Money & Me: Dubai professor has education as best investment

University professor David Twigg adopted a cautious approach to both saving and spending at a young age.
David Twigg likes to spend on quality items that will last a lifetime. Satish Kumar / The National
David Twigg likes to spend on quality items that will last a lifetime. Satish Kumar / The National

David Twigg is an associate professor at Heriot-Watt University in Dubai, where he heads up the School of Management and Languages and teaches and researches in the field of innovation and technology management. The Briton, 53, has resided in the UAE since 2012 and lives between Abu Dhabi and Dubai with his wife.

How did your upbringing shape your attitude towards money?

My family never had money to waste, so I was taught to cherish what I had and to save for what I wanted. This attitude of saving rather than spending has meant that in my lifetime I’ve only had one loan, which was for a mortgage on a home. My wife and I spent the following five years focused on clearing this debt.

How much did you get paid for your first job?

My first job was delivering newspapers. Rain, snow or sunshine, I delivered about 35 newspapers for six days a week and was paid a meagre amount in retrospect. Although not of great monetary value, it provided me with a sense of responsibility and independence from my parents. Learning to manage my own finances at an early age has helped me throughout my life.

Are you a spender or saver?

I’m a saver by nature. I tend to spend on quality items that will last a lifetime. My interest in design means I’ve always waited to choose the right item, rather than buy on impulse.

What is your most cherished purchase?

Last year I was able to buy a piece of art, which my wife and I had wanted to buy 11 years ago but it had already been sold. By chance, I saw it in an auction catalogue in the UK and paid around £2,700 (Dh13,224) in total for it.

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

I’ve always saved from my earnings, even when I was a child, so fortunately I’ve never been in this situation.

Where do you save?

As a saver, there aren’t many opportunities in the current market with low interest rates. Traditionally, I’ve used low-risk investments – I’d rather know what I have than risk losing it.

Do you prefer paying by credit card or in cash?

I like the convenience of using a credit card. I arrange with my bank to pay off the full amount each month so that I don’t worry about missing a payment. If I couldn’t guarantee full payment, I would probably revert to using cash.

What has been your best investment?

Definitely my education – perhaps unsurprising for someone who works in educating others. I didn’t know what I wanted to do at the age of 18 and within a year of studying at university, I discovered a passion for research. There is something very satisfying about seeing students develop their intellectual prowess and succeed in their careers.

What do you most regret spending money on?

I have a passion for coffee and design. Many years ago there was an award-winning coffee filter machine that I thought was perfectly designed. Unfortunately, despite its practical and elegant form, the coffee tasted awful. It was a lesson for me to test out a proposed purchase.

What financial advice would you offer your younger self?

No matter how much you’re earning, start saving a percentage of your salary. Know how much your outgoings amount to, set aside some for social activities, and see how much you can afford to save. If you plan this from the outset of your career, it will become routine.

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

First, I‘d buy my wife a piece of jewellery, probably from the Danish design house Georg Jensen. Half of the remainder I’d put towards charitable causes I already contribute to, namely two medical charities and an education scholarship. The rest I’d save for the future.

What would you raid your savings account for?

If a member of my family fell critically ill or needed immediate help, I would see how I might help.

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Published: September 16, 2016 04:00 AM


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