x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Useful gifts that make financial sense: experts' advice

Rather than wasting money on unwanted presents, why not give your loved ones a gift that keeps on giving?

Millions of dirhams are spent every year on unwanted festive gifts that are forgotten within days or even minutes of someone receiving them.

With the rejected present either discarded or hidden away in a cupboard, never to be seen again, it becomes instantly worthless, which is why we need to think carefully about the gifts we give our friends and family this Christmas.

To ensure you give your loved ones something that retains its value for a lifetime, we've asked a range of experts for their suggestions for a gift that keeps on giving.

With a price range of just a few hundred dirhams to potentially millions, depending on your budget, of course, the recommendations include a Dh350 voucher book, thousands of dirhams saved in education fees, a lifetime of knowledge through financial literacy advice and a kick start to a share portfolio or savings account.

So, if you want to give a gift that keeps on giving, why not invest in one of the following?

Craig Hewett
Head of business development

"Since shares first traded on an exchange in Amsterdam in the 17th century, share ownership has become one of the most popular investments all over the world. Almost every country now has a stock exchange, or more than one, and the total value of all their shares was more than US$50 trillion [Dh183.6tn] in 2010, according to the World Federation of Exchanges. Shares owe their popularity to being extremely easy to trade - through a broker - and to their ability to enable ordinary people to profit from the success of well-run companies as they grow and develop over time. Many famous investors, such as Warren Buffett, adopt a long-term approach to investing and have prospered as a result. Like any asset, shares can fall rapidly in value, as has happened globally in the past few years; a long-term outlook is designed to take short-term fluctuations into account. Shares also appeal to investors because many pay out annual dividends, which are a distribution of company profits. Investors adopt many different strategies in deciding which shares to buy. These can be easy to describe, but difficult to get right, such as buying when the shares are cheap and selecting the companies with the best prospects. A key factor is transparency. Companies that give detailed and accurate information about their activities are the easiest to understand and form an opinion about."

Sarah Queen
Nutrition Matters Arabia

"Due to our hectic and often stressful lives, there are many of us who don't adhere to a lifestyle that includes regular exercise, healthy eating and rest. Consequently, our waistlines expand and a prognosis of ill health looms. Incorrect eating habits and choices can also exacerbate stress, lead to digestive complaints, affect pregnancies, attribute to and worsen food sensitivities as well as general ill health. Thankfully, it is never too late to change our eating habits and often simple changes to food choices and meal timings can reduce the risk of heart disease, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes and reduce weight. Which is why buying your loved one a session with a nutritionist or a gym membership could be the boost they need to help them get their health back on track.

Here, at Nutrition Matters Arabia, we offer individually tailored lifestyle programmes that include consultations to assess a person's current lifestyle, goals and aspirations. Working together, we make simple, manageable adjustments to current eating habits or look at a complete lifestyle overhaul, which can include menu choices for eating out, healthy shopping, food preparation and cooking techniques as an individually tailored eating plan. These programmes are not quick fixes, but your family member will recoup the benefit of your gift, be it through weight loss, stable and healthy blood glucose levels or a healthier lifestyle and diet."

Tom Bunker
Investment sales consultant
Better Homes

"People buy a home for a variety of reasons. Some wish to avoid paying rent, while others wish to place their money in a relatively risk-free asset, which should appreciate over time. In some areas, people will invest in property to secure a visa or ultimately a passport in a friendlier country. While these are all valid reasons, there are other reasons that may not be so obvious, but are equally important. Buying a property also connects the owner to a community. It provides them with a sense of belonging and comfort in being part of a larger community. The property allows the owner to lay down roots, thereby providing them with a level of stability and giving them full control over the property. They can invest whatever time or energy they desire into improving that property over time and making the acquisition a home rather than a simple asset. Here, there is another reason why people like to own a home. For the past 20 years, a tremendous amount of time and effort has been spent on promoting the UAE around the world. Today, you would be hard pressed to find anyone outside of the region who doesn't know of, or who hasn't heard of this country's remarkable transition from desert to cosmopolitan hub of trade and tourism. People are fascinated with the Emirates and this translates into a certain level of pride for its residents. Living in the UAE is one thing, but being able to say you're a homeowner and resident means you are part of a community you're proud to call home."

Donna Benton
Managing director
The Entertainer

"We may be in the midst of a global financial crisis, but we still need to enjoy life. However, going out to new restaurants or entertainment venues can add up, especially if you're part of a family of four. So, by giving a loved one a voucher book, such as the Entertainer, you are giving them a ticket to enjoy life at almost half the cost. Not only are they saving the Dh350 they would have had to spend on the book in the first place, but if they have three of the books from the series, such as Entertainer Travel, Entertainer Family and Entertainer Fine Dining, they can also save up to Dh500,000 over the course of 2012. And as well as making savings, the books act almost like a guide, encouraging people to try new restaurants and new venues at affordable prices and leaving money spare for the important things in life such as education and savings. I know that under my Christmas tree will be wrapped copies of the Entertainer for my close friends and family. It is definitely the gift that keeps giving 365 days of the year!"

Malcolm Bell
Financial consultant
Acuma Wealth Management

"It's that time of year again, when our thoughts, and wallets, turn to seasonal gifts. But it's also the time of year when I review the plans I made last year and plan ahead for the future, not just mine, but the family, too. Take, for example, my will. We've added young Steven to our family and I've taken the opportunity of dusting down our existing will, bringing it right up to date to reflect my current wishes and to ensure that it's Sharia-compliant. In the event that something untoward should happen to me, I want to be sure that the children are taken care of and that their future is assured. Of course, another mouth to feed has an impact on the family finances, too. It's not just the endless supply of Pampers, but you start to think about the children's future higher education. It's fine while we're in the UAE and the company's generosity covers their schooling, but what about university? According to [London's] The Telegraph, the current cost for an international student is £10,781 [Dh61,825] per year. However, add in rent, food and course materials and it's nearer to £20,000, and that's in today's money! Imagine what that will be in 17 years' time? So for me, the gift that keeps on giving is going to be the flexible savings plan that I put in place for my children's education. A gift that should last them a lifetime."

Kurt Blanckenberg
Managing partner
Mojo Gallery

"There are few gifts as personal and enduring as a piece of original art; a gift guaranteed to be truly unique in a world of increasing sameness. Chosen carefully, art also comes with the potential upside of increasing in value over time, whether it is a piece by an accomplished artist with a broad collector base and whose work is historically established, or a piece by an up-and-coming young artist on the cusp of achieving widespread recognition. But I think the true value in giving art as a gift lies in the ability of that piece to be a gift every day to the lucky recipient - to be viewed and enjoyed for many years and maybe even a lifetime. And, hopefully, be the starting point for that special someone to start a fascinating journey of building a personal art collection that expresses their own unique taste and style. So choose the piece firstly because you think the person you are giving it to will love and enjoy it and then assess its ability to retain and, hopefully, increase in value. After all, money alone cannot make anyone truly rich."

Caroline Dredge
Wealth manager

"You are waiting for your spouse one night and they don't come home - another one of the awful statistics from road accidents here in the UAE. Your first thoughts are, of course, grief, which then turn to panic as you wonder how you are going to cope financially: the roof over your head, the kids, all your hopes and dreams. Unfortunately, these all rely on the money you realise. You then remember that meeting your spouse said they had with your financial adviser. You pick up the phone, hoping that they have some answers, but no; your partner had decided that it was better to spend the Dh30 or Dh40 a day it would have cost to protect their family on their daily Starbucks, and so the panic resumes. How life could have been so different if they had chosen to give the gift that keeps on giving - a life insurance policy so that the mortgage is cleared, your kids can continue to go to the same schools with all their friends and do all the activities they were doing and you can continue to be there for your family, all in the knowledge your spouse did the best they could for then and now."

Lama Kabbani
Corporate communications manager
Visa Middle East

"There are lots of worthwhile gifts out there this festive season, but if you're looking for something that people will appreciate and get lifelong value out of, then the Visa prepaid card could be the answer. It's particularly great for parents of young adults because it's similar to the idea of a gift voucher, but with the additional benefits you usually associate with Visa, such as convenience and a secure alternative to cash. Simply buy a Visa prepaid card from one of the many selected retailers across the UAE, such as Enoc petrol stations, and preload with your chosen value. They can then redeem it at any retail outlet that accepts a Visa debit or credit card. Beyond this, the Visa prepaid card is also a good way to help people learn how to budget - because cash isn't burning a hole their pocket, they can more easily plan how to spend it. This decision-making process is the starting point of learning how to budget, so the card will set them in good stead for the future by giving them an essential life lesson in how to manage their money."

Mohamed Qasim Al-Ali
Chief executive
National Bonds

"The very core of what we do at National Bonds lies in our ability to create rewarding, memorable, convenient and exciting saving experiences for our bondholders. No wonder, then, that we have a customer base of around 640,000 bondholders from 200 different nationalities, so we are constantly looking for ways to help them adopt healthy savings habits to ensure a sound financial future for themselves and for their families. The National Bonds Gift Vouchers are the perfect gifts all year round and can be used for any occasion. To make them accessible and convenient for everyone, the vouchers are available in affordable denominations of Dh100, Dh250, Dh500 and Dh1,000. Although it sounds like a cliché, National Bonds Gift Vouchers are truly a gift that keeps on giving. Immediately, he or she is entitled to competitive annual profits, which have been better than the market average for comparable savings schemes every single year since our inception. The recipient will also automatically qualify to win thousands of cash prizes every month, including our famous Dh1 million monthly prize. Furthermore, even if the person never adds to his account, he still qualifies for all these benefits for as long as he is a bondholder. That shows how National Bonds Gift Vouchers can be a gift that keeps on giving in a literal sense. "

Kellie Whitehead
SolidariTea Arabia

"These days, people need to be 'gifting' more charitably and thoughtfully more than ever before. Not only do we as a society have more stuff than we would ever need, it's also a tad distasteful with the world economy as it is and so many people in need. I don't think people need to be donating cash directly to charities, though, to feel the benefit. It's about passing on items, knowledge and awareness among friends and neighbours, too. I think it's time to make a difference in small ways at the grass-roots level. Giving shouldn't just mean money at Christmas or other festive times. Giving makes you feel good and is a 'gift' that can carry on for months and years to come, depending on the circumstances. This is what my co-founder, Theresa Tsui, and I envisage with our initiative SolidariTea. Via relevant, themed, thoughtful events, we not only raise funds for smaller charitable causes, but also awareness, too. Knowledge sharing is vital and we encourage people to host their own SolidariTea events in their own homes or groups, gathering essentials for the needy or sharing ideas and resources - all of this over tea and cake. It's an excellent way to give back and we know we have encouraged people to give in an out-of-the-box way they would not have thought of themselves."

Susan Castle
Success strategist
Outwith The Dots

"Opening up a present on Christmas morning is so exciting, but we often get stuff we really don't need and it just becomes more clutter in our lives. So giving someone something that can make their lives better, such as a life-coaching session, seems like a fantastic idea, especially if they've expressed an interest. If you're going to do this, do some research first - check out what books they're reading and have a look on Facebook to see what groups they've joined - this will give you some great insights about what direction to go in. If they're into spirituality, then maybe a Reiki attunement might appeal to them. If they are into goal-setting, find a coach who does Wheel Of Life sessions, which are designed to set people on the right track and get them focused on the next step. Alternatively, look for a workshop that suits their interests - sometimes a one-to-one coaching session can be a bit intimidating for someone who has never done one before, but a group workshop could be fun, enlightening and they could meet some great like-minded people. And if you go along with them, it could really deepen your friendship, which is the best of all gifts."

Felicity Glover
Editor, Personal Finance
The National
www.thenational.ae/lifestyle/ personal-finance

"Nothing shouts bling more than gold. And in these uncertain economic times, there are few safer vehicles to park your money. Be it in the physical sense, such as a piece of jewellery, a gold bar and a gold coin, or investing in a gold fund or gold miner, the beauty of the precious metal is not only in the eye of the beholder, but also in its ability to go from strength to strength when the global economy is teetering on the edge. It has its downsides, of course, and historically, the price of gold drops when economies are strong. Which is why it is doing so well now. Spot gold hit a record high of more than US$1,900 [Dh6,979] an ounce in August. By last Wednesday, it was trading at a steady $1,729.89 an ounce after rising nearly 4 per cent in the previous week, according to Reuters. Some analysts are tipping it to rise as high as $5,000 in a few years' time, so it's not too late to jump on the gilt-edged bandwagon. This festive season, I'm heading to Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi, where the world's first gold-vending machine was installed in May last year. Here, I'll be investing in small gold bars for my family, in either 10-gram or one-ounce weights [depending on how good they've been]. This is a gift that will keep on giving, not only for its long-term investment value, but also for its novelty factor - and the story they can always tell about where it came from."

Lesley Cully
Buckle Up In The Back

"The joy and excitement of a new baby is one of those special times when we think of buying a gift for others. Often, a great deal of money is spent on gifts the new parents will possibly never use or have to take back because of duplicates. New parents spend a fortune on decorating the nursery, the perfect crib or the perfect mobile. I would ask those present givers or parents to stop for a moment. What gift is more important this Christmas than the life of that new child? Why spend hundreds of dirhams on something that will be outgrown or discarded in a short space of time? Here's an idea for you - buy a car seat for that child. The car seat won't last forever; it will need replacing as the child grows, BUT that gift could save that child's life. That car seat will give that child a chance to grow, to live and to develop into an adult. That adult could invent something to change the world of medicine, could teach a new generation, or could be an inspirational leader. Next time you pick up bootees, another soft toy, or a new rattle, stop and think: why not give a gift that will truly keep on giving? Give a car seat."