x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Resolutions include golf and two-for-one coupons

This year I celebrate New Year at my own apartment, as a local and not a tourist. And the resolutions I am making for the new year are similar to those of a man who has settled in and knows what to expect.

Gary Clement for The National
Gary Clement for The National

As you read this, I will likely just be waking up myself, tearing down the cobwebs between my ears with the help of a steaming cup of coffee and making big plans for the year ahead.

This is quite literally the beginning of my second year in the UAE, having landed last December 31 just in time to get to Sheikh Zayed the Second Street and the Sands Hotel, where the house band rang in 2010 with a rousing rendition of Amazing Grace.

It was a memorable arrival in Abu Dhabi, to say the least.

This year I celebrated at my own apartment, as a local and not a tourist.

And the resolutions I am making for the new year are similar to those of a man who has settled in and knows what to expect.

In my experience, as a rookie expat you spend your first year furnishing your living quarters, looking for a bank with passable customer service and otherwise learning how to manage daily life in a new country. You spend the second year trying to accomplish specific goals that make the time spent away from home worthwhile.

My primary resolution this year: play more golf.

My use of the new abundance of golf courses in Abu Dhabi was woeful last year, a mistake that desperately needs to be corrected.

Many years ago, I got my handicap below 10. I'm aiming to get back into single digits again. With a fistful of two-for-one coupons from the annual Entertainer guide book, I hope to be able to do so without going broke in the process. Resolution number two: master Angry Birds, the first app I downloaded for my new iPhone.

At 99 cents, that game must offer more entertainment per dollar than any other on the planet.

But this year will not be all fun and games. In fact, I'm pledging to finally correct an important oversight in my own financial planning. I'm going to create a will.

As a young man, it seemed possible, if not certain, that I would live forever. But based on the way I feel in the morning these days, that is increasingly unlikely.

It is also more important for me these days because I am married and beginning to accumulate assets. If I had died when I was single and poor, my lack of planning would hardly have mattered - there was not much of an estate to settle.

Now that I am married and slightly less poor, a will should ensure that my wishes are followed at my death, not to mention save my wife the time and hassle of having to hire lawyers to sort it all out.

As someone who keeps most of his money offshore, I do not need to worry about how Sharia law will affect my accounts, since it only applies to assets held in the Emirates. On my next trip to the US, I intend to meet with a lawyer to draw up a simple will that is valid under US law. That should be fine here as well in the event I still reside in the UAE at the time of my death.

But I will make sure my wife has at least one bank account solely in her name.

As Keren Bobker pointed out recently in her column, upon my untimely death, my accounts and those we hold jointly will be frozen under Sharia law until the estate is settled (those with children may need to take additional steps to clarify custody as well).

Getting a will done ranks right up there with standing in line to get an Emirates ID card in the ranking of chores I would just as soon avoid, but it's my solemn pledge that I will do both this year.

Chief among my other resolutions is to do more of the same in terms of my saving and investments. My target is to set aside 50 per cent more this year than I did in 2010 - a goal that I think is within reach now that our apartment is furnished, our car paid for and other major expenses settled. A big reduction in rent will help, too.

It is worth noting that I don't set goals for investment returns because that is largely outside of my control.

I've set up a diversified portfolio that features the potential for solid growth over the long term without enormous risk, I believe, and hope it performs as such. The key phrase is "over the long term".

If the global markets return 30 per cent this year, that does not make me a genius, and if they drop 30 per cent that does not mean my strategy to be mostly invested in equity markets at my age is a failure.

What would be a failure is if I'm unable to get my handicap below 10. Happy New Year to all.