is a skill. You can either blow everything or spend well and have some left over.

How much did you get paid for your first job?

At 15 I was a waitress and earned 1,000 South African rand a day (Dh280) in a good season - a lot for a teenager. I blew it on clothes and stuff. In my mid-twenties, after travelling and working in a linen design studio, then as a personal assistant and receptionist, I got my first proper writing job earning 15,000 rand (Dh4,225) a month as a junior writer, a decent salary in 2003.

Are you a spender or saver?

I’m more of a saver and much more conservative now because I own my own company. It has separate finances and I take a salary out each month; I’m quite strict about that. I’m happy with everything I have - clothes, car, where I live - and I’m not a ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ kind of person. I don’t spend randomly.

What is your most cherished purchase?

Holidays, when I get to see family or go away with my husband and son. We had a little bit of an indulgent holiday to the Maldives last year - Dh22,000 all-inclusive and full board, so we didn’t have to worry about anything. It was really wonderful.

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Have you ever had a month where you feared you could not pay the bills?

My husband and I married in 2008 and the next year he was one of 1,000 retrenched from a bank after leading its merger. I was the only bread winner for about seven months, working as a copywriter for an events company. We had to move out of our two-bed house in Deira into a furnished, serviced studio in Bur Dubai - a much smaller space. It was quite a life-changing, stressful time. We had to sell a lot of our stuff, some of our most treasured possessions, like my husband’s bike. We were 26 and 29, not kids but quite reckless newlyweds who brunched a lot, shopped a lot, went out a lot.

How did that change your attitude to money?

We really realised, when one salary was taken away, how much disposable income we weren’t putting away. My husband changed careers - he had studied programming at university and left banking, where he worked crazy hours, to become a digital development manager for a group of radio stations. When we left the studio, we found an amazing one-bed in Tecom, an old hotel converted into apartments, and felt like our luck was changing.

Did having a child have an effect too?

We became a lot more cautious and conservative after having our son - almost a 360 - and my husband now puts as much as he can into trading and saving. Today we live in a three-bedroom apartment in IMPZ – it’s a full house, with a rescue dog and cat, my in-laws staying for up to six months at a time, and a live-in nanny. I feel very privileged to have this support as it allows me to focus on my business.

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Where do you save?

I put a set amount away each month for myself in a life and critical illness/ savings plan and an offshore account. An additional amount stays in the UAE for general savings, and I save offshore for my son, which I hope to put towards his tertiary education.

Do you prefer paying by credit card or in cash?

I prefer cash but we do use a card for groceries and big purchases to get the points. However, we reduced the limit down to Dh5,000 per month - which was very hard to do - as it really keeps us in check. Dh5,000 is much easier to pay off than Dh40,000 or Dh50,000.

What has been your best financial investment?

Just putting money away into an account that grows.

What do you most regret spending money on?

My father gave me Dh30,000 when I was about 20 and I rented a very nice, unfurnished modern house and furnished it - sofas, beds, artwork - and had a lot of parties. There was nothing particularly exorbitant I bought, but the money went quickly. I could have bought a small piece of land with that. It taught me to care about money more … once it was all gone.

What financial advice would you offer your younger self?

Buy property and save. I think properties are a great investment. One of my dreams is to buy property around the world.

Do you have a financial plan for the future?

Once I’ve met some of my property goals, I will start a retirement fund. I don’t see my family and I moving away from Dubai unless we are offered an incredible opportunity elsewhere. Having children in Dubai is very expensive in terms of schooling, though. We might consider having another baby of our own - or adopting - in the future but it’s not on the cards right now.

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If you won Dh1 million, what would you do with it?

I would put it away and let it grow, or buy property in South Africa and India, where my husband is from, which would act as investments for our son and safety fall-back plans if we ever had to move home. From Costa Rica to Portugal, there are endless well-priced properties worldwide. I fell in love with Sri Lanka when I was there too.

What would you raid your savings account for?

I just want to travel as much as I can; I would love to travel around the world with my son. I’m a big believer in buying experiences rather than things. I backpacked through South America - Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Brazil and Argentina - when I was 17 for about five months. My son and I recently did a week-long trip to Thailand, and the whole family is going to Sri Lanka in August and South Africa in October. I am very keen to take my son sledding in Sweden around Christmas-time in a couple of years, and I’d love to see Tibet and Mongolia, perhaps when he’s a teenager.