A 30-year veteran of the property industry, Mario Volpi says the way to keep going is maintaining enthusiasm for your work and not allowing money to consume you.
Money & Me: Riding the fiscal roller coaster
Mario Volpi is the head of sales and leasing for Cluttons, the property consultants, and moved to the UAE in 2008, a month before the nation's property market crashed. The Italian, who has lived in the UK since he was four years old, has worked in the property industry for almost 30 years.
Describe your financial journey so far.
I have experienced three recessions: two in the UK and one in Dubai. There have been many boom times, too, so I could describe my financial journey as the clichéd "roller coaster". But my understanding of the value of money came from my father, who had a very strong work ethic. When he first came to England from Italy and was able to buy a property, he would always overpay his mortgage so that the debt was gone in eight years rather than 25. He was a Concorde engineer for British Airways and always did overtime simply to support his family. It showed me that hard work never hurt anybody and if you want something in life you've got to earn it.
Are you a spender or a saver?
A bit of both. I love spending money on my family, but am also careful to put some away, too. Wherever possible, I like to spoil my wife and eight-year-old daughter. When we lived in London, we went away six or seven times a year, so we constantly had something to look forward to. Living in the UAE, it's pretty much like having a holiday every weekend. The sun shines, there are beaches everywhere and there are always nice things to do. So if there's an extended weekend, we try out different hotels around the Emirates. I just like to lavish and spoil my family wherever possible because you never know when this journey is going to end.
What is your philosophy towards money?
Treat it with respect, otherwise it can consume you.
What has been your most valuable financial lesson?
To always put some money away for a rainy day. Taking into consideration today's economic position, it appears to be raining all the time! But my dad always saved and I try to follow his lead. He didn't like debt and would never buy anything on a credit card, so if he couldn't afford it, he wouldn't buy it - that was his way. A few years back, credit was so freely given and there was the "I want it now and even though I can't afford it, I'll just slap it on the plastic" attitude. Now, where possible, I like to put something away for a rainy day. But it can also be for a sunny day or just going out somewhere.
Why did you decide to get involved in the real estate business?
I got into real estate by chance. I had just finished my studies in London and wanted to get into the job market. I registered with an agency who put me forward for a position in an estate agents' office. I beat 18 other candidates for the role of junior negotiator. I quickly learnt and worked my way up the ladder. This was way back in 1984. I still get a buzz today when I close a sale. I love finding the right property for my client. The day I do not punch the air as if I have scored a goal for my team when I close a deal, will be the day I hang up my suit.
Have you experienced any financial difficulties along the way?
I am in real estate, so of course there have been difficulties. Living in Dubai just as the worst and only property recession hit was not an easy ride. I came here because I saw the recession coming to the UK and ran away wanting a better life for me and my family. Two months in, the market completely crashed and I had to make lots of people redundant and my own salary was cut and cut and cut, but that was the reality of the time. Plenty of my colleagues and friends had to pack up and return home. The fact that I am still here must mean that I am doing something right.
What do you like to invest in?
I don't invest in shares or bonds, only property because I believe it's safe as houses. I own three properties in London and one in Italy. Property is always the place to put your money if you're talking long term - it has to be because people's aspirations are to own their own home. In Dubai, there were a lot of winners during the boom. Everyone believed you were foolish not to be involved. I wish I'd come to Dubai a couple of years earlier. Surviving in this downturn would have been a breeze because I would have earned lots of money.
Is money important to you?
Yes and no. It's important to give my family security and stability, but their health and happiness are the most important things in my life. However, you have to have money to survive. Dubai is a fantastic place to live if you have money. If you don't, it can be the most miserable place to be because you can't have a slice of it.