Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 22 February 2019

Pay cheque principle is one worth teaching

Encourage your children to decide now why they want to work, says Nima Abu Wardeh. In the future, this will prevent them from just working for the sake of it and teach them to understand what they are actually working for.
Gary Clement for the National
Gary Clement for the National

I’m either doing spectacularly well, or failing miserably.

The thought hit me when my 10-year-old said: “I want the joy of earning from work.”

I mean, here I am, extolling the virtues of getting money to work for you so that you can do more of what your heart and soul desire, while my child hatches plans to go back to basics: earning from hard graft. Where did I go wrong?

But it is heartening to know that my Gen Z’er isn’t afraid of hard work. Especially as we’re told that Gen Y don’t want to – work hard that is. So I must be doing something right. Right?

It’s not money he’s after (he still doesn’t covet, or value it and what it can do for him) but independence. Independence and autonomy, being valued and validated, this is what he wants. In today’s world, the main currency for this is money. The way to it is work.

It’s my fault. I’ve been a workhorse for longer than I care to remember.

Which is super if you enjoy what you do and all the other messages we’re bombarded with.

But I wish I’d taken the time when younger to figure out where to head for, and how to get there.

More importantly, I wish someone had sat me down and made me do a few things – while I figured out the why and what of work and life.

This is what I’d do if I could start over:

1. Get into an investing routine. Yes, straight in with the “i” word, not the “s” for saving. With today’s options, this would be a set monthly amount in low fee index funds. The amount would have to be low enough to be able to stick with, month in, month out, for decades. I would ignore this pot for, say, 30 years. I’d call it my second chance trove. Something for when I hit my 50s. Whereupon I could leave it be and keep contributing, or use it to fund something that I really want to do with my life having figured a few things out by then (I hope).

Here are the figures: imagine putting aside Dh500 a month for 30 years and it compounding at 5 per cent annually – you’d have Dh418,647. That’d be a nice 50th gift to yourself if you start at age 20.

2. Never hire a financial adviser. The amount of money gone from my life – forever – through fees paid, losses incurred and penalties is enough to make a grown woman cry.

We all need help when it comes to figuring things out – so do seek out a friend, or a financial adviser who helps to set up a routine for money habits. But note that I say get a “routine”, not a financial policy.

There. Simple. But difficult. Mainly because it means blind commitment and decision- making. I say blind because it’s in retrospect that we, the oldies, get it, but we’re asking our young ones, in my case a child, just turned double-digits, to buy into wisdom garnered from our failings.

You earned that wisdom. Don’t waste it. Make this your good deed for the weekend: Go over these two points with a young person you know. Then set time aside for a “this is what I work for” talk.

That’s the other thing I wish I’d spent time on – or even just had the thought – as a younger me: what is it I am working for?

I spent decades working for the sake of working. Did I have a purpose? I don’t recall one. Not a purchase, a plan, a mission, a greater good. It was all about the doing. The daily churn.

The very last thing I’d want for my children is to mindlessly work away the years, without thinking through why, or what for.

It doesn’t mean there’ll always be a ready answer, but at some point there will be, if the thought lurks long enough.

Plus there’s another key element to this: it affects what you do with your earnings. A younger me would have a target to work towards – like a down payment for a flat, anywhere – rather than a new car.

No one spoke to me about these things when I was younger. But even if they did, would I have listened and done something about it? I’ll never know.

A parent’s lot is to be blamed at some point. I realise that, no matter what I do, or don’t do, “it” (this will change with the occasion) is my fault. I want a main issue – cultivating great money habits – not to be one of them.

I hope my child experiences the joy of earning from work – and that what he earns is respect and recognition. I also hope that he just does as he’s told regarding today’s two points – getting him on the path to a money-routine that’ll get him earning, and not only from work. That’d be me succeeding spectacularly.

Nima Abu Wardeh describes herself using three words: Person. Parent. Pupil. Each day she works out which one gets priority, sharing her journey on finding-nima.com

Updated: May 5, 2017 04:00 AM