Aspiring savers have long sought guidance by turning to professional advisers to curate their future wealth planning. But plenty have also peppered the journey to financial literacy through the shared wisdom of the written word.
Numerous relevant book titles are out there, seeking to inform and coach those coveting more fiscal freedom and a self-driven strategy of money management.
Among those regularly featuring on the reading list of UAE residents are jargon-busting books by Andrew Hallam, the high school teacher who built himself a million-dollar portfolio.
His down-to-earth tome Millionaire Expat: How To Build Wealth Living Overseas, the follow-up to previous releases The Global Expatriate’s Guide To Investing and Millionaire Teacher, continues to be a bestseller.
Many retail investors drawn to stock market activity cite the index fund enthusiasm of Taylor Larimore’s brief but informative The Bogleheads’ Guide to the Three-Fund Portfolio, based on the philosophy of investor and Vanguard Group founder Jack Bogle.
Andrew Henderson’s direct if sprawlingly-titled Nomad Capitalist: How To Reclaim Your Freedom with Offshore Bank Accounts, Dual Citizenship, Foreign Companies and Overseas Investments is also a big hit.
So what pages have those in the business of creating revenue or guiding others to do better turned while seeking inspiration?
The National asked four UAE-based entrepreneurs and mentors about the authors and literary efforts that have helped to mould and guide their attitude towards wealth creation and cash management.
Hanane Benkhallouk, 45, is an entrepreneur, executive director of Sustain Leadership Consultancy, and founder of Tawazoun, a collaborative think tank that engages men and women in the discussion of how we can advance the gender balance agenda.
She read Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki in 2002 as a new MBA graduate in New York City while “trying to figure out the right career path to financial success”.
“The book was just a few years old, it was making headlines,” Ms Benkhallouk says.
“Its principles resonated with me as I knew since an early age that I wasn’t aspiring for a lifetime career that involves working hard until retirement to only make ends meet.”
The lesson from the book for her wasn’t so much about learning how to be “rich”, but understanding that there is a difference between being broke and poor, says Ms Benkhallouk, a Moroccan-American living in Dubai.
“We can be temporarily broke, but being broke could be eternal because it is about the relationship you have with money, meaning it is not about how much you make, but how much you keep,” she says.
“I also learned that everyone should be financially literate enough to plan to have money work for them, instead of eternally working for money.
“Those principles accelerated my quest towards entrepreneurship and set a foundation for me at an early stage to believe in diversification of sources of income and to also understand that wealth is a person’s ability to survive so many number of days forward.
“In other words, if I stopped working today, how long could I survive? Which also meant understanding the game of assets and liabilities.”
“I adhere to the principles with a focus on maximising passive income from my activities,” Ms Benkhallouk says.
Evan Le Clus, 52, is a Dubai-based Australian finance and operations professional, author and business mentor for small and medium-sized enterprises, where his forte is enabling chief executives to become financially astute.
Together with entrepreneur and business scaling-up coach Warsha Joshi, he just published Dare To Scale: How To Grow Your Business Gracefully (Amazon, Dh78), a book for founders and entrepreneurs “who dream big”.
Mr Le Clus identifies several authors and books that have influenced him, the main ones being Making Money Made Simple! by Noel Whittaker, George S. Clason’s The Richest Man In Babylon and Cashflow Quadrant by Robert Kiyosaki.
He first read these books more than 30 years ago because “I was eager, as most young people are, to make money”, he says.
“My family never really spoke about financial literacy and by the time I was at university, I had unconsciously made the decision to find out more about the subject."
His first two choices contained “sound personal wealth accumulation ideas” and both focus on the need to be “methodical and disciplined and to get your mindset right … those lessons still serve well today”, he says.
Cashflow Quadrant followed Kiyosaki’s better-known Rich Dad, Poor Dad and did a “great job of expanding my personal wealth accretion ideas into the business space”, Mr Le Clus says. “Importantly, the book helped mature my thinking into more of how an entrepreneur approaches money and views economic opportunities.
“All three books helped instill the practices of discipline and delayed gratification in me.”
Other key lessons include paying yourself first – namely save/invest and “get money working for you”, monitor closely what you spend and only use good debt, such as “financing that helps you generate positive cashflow."
“I still use these lessons to this day,” says Mr Le Clus, who previously held roles with Meraas and Hilton.
Alyssa Mariano, 30, is co-founder of Bazaara, a mobile-first, peer-to-peer marketplace app enabling people to buy/sell pre-owned clothes, accessories and home goods.
She names Tales From The Glass Ceiling by Jo Haigh as impactful on her financial outlook.
It was a book she read when she graduated from university and was working her first year in the corporate world in New York.
“A woman who was in a top leadership position within the marketing department had this book in her office and suggested I read it,” Ms Mariano says.
“While it’s more focused on teachings for women in business, there are a lot of useful tips that can be applied to money and saving.”
The author bases the content on her own experiences of climbing the corporate ladder to the top, as well as on interviews with more than 100 women at the top of their respective fields, she says.
“She writes about the unique challenges women may have to endure and overcome to get to senior leadership roles as a female … gives actionable and practical tips to help climb the ladder faster towards and through the glass ceiling, while including tips about how to more effectively manage your money and savings.”
“Reading it gave me the inspiration to get serious and take control of my money and professional goals,” Ms Mariano, an American based in Dubai, says.
“That’s when I not only began saving, but also started investing and creating my own business plans. This book was a serious inspiration for me.”
Soniyaa Kiran Punjabi, 37, is the founder of Illuminations Well-Being Centre, which has venues in Dubai and Abu Dhabi for holistic healing, mental well-being and personal growth.
She cites The Richest Man in Babylon as “invaluable to me”, but also names Tony Robbins’ Unshakeable: Your Guide To Financial Freedom as inspirational.
“Most people feel that they don’t have the liberty to save money due to their salary bracket,” Ms Punjabi, an Indian born in South Korea, says.
“Or they feel they have limited knowledge about investing in stocks and real estate. Hence they shy away and tend not to focus on saving, growing, investing their money.”
Robbins helps you “break these limiting beliefs by highlighting how a shift in mindset, actionable habits, discipline and small steps can lead anyone to the financial freedom they desire”, Ms Punjabi says.
“I’ve come across so many smart, well-educated people, men and women who surprisingly have not cultivated the habit of managing their money well.”
Ms Punjabi recommends the book to anyone who is interested in saving, investing and growing their wealth “so they can experience true financial freedom a lot easier and more effortlessly than they think”.
“Luckily, I was already saving, investing and diversifying my investments, but the book provided me further insight, a more focused approach and validated what I was already doing.
“So many people are focused on making money, but managing money is essential for the sustainability of wealth,” she says.
On a practical level, Ms Punjabi says she realised an investment bank was charging her huge transaction fees for trades, and the book prompted her to negotiate.
“It also taught me to remain calm and have faith that when the markets fall, as they did during Covid-19, it is not a time to fear but instead approach a fall as another opportunity to invest and grow,” she says.
Most recommended personal finance books
- Millionaire Expat: How To Build Wealth Living Overseas, The Global Expatriate’s Guide To Investing and Millionaire Teacher by Andrew Hallam
- The Bogleheads’ Guide to the Three-Fund Portfolio by Taylor Larimore
- Nomad Capitalist: How To Reclaim Your Freedom with Offshore Bank Accounts, Dual Citizenship, Foreign Companies and Overseas Investments by Andrew Henderson
- Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki
- Making Money Made Simple! by Noel Whittaker
- The Richest Man In Babylon by George S. Clason
- Cashflow Quadrant by Robert Kiyosaki
- Tales From The Glass Ceiling by Jo Haigh
- Unshakeable: Your Guide To Financial Freedom by Tony Robbins