A bit for today, a bit for tomorrow

Petr Klimes may be a banker but he says that doesn't mean he has always had the best relationship with his finances.
Petr Klimes learnt from personal experience about the importance of financial education. Razan Alzayani / The National
Petr Klimes learnt from personal experience about the importance of financial education. Razan Alzayani / The National

Petr Klimes is the head of marketing at Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank. The 44-year-old father of three, from the Czech Republic, moved to the UAE three years ago.

How would you describe your financial journey?

When I was growing up in the Czech Republic, economic opportunities were limited. After 1989, the situation improved as the country opened up to the world. Not only could we travel internationally but we were also able to pursue better career opportunities at home and abroad. After I graduated, I joined an international bank that had opened in Prague and started to generate good income for my family that improved as my career progressed. But I also found my life partner then, got married, had three children, bought a house and a car and started the cycle of ever-larger expenses and responsibilities. It took many years before our family made the transition from a debt-driven financial situation to saving and planning for our future. Things further improved when I moved to Saudi Arabia in 2005 and three years later to the UAE, where I enjoy living and working tremendously.

Are you a spender or saver?

I don’t really like shopping – but I’m not a heavy saver either, and neither is my wife. So we’ve had to learn how to save and it wasn’t easy. For example, we enjoy going out and the fantastic dining options in Abu Dhabi. Living in the UAE as an expat, you need to learn how to balance enjoying the lifestyle and saving for your future.

Have you made financial mistakes along the way?

Oh yes. Earlier in my career I was promoted, I was so proud and I decided to buy a new apartment. The price was high, but we thought “so what?” So I took out home finance, but it turned out we needed even more money for some reconstruction, so I also took out personal finance. Despite being a banker, I somehow didn’t do the maths and just got carried away. Then the reality hit hard. I had hardly any money left at the end of the month, and I ended up maxing out my card just to live. Looking back on it, my bank didn’t ask any of the right questions and didn’t provide me with any advice. I’ve realised many banks are like that, and learnt from the experience. So after I joined Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank as a head of marketing, my colleagues and I launched the first financial education programme in the UAE, called Smartmoney, to help people take the right financial decisions. We set up a microsite and do roadshows, aimed particularly at young people.

What is your philosophy towards money?

I want to believe there is a limit to the amount of money I would want to live comfortably and that I wouldn’t be endlessly motivated to want more. But it’s very difficult to say how much that is, and how you feel when you get there. I also believe happiness comes from a balance – between enjoying today and planning for tomorrow, between risk and safety in your investments. I don’t really believe in financial speculation as this does not create real value. My personal hero is Muhammad Yunus – a Bangladeshi social entrepreneur – and other people that have used financial services to do good and to improve the lives of others.

If you won Dh1 million, what would you do with it?

I would put 50 per cent of it in our kids’ education fund, and 30 per cent in our pension fund. I’d then donate 10 per cent to charity and to some other members of the family that might need it, and I’d use the rest to go on some awesome family vacation.

What has been your biggest financial lesson?

Don’t invest in things you don’t understand. Stay true to who you are and what you believe in.

What do you enjoy spending on?

I love our family home in the Czech Republic that we have built by a river and that we seem to keep renovating. I enjoy travelling around the world, snowboarding, off-roading in the desert and also spending time with family and friends.


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Published: March 28, 2014 04:00 AM


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