Illustration by Gary Clement for The National
Illustration by Gary Clement for The National

Figuring out the things you must do before you die

Would you go to work if you knew you had a day to live?
That was a question my nine-year-old posed over breakfast one morning.
He had first asked: would you go to work if you had cancer.
I was lucky - I could be with the boys before our paths parted for the next two days: theirs to school, mine to the airport. I'm usually on horribly early flights that see me out the door as the sun rises if not before, so this was a treat, the late flight, not breakfast with them - we do that most days. My departing was obviously playing on young minds.
The answers to both questions are easy.
Yes I'd go to work if I had cancer because I'd want to beat it and to look forward to a long and happy life, and I would need to pay for treatment, health insurance and all the holidays and fun stuff we want to do.
No, I wouldn't go to work if I knew that day was my last. I'd spend every second with my boys.
They want me around more. But we all need different things in life. And that includes doing our own thing, whether due to necessity - the need to earn - or sanity - friends and experiences.
So, with this being a holy month of introspection, I put to you: what would you do with your money if you knew you had a year to live? Long enough to actually do a few things, but short enough to focus your mind.
It's a question people across the UK have been asked this June as part of Financial Planning Week. It's seven days of free advice around money matters organised by the UK's Chartered Institute for Securities and Investments.
The obvious stuff to start with is figuring out the things you absolutely must do before you die. I want to go to the Galapagos islands, go on every un-cruise cruise (Alaska, Hawaii and more - small boats full of adventure stuff), live somewhere I can ski every day for a few months. Figuring out the fun stuff is easy.
Then thoughts of responsibility towards my children kick in. Do I have the right insurance to see my young ones through their education? What support would I need to buy in to cover the hole I'd leave? After all, I am a multi-skilled worker: part-time driver, therapist, cook and teacher. How would I square the circle while passing on the least financial burden?
So, taking a step back, this is what I would do with my money if I knew I had a year to live:
. Buy peace of mind
. Make sure my absence can be covered - financially
. Squeeze as much quality time out of life and money while maintaining the above two points.
Peace of mind. What I mean is less hassle, more clarity. This is why I'm currently decluttering my finances. I am getting out of things I "fell" into - because it was what was offered by a financial adviser, or on the back of turmoil or a new phase of life, like starting a savings policy with the arrival of children. Don't get me wrong: I'm not saying don't save, I'm saying I am looking at the tools and policies I have in place and assessing them. Are they clear, transparent, and financially worth it? Do they cause grief in the way they're managed or maintained?
Yes I might end up missing out on some fantastic financial opportunity - but if it doesn't give peace of mind, it's too high a price to pay.
To my second point: from now on, once a year I will assess whether insurance and other policies will cover the additional expense my demise would incur for my children's carers, or for my children if they're still not on financially independent feet. Many of us have things in place, but our needs change all the time, and what you took out three years ago or more might not be right for your current phase of life.
The fun stuff is just that. Sometimes it's about spending big money on once in a lifetime experiences, but mostly it's about deciding what you're trading your life-juice, your time for. Is it to earn more? Or to do more?
To help me maintain my three financial mantras, I am starting an annual "moneyversary". Every year, the day before my birthday, I will retreat into myself and figure out each point. It doesn't stop there. If something needs to change, I will do something about it. That way, every day will be a great day - to live, or go (peacefully I hope).
Nima Abu Wardeh describes herself using three words: Person. Parent. Pupil. Each day she works out which one gets priority, sharing her journey on You can reach her at


• Looming global slowdown and recession in key economies

• Russia-Ukraine war

• Interest rate hikes and the rising cost of debt servicing

• Oil price volatility

• Persisting inflationary pressures

• Exchange rate fluctuations

• Shortage of labour/skills

• A resurgence of Covid?

What is a robo-adviser?

Robo-advisers use an online sign-up process to gauge an investor’s risk tolerance by feeding information such as their age, income, saving goals and investment history into an algorithm, which then assigns them an investment portfolio, ranging from more conservative to higher risk ones.

These portfolios are made up of exchange traded funds (ETFs) with exposure to indices such as US and global equities, fixed-income products like bonds, though exposure to real estate, commodity ETFs or gold is also possible.

Investing in ETFs allows robo-advisers to offer fees far lower than traditional investments, such as actively managed mutual funds bought through a bank or broker. Investors can buy ETFs directly via a brokerage, but with robo-advisers they benefit from investment portfolios matched to their risk tolerance as well as being user friendly.

Many robo-advisers charge what are called wrap fees, meaning there are no additional fees such as subscription or withdrawal fees, success fees or fees for rebalancing.

Tonight's Chat on The National

Tonight's Chat is a series of online conversations on The National. The series features a diverse range of celebrities, politicians and business leaders from around the Arab world.

Tonight’s Chat host Ricardo Karam is a renowned author and broadcaster who has previously interviewed Bill Gates, Carlos Ghosn, Andre Agassi and the late Zaha Hadid, among others.

Intellectually curious and thought-provoking, Tonight’s Chat moves the conversation forward.

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Mercer, the investment consulting arm of US services company Marsh & McLennan, expects its wealth division to at least double its assets under management (AUM) in the Middle East as wealth in the region continues to grow despite economic headwinds, a company official said.

Mercer Wealth, which globally has $160 billion in AUM, plans to boost its AUM in the region to $2-$3bn in the next 2-3 years from the present $1bn, said Yasir AbuShaban, a Dubai-based principal with Mercer Wealth.

Within the next two to three years, we are looking at reaching $2 to $3 billion as a conservative estimate and we do see an opportunity to do so,” said Mr AbuShaban.

Mercer does not directly make investments, but allocates clients’ money they have discretion to, to professional asset managers. They also provide advice to clients.

“We have buying power. We can negotiate on their (client’s) behalf with asset managers to provide them lower fees than they otherwise would have to get on their own,” he added.

Mercer Wealth’s clients include sovereign wealth funds, family offices, and insurance companies among others.

From its office in Dubai, Mercer also looks after Africa, India and Turkey, where they also see opportunity for growth.

Wealth creation in Middle East and Africa (MEA) grew 8.5 per cent to $8.1 trillion last year from $7.5tn in 2015, higher than last year’s global average of 6 per cent and the second-highest growth in a region after Asia-Pacific which grew 9.9 per cent, according to consultancy Boston Consulting Group (BCG). In the region, where wealth grew just 1.9 per cent in 2015 compared with 2014, a pickup in oil prices has helped in wealth generation.

BCG is forecasting MEA wealth will rise to $12tn by 2021, growing at an annual average of 8 per cent.

Drivers of wealth generation in the region will be split evenly between new wealth creation and growth of performance of existing assets, according to BCG.

Another general trend in the region is clients’ looking for a comprehensive approach to investing, according to Mr AbuShaban.

“Institutional investors or some of the families are seeing a slowdown in the available capital they have to invest and in that sense they are looking at optimizing the way they manage their portfolios and making sure they are not investing haphazardly and different parts of their investment are working together,” said Mr AbuShaban.

Some clients also have a higher appetite for risk, given the low interest-rate environment that does not provide enough yield for some institutional investors. These clients are keen to invest in illiquid assets, such as private equity and infrastructure.

“What we have seen is a desire for higher returns in what has been a low-return environment specifically in various fixed income or bonds,” he said.

“In this environment, we have seen a de facto increase in the risk that clients are taking in things like illiquid investments, private equity investments, infrastructure and private debt, those kind of investments were higher illiquidity results in incrementally higher returns.”

The Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, one of the largest sovereign wealth funds, said in its 2016 report that has gradually increased its exposure in direct private equity and private credit transactions, mainly in Asian markets and especially in China and India. The authority’s private equity department focused on structured equities owing to “their defensive characteristics.”


Director: Dexter Fletcher

Starring: Taron Egerton, Richard Madden, Jamie Bell

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars 

The Super Mario Bros Movie

Directors: Aaron Horvath and Michael Jelenic
Stars: Chris Pratt, Anya Taylor-Joy, Charlie Day, Jack Black, Seth Rogen and Keegan-Michael Key
Rating: 1/5

UAE Premiership

Dubai Exiles 24-28 Jebel Ali Dragons
Abu Dhabi Harlequins 43-27 Dubai Hurricanes

Friday, March 29, Abu Dhabi Harlequins v Jebel Ali Dragons, The Sevens, Dubai

The biog

Fatima Al Darmaki is an Emirati widow with three children

She has received 46 certificates of appreciation and excellence throughout her career

She won the 'ideal mother' category at the Minister of Interior Awards for Excellence

Her favourite food is Harees, a slow-cooked porridge-like dish made from boiled wheat berries mixed with chicken

Company Profile

Company name: Hoopla
Date started: March 2023
Founder: Jacqueline Perrottet
Based: Dubai
Number of staff: 10
Investment stage: Pre-seed
Investment required: $500,000


Director: Youssef Chebbi

Stars: Fatma Oussaifi and Mohamed Houcine Grayaa

Rating: 4/5

Signs of heat stroke
  • The loss of sodium chloride in our sweat can lead to confusion and an altered mental status and slurred speech
  • Body temperature above 39°C
  • Hot, dry and red or damp skin can indicate heatstroke
  • A faster pulse than usual
  • Dizziness, nausea and headaches are also signs of overheating
  • In extreme cases, victims can lose consciousness and require immediate medical attention
How to play the stock market recovery in 2021?

If you are looking to build your long-term wealth in 2021 and beyond, the stock market is still the best place to do it as equities powered on despite the pandemic.

Investing in individual stocks is not for everyone and most private investors should stick to mutual funds and ETFs, but there are some thrilling opportunities for those who understand the risks.

Peter Garnry, head of equity strategy at Saxo Bank, says the 20 best-performing US and European stocks have delivered an average return year-to-date of 148 per cent, measured in local currency terms.

Online marketplace Etsy was the best performer with a return of 330.6 per cent, followed by communications software company Sinch (315.4 per cent), online supermarket HelloFresh (232.8 per cent) and fuel cells specialist NEL (191.7 per cent).

Mr Garnry says digital companies benefited from the lockdown, while green energy firms flew as efforts to combat climate change were ramped up, helped in part by the European Union’s green deal. 

Electric car company Tesla would be on the list if it had been part of the S&P 500 Index, but it only joined on December 21. “Tesla has become one of the most valuable companies in the world this year as demand for electric vehicles has grown dramatically,” Mr Garnry says.

By contrast, the 20 worst-performing European stocks fell 54 per cent on average, with European banks hit by the economic fallout from the pandemic, while cruise liners and airline stocks suffered due to travel restrictions.

As demand for energy fell, the oil and gas industry had a tough year, too.

Mr Garnry says the biggest story this year was the “absolute crunch” in so-called value stocks, companies that trade at low valuations compared to their earnings and growth potential.

He says they are “heavily tilted towards financials, miners, energy, utilities and industrials, which have all been hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic”. “The last year saw these cheap stocks become cheaper and expensive stocks have become more expensive.” 

This has triggered excited talk about the “great value rotation” but Mr Garnry remains sceptical. “We need to see a breakout of interest rates combined with higher inflation before we join the crowd.”

Always remember that past performance is not a guarantee of future returns. Last year’s winners often turn out to be this year’s losers, and vice-versa.