Money & me: Just save, save, save, says Hale Education Group founder

Education entrepreneur says he has faced many months where he struggled to pay the bills and at one point two years ago only had Dh500 to his name.

To be smart with his money, Peter Davos buys clothes at outlet stores. Ravindranath K / The National
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Peter Davos is the founder and managing director of Hale Education Group, a UAE education consultancy that mentors, guides and prepares students for entry into American universities. The 38-year-old American has been living in Dubai since 2010. Mr Davos himself is a graduate of Johns Hopkins, Harvard and Oxford Universities.

How did your upbringing shape your attitude towards money?

My father was 23 when he left Greece for Boston in the United States. From the age of 12, he worked in his father’s news stand in Athens, Greece selling newspapers. My father purchased his first investment property at 24 in Boston. We were taught that, through hard work and sheer force of will, you could achieve anything you wanted in life.

How much did you get paid for your first job?

When I was 13, I started working for tips in one of my dad’s coffee shops. In a good day, I made about US$25. My first official job was at university. I worked for exactly the minimum wage at the on-campus bookstore – about $6.75 an hour before taxes.

Are you a spender or saver?

More a saver. I had $100,000 in debt when I finished my Harvard master’s degree and I paid it off exactly two years after graduating. I have never purchased a new car in my life. I will only shop for clothes at outlet factory stores in the US.

What is your most cherished purchase?

I love to collect ancient maps and coins. I have a silver Alexander the Great coin, which cost me about $700.

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

Not one month – dozens. One day less than two years ago, I literally had Dh500 to my name. I was over-extended and overwhelmed. It is in that moment, when you stare into the abyss and it stares back at you, that you find out who you really are.

Where do you save?

In an Emirates NBD online savings account, with a 2.25 per cent interest rate.

Do you prefer paying by credit card or in cash?

Credit card– but I never carry a balance.

What has been your best investment?

My education. Money comes and goes, people enter and exit your life, but your education stays with you forever.

What do you most regret spending money?

One time I was visiting the Roman ruins in Baalbek, Lebanon, and I was duped into buying “authentic” ancient Greek coins found in the area for a few hundred dollars. It didn’t take long to realise Baalbek was primarily a Roman city, not Greek, so the coins were surely fake.

What financial advice would you offer your younger self?

Save, save, save: the greatest peace of mind is having money in the bank and zero debt. And own fewer things. The number one cause of unhappiness is focusing on what you don’t have – and not appreciating what you do. Everyone is always looking for a better car, a better partner, a better job, which leads to this constant state of feeling inadequate.

Do you have a plan for the future?

At some point I would like to sell my company and spend as much time with my family as possible.

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

Give it to my wife. Although I am a better earner, she is a much better money manager.

What would you raid your savings account for?

Only a conservative asset that will appreciate over the long term, or a sound investment, like my daughter’s university tuition.

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