x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Money&Me: It's always best to live within your means

Daphne Cota says her father taught her the importance of planning how to spend her earnings.

Daphne Cota says her father taught her the importance of planning how to spend her earnings. Antonie Robertson / The National
Daphne Cota says her father taught her the importance of planning how to spend her earnings. Antonie Robertson / The National

Daphne Cota is the exhibition director at Informa Exhibitions, overseeing the The Bride Show in Dubai and Abu Dhabi - the leading wedding events in the Middle East. Ms Cota, who moved to the UAE from India 12 years ago, says moving into the bridal industry in 2003 was a natural extension of her previous career in fashion.

Describe your financial journey so far.

From the outset, I have always been very independent. My mother was a teacher before I was born and my father a cost accountant and though my mother came from a very influential and rich family and my father was middle class, we did not try to live the lifestyle she was from. Instead, we always lived within our means and that was an early start to me becoming independent. Soon after graduating from fashion school, I started my own business, which gave me a taste of financial independence. When I held my first exhibition for my clothing line, everything was sold out on the very first day. It taught me to value money as I had to work for it and hence use it appropriately. Today, when I have more savings and look back, I think that it is good to be financially independent at an early age.

Are you a spender or a saver?

I was a little of both, but now I am trying to save more. Earlier, I would buy something I liked on a whim, but now I have realised that it helps to ask myself if I really need it and what I would have to give up to buy this thing.

What is your philosophy towards money?

Money is important, but it cannot buy you health and happiness. I have family and friends who can afford to buy whatever they want, but certain incidents in their lives have meant they are not happy, so it's not everything.

What has been your most valuable financial lesson?

The best lesson was learnt from my father, who taught me to plan how to spend my earnings and stay within my means instead of overspending. When I was a child, he opened a recurring account for me, which meant he had to deposit a fixed amount every month. He would encourage me to deposit any extra pocket money so that it would accumulate. In those days it was just a few rupees, but I learnt that when you put a little aside it can become a lot.

Why did you decide to get involved in the wedding business?

Having been in the fashion business, I felt that moving to the wedding industry and specifically wedding exhibitions was a natural transition for me as it still gave me the opportunity to keep in touch with up-and-coming designers while running the exhibition business. As a small-business owner myself, I can relate better to our exhibitors, some of whom are from a similar background and I am proud of the fact that The Bride Show gives them the platform to grow their businesses.

Have you experienced any financial difficulties along the way?

When I gave up a very well-paying job as an assistant brand manager for Clarins in Oman, I came back to Dubai to pursue my first passion, which was fashion. I came back to head the fashion design department of an educational institute, earning only Dh6,000 and even though I had to spend some of my savings to manage at times, I didn't give up.

What has been your biggest financial challenge?

Buying my apartment in Dubai at the peak of the real estate market. In Goa, I have a beautiful home on the beach that has appreciated in value and will be forever mine. But the property I bought in Jumeirah Lake Towers in 2008 was not a good investment. I didn't look into it enough and it was more of an impulse buy. I just thought that because rents were so high at the time I could just buy and move in, but after the crash I mentally couldn't prepare myself to move because nothing around there was ready and it was still a construction site. I have rented it out and I guess if I hang onto it long enough it will go back up in value. That's the hope that everyone is hanging onto here.

What do you like to invest in?

I am very conservative when it comes to savings and believe only in cash and real estate.

Is money important to you?

Yes, but definitely not the most important thing in life. I have learnt along the way that one needs enough to keep you going and enjoy some of the good things in life.

What do you like to spend your money on?

I am not very extravagant, but I like saving up for something I really want. I had to save Dh500 each month for several months to buy myself a Cartier watch. I also love to travel and enjoy a couple of holidays a year with my 16-year-old daughter.