Anne Quinlan, the director of Dubai Reunited, says her social network website was created partly due to boredom. A saver by nature, she's found it more difficult to do in Dubai.
Money & Me: Social networker interconnects expats
Anne Quinlan is the director of Dubai Reunited, a social network for past and present Dubai expatriates. Mrs Quinlan moved to the UAE from the UK in 2008, where she worked as a management consultant for Deloitte, to find a better life balance.
Describe your financial journey so far.
My mother was a teacher and my father a university professor, so we did not have much money growing up and were brought up with the message that you don't need money to have a good time. My parents wouldn't let me work until I was in the sixth form at school because they had a policy that we should study and focus on our school work. But from then on, I did everything and anything to earn money, from working at the patisserie counter at Waitrose to working as a secretarial temp. I wasn't in debt at the end of university because each holiday I worked and paid everything off.
What is your philosophy about money?
I was brought up to respect money, save money and not be really frivolous and that is how I am. My husband is more frivolous; he encourages me to have some great meals out, but I'm the one who sets up all the savings plans and investments, so we are a good combination.
Are you a saver or a spender?
I have always been a solid saver, but in Dubai it is trickier to save. When we came here, I gave up my job to focus on our three children, so we knew we would have less money. A lot of people move to Dubai to save money, but we did the opposite - we moved here to change our lifestyle. We wanted to get out of the London rat race and start living our lives. Spending weekends at the beach or in the pool has been wonderful, but it has meant I've had to change my opinions about money and realise that for a few years, until my husband Henry's career as a lawyer took off, or I decided to work again, we wouldn't be able to save as much as we did before.
Have you made any financial mistakes along the way?
We bought a student house just before the property market crashed in England in 2007. It was a mistake, but while it is worth less, it does have students in it and pays for itself on an interest-only mortgage.
Why did you decide to set up Dubai Reunited?
To be honest, I was bored. I've always worked and while I've really enjoyed spending more time with the kids and making some amazing friends over the past 18 months, when my youngest went to school, I thought, "What do I do now?" I wanted to do something different and when I was chatting to friends, I realised there was a gap in the market for an expat group. When we first moved here, I found it quite hard to meet other people, so we thought it would be useful to set up something where you could not only meet other people from within Dubai, but also once you left as well. Our first event - the Royal Wedding Garden Party at the Dubai Polo Club - in April was extremely successful and we sold out four weeks before the day. Our next event - a rugby tournament followed by a party - will be held in London. While we focus on UK expats at the moment, we are planning to branch out to other nationalities soon and eventually other expat cities around the world.
What has been your best investment?
Buying a property in Italy in 2002. We saw this article about Puglia being the new Tuscany, so we flew out there on a holiday, fell in love with the area and bought this traditional cone-shaped house for not much money. Prices were cheap because the euro exchange rate was amazing back in those days and Puglia hadn't been discovered as an area yet - you couldn't fly direct to the area then. Now, it's worth more than what we paid for it, but it's more than that. Henry proposed there and we've taken our kids and our families there every year. It's a beautiful spot and certainly the best decision we ever made financially. We will have it forever.
What financial advice would you give your children?
I have three sons, aged six, five and three, and the one thing I worry about living here is how easy expat life is for children. For me, respect is very important, so Shama, our housemaid, is not their maid, she is the person they ask nicely to help them. Monty, our eldest, gets Dh5 pocket money a week and if he wants to buy something, he either has to save up or put it on his birthday or Christmas list. I hope I'm instilling the understanding that money is not an endless flow. They have to make decisions about what they want to spend on and they have to earn money if they want it. That's how my husband and I were brought up, so I hope that message gets through.