Money & Me: Dubai entrepreneur grateful to his grandma

Entrepreneur David Tobias made his fortune from the UAE property boom of 2002 to 2007 but he hopes his best investment is still ahead of him.
David Tobias says his grandmother always told him to save for a rainy day. Razan Alzayani for The National
David Tobias says his grandmother always told him to save for a rainy day. Razan Alzayani for The National

David Tobias has worked in Dubai for 23 years, where he helped to set up Acumen Advertising. The 46-year-old Briton sold half of his shares in the firm last year. He reinvested the money in his latest venture, VoucherSkout, an app that offers 50 per cent off deals across the UAE on a pay-as-you-go basis, that launched earlier this month.

How did your upbringing shape your attitude towards money?

My dad was a junior doctor and my mum a state registered nurse back in the early days. Salaries during the 1970s for medical professionals were modest, and making ends meet wasn’t any less challenging than it is today. My parents believed in the value of a good education and as a result my dad sacrificed much of his annual leave, taking up a locum in the far north of Sweden. The money earned was used to cover the private education costs of myself and two younger siblings. We lived a simple and fairly comfortable life. Later on, and as my father’s career progressed, life got steadily less austere. The additional money certainly made life easier, but we were no happier than when we had less. Making money for money’s sake has never been a motivating force for me.

How much did you get paid for your first job?

My first ever job at 15 paid around £5 (Dh24) an hour, a lot of money in 1985. I worked each Friday and Saturday evening in the basement kitchen of a Chinese restaurant in my hometown Alderley Edge, near Manchester. I washed all the crockery sent down from the restaurant above using a small electric lift. Undoubtedly the best part of the job was the free Chinese meal the owner gave us at the end of every shift.

Are you a spender or saver?

Definitely a spender, though seldom on myself. Most ends up on family, particularly my two children, a son aged 17 and a daughter, 16.

What is your most cherished purchase?

A Rolex Daytona watch I bought for myself in 1998 after winning a big contract. I believe it cost about Dh30,000.

Have you ever had a month where you feared you could you not pay the bills?

Ask me for a month when I wasn’t fearing about that and I’ll find it easier to answer.

Where do you save?

I have 11 units in an apartment building in the UAE besides investments in property and land in Morocco, gold, Bitcoin and some mutual funds.

Do you prefer paying by credit card or in cash?

Credit card for sure. I’m an air miles junkie.

What has been your best investment?

Definitely property during the 2002-07 UAE boom, although it was entirely unsatisfying as it was based on pure speculation. I don’t think anyone can take satisfaction from money that comes without effort. I hope that my best investment is still ahead of me. I’m extremely positive about the future, especially for me and my business partner’s latest venture, VoucherSkout.

What financial advice would you offer your younger self?

Put something away for that inevitable rainy day. My grandmother used to say it all the time and she was absolutely right.

Do you have a plan for the future?

The future is taken care of by the things one does in the present. Do the right things now and the future will look after itself. Many people appear either anxious about the future or regretful about the past, and in so doing entirely miss out on the present.

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

I’d give it to my wife. For 18 years she’s dedicated herself to our children, but now they are older she would like to start her own business. She truly deserves to have her time now.

What would you raid your savings account for?

Cadbury Creme Eggs when they are available. I can’t resist them.

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Published: September 23, 2016 04:00 AM

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