After struggling as a bachelor when he first arrived in Dubai seven years ago, Deepak Gurnani of Just Legal was able to buy a new car outright last year
Money & Me: 'I bought my Dh125,000 Honda Accord V6 coupe in cash'
Deepak Gurnani is one of two partners at the two-year-old Just Legal, which specialises in wills, succession and inheritance planning, legal corporate structuring and intellectual property. The 34-year-old estate planner, from India, who is also studying for a master’s degree in law, worked in Manchester, England, as a probate specialist before moving to Dubai seven years ago. He has a wife and a three-year-old daughter and his parents spend several months a year with them in Bur Dubai.
How did your upbringing shape your attitude towards money?
I was brought up in Indur, in the Indian region of Madhya Pradesh, with a very balanced approach towards money. My father and uncles were part of a family business - electronics - and my mother was a housewife. I have one elder sister and lots of cousins. While I was not born with a silver spoon, I got the best of everything in just the right amount - education, healthcare, instruments like a synthesiser and banjo for music classes, but not expensive toys. Not being deprived of anything, but not having anything in excess, made me respect money.
How much did you get paid for your first job?
Just after I graduated from my commerce degree and while I was preparing to go to Cardiff in Wales to study for a postgraduate degree in international business and finance, I spent the summer working in marketing and sales for a scooter and bike company, earning Dh500 per month.
Are you a spender or saver?
I am currently a spender but an aspiring saver. I have a collection of watches and suits - maybe eight watches, from a Hamilton to a Tag Heuer and Mont Blanc, and more than a dozen suits costing US$700 to $1,000 each. I’m in the field and meet clients, directors, CEOs - so I call it investment. But nowadays I’ve realised I need to slow it down. I’ve not bought anything for the last few months. Just because I like a watch doesn’t mean I have to buy it.
What is your most cherished purchase?
I bought a new Honda Accord V6 coupe on my wedding anniversary last year. It retailed for Dh150,000 but I got a good deal - Dh125,000. It was my first brand-new car and I paid cash: I didn’t have to wait for the loan and paperwork and I bought it on the spot. It was a very happy moment for me, to be at the stage where, if I like something, I can immediately buy it. I am a family man so I decided to do on our anniversary to make it more memorable.
Have you ever had a month where you feared you could not pay the bills?
My first year in Dubai as a bachelor. As with every new person, in a new place, it was a bit of a struggle. I did not have a car and used public transport. I rented a room. But I was always very family-oriented and wanted my parents to live with me, so I wanted to set myself up as soon as possible.
Where do you save?
I have property in Indur - I helped my parents, when they upgraded from their old house, and I have commercial property there too, without a mortgage. I bought an apartment in the Greens in 2015 with a loan; the rent I get pays for the mortgage and maintenance. I also invest in mutual funds through a non-resident Indian (NRI) bank account. I think both avenues provide long-term stability and maximum returns with minimum risk. My income is not fixed so every month is different, but I average it out and save 25 to 30 per cent of my average income each month. I also invest in gold and diamonds – once a year I will buy some jewellery for my wife. It is expenditure but also savings.
Do you prefer paying by credit card or in cash?
I usually prefer to pay by card but, over time, I have realised one tends to spend less using cash. A credit card gives the spender the feeling that they have a hidden account that they can keep spending from - which is what gets people in a debt trap.
What has been your best financial investment?
The property market is one place where I have always seen returns on my financial investments. Real estate has definitely been my best investment. I would like to buy another property and cannot decide between Dubai and India. I would like to buy in six months to a year.
What do you most regret spending money on?
I would not use the term regret but I did feel like I spent too much on a recent holiday to London. We flew first class, stayed in the Hilton at Paddington for two weeks and did lots of shopping. I didn’t set a budget. So, for two weeks, no income - only spending. In future, I plan to set budgets. We think we will go somewhere nearby in September, maybe Georgia, as my daughter is so small.
What financial advice would you offer your younger self?
I would tell my younger self to start saving earlier than I did and build a diversified portfolio, with long-term targets, to mitigate risk. I only started saving three to four years back. People spend most of their money on one thing, say two or three properties together. But in the end, that is all your apples in one basket. If you can buy two or three, buy one here, a second in a different country, or use those equivalent funds to buy safe government or mutual bonds. Then, if there is a market crash, you have not lost everything.
Do you have a financial plan for the future?
I’ve not thought about where I would like to retire but, for me, retirement is not just about not going to work: it is financial freedom. Then I can go to the office, if I want, because I like it. I have education investment plans in place for my daughter. Indians have a habit of saving for their children.
If you won Dh1 million, what would you do with it?
I would put the money to good use - maybe property, as that is very much on my mind. I would like to buy office space here to avoid rents. I think everyone should buy a house and an office. With property, investment comes only with the second - the first is just saving rent. I would take a trip with my family to Disneyworld - the US, Paris, Hong Kong - maybe all together. Some jewellery for my wife, maybe treat myself to an upgraded car, a Range Rover or Jaguar.
What would you raid your savings account for?
A few years ago, I met a gentleman through work who was selling his rare coin collection for Dh350,000 or in parts. I didn’t go ahead but gave it some serious thought. It seemed a safe investment but I have never got into any such thing in the past. Then I thought, if I have a surplus after saving, that is the time to invest - not now.
What financial advice do you offer clients?
I tell everyone they need a will (and not only in this country) with clear instructions, so there is no confusion and no contest. The banks are sitting on billions of unclaimed funds - not because families don’t want it but because they don’t know about it. So you should also keep a list of all assets, which your family can access. Power of attorney authorisation, given today to your spouse or parents (anyone you trust), is there for decisions to be made on your behalf should anything happen. When Michael Schumacher was in a coma, his bank accounts were frozen. If an airline passenger goes missing, the government will wait a minimum of seven years to declare them dead. And you should have decided guardianship for your children in case both husband and wife pass away.
Do you take your own advice?
I have organised life insurance - let’s say my plan is $5 million by the age of 60. Then I get $5 million in insurance and my goal is achieved for my family, if I am alive or not. I have critical illness cover too, so my expenses would be taken care of and I would get a lump sum. I have everything sorted, absolutely.