Money & Me: The National columnist Keren Bobker enjoys freedom with flexibility

Money expert Keren Bobker fully understands the importance of investing for the future, but she says her best investment has been a painting by Tony Curtis she bought just before he died.
Keren Bobker bought a signed painting by actor Tony Curtis for US$700; it is worth around $2,500 now. Satish Kumar / The National
Keren Bobker bought a signed painting by actor Tony Curtis for US$700; it is worth around $2,500 now. Satish Kumar / The National

Keren Bobker is a senior consultant of the financial advisory company Holborn Assets. The Briton, 49, who moved to the UAE 10 years ago, is also The National’s On Your Side columnist, writing almost 400 columns for the Money section over the past seven-and-a-half years.

How did your upbringing shape your attitude towards money?

My parents are fairly sensible with money, so I was taught to save before spending. They certainly weren’t mean though, so sensible pur­chases that were either needed or brought pleasure were fine, provided they were affordable. I was also taught that it’s important to be generous to those in need and that money is good to have, but it’s a means to an end rather than a goal itself. That’s pretty much my attitude these days.

How much did you get paid for your first job?

I did a lot of babysitting in my teens which was quite lucrative, paying up to £10 (Dh53) an evening. My first full-time job was with an insurance com­pany; I was paid around £5,000 a year. It was a long time ago.

Are you spender or saver?

These days I am much more of a saver, but I am certainly not averse to spending on things I like or want. I am not much of a shopper, so that reduces random spending and I apparently shop like a man in that I go to stores with a purpose and leave when I find what I want. It’s a different story at a farmers’ or antique market though.

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

I had a few of them in my 20s, when UK mortgage rates were in double figures and my income wasn’t very high. Not a feeling I ever want to have again.

Where do you save your money?

I keep a significant amount in cash offshore due to the uncertainly of being largely self-employed and general global volatility. The majority of my money is invested in equities. Due to my work I understand the risks and how to manage it. I don’t currently own any property as I sold my UK house and still haven’t decided where I want to end up. I save so I’ll be able to buy a home for cash – once I decide.

Do you prefer paying by credit card or in cash?

I like cold, hard cash as it seems more real, but these days I tend to put much of my spending on my credit card. It is paid off in full automatically each month and I benefit from a reward scheme. I never build up balances on cards as there is no need to pay interest unnecessarily, but they are a useful tool.

What has been your best investment?

In terms of percentage return, possibly a signed painting by the late actor Tony Curtis that I bought shortly before he died. I paid US$700 including shipping in 2010 and it is estimated to be worth around $2,500 now.

What do you most regret spending money on and how much was it?

A Victorian house I bought many, many years ago. Property prices fell across the UK and I had an old house that needed a lot of work. I paid around £80,000 for it but made little profit when I sold it on a few years later. I should have rented, especially as I was only in my early 20s.

What financial advice would you offer your younger self?

Waste less money on clothes and don’t buy them using credit cards, as they end up costing more.

Do you have a plan for the future?

Yes, but it is very flexible. I have a rough idea of what I want to achieve and how to do it, but I don’t like my life to be too fixed. I work with people every day to plan for the future and there is more to it than having a five-year written plan.

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

I’d invest most of it but I would probably treat myself to a diamond tennis bracelet. I’ve fancied one for years but am far too sensible to buy one. I’d also pay for my brother and his family to fly from the US to stay with me for a holiday.

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Published: May 13, 2016 04:00 AM


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