Money & Me: ‘Spending on experiences is more valuable than buying things’

Jakson Peters, chief financial officer of Property Finder, always keeps a buffer of two years' income saved

Jakson Peters, chief financial officer of Property Finder, always saved 30 per cent since he received his first salary. As his salary increased, he has continued with that rule. Antonie Robertson / The National
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Jakson Peters is chief financial officer at real estate portal Property Finder.

The Brazilian moved to Dubai in January 2020 from Malaysia and has more than 20 years’ experience leading financial operations and business strategy across various organisations, including DaimlerChrysler, Mondelez and Positivo Tecnologia.

Mr Peters, 48, lives in Arabian Ranches with his wife, Carolina, and their three young children.

What was your relationship with money growing up?

I grew up the middle child in a family with three children in a middle class, average family south of Sao Paolo. My father had a milk distribution company. Mother was at home until she also became an entrepreneur in clothing.

South Brazil is populated by immigrants and the mindset is to be careful; you save, avoid doing anything extravagant because tomorrow … you never know. That was the mindset in the region and the family.

We were never spoiled. We always had enough but mum would buy a school shoe bigger than my foot so I could use it for longer and my younger brother inherited my clothing.

My mother was conservative with money and father was very enthusiastic about the business, reinvesting everything. When it was down, it was hard because there were no other investors, but good times were really good because you could leverage on them. Observing how he handled that, I learnt to be more diversified.

Did you find ways to earn pocket money?

My aunt was baking cakes and things to sell. We would go around the neighbourhood and make extra cash for the weekend. It taught me where money comes from.

My first job was in 1991 delivering milk for my father. I was studying for university, finishing at 11pm. I would pick up the lorry and spend the whole night delivering to bakeries and supermarkets. The monthly salary was about $200 and I was living with my parents. The minimum wage in Brazil at that time was $50.

Giving them [children] too much comfort or financial coverage will actually work against them
Jakson Peters, chief financial officer, Property Finder

Why did you opt for a career in finance?

It was part stability, but also the challenges of working in global companies. I always liked numbers. I did not want to continue on the same path as my father – I remember his sleepless nights. So, by a bit of elimination of what I would not be good at against what I enjoy, I chose finance. It is not like accounting; you need to understand the whole business.

After Brazil and four years in Malaysia, I decided it was time to move on. Dubai is always on the radar for Brazilians – it makes sense geographically – so I kept my eyes open for opportunities here.

What is your saving strategy?

I have always saved about 30 per cent since I received my first salary. I realised it would not make any difference to my daily life and as my salary increased, I continued with that rule.

In the beginning, I was simply thinking it was the right thing to do instinctively; to have it for a future need or opportunity. I continue to be more a saver than a spender. That is part of my DNA.

Do you pass this on to your children?

I give them Dh10 per week. They can use the money the way they want but if they do not cash out, they receive Dh20 on the last weekend of the month. I want to introduce the concept of interest.

But I am a strong believer that if I save money for them, for their future, it is probably not a good thing. Giving them too much comfort or financial coverage will actually work against them. I need to make sure they receive a proper education and a good start. Then they need to go on their own and fly.

If there is a need, I need savings or investments to take care of that but it is not the intention to accumulate and make sure the children receive some.

What does your portfolio comprise?

A mix of Brazilian government bonds, stocks and property in Brazil – apartments in a good location that provide a monthly steady income.

In the beginning, I would take more risks on private (start-up) businesses, invest a little and have higher potential return, but today it is mostly stocks.

I have good and bad stories. Of three winners, one is Vale, the mining company in Brazil; Petrobras, the Brazilian oil company; also one I used to work for earlier called Sinqia, a FinTech that has been growing aggressively.

Do you keep an emergency fund?

That was my first intention when I started saving: to build a cushion. I keep two years of income saved. And I make investments that are liquid, that I can cash in easily.

What has been your most astute investment?

Education. I left Brazil to go to the US to study for my master's degree in business administration. Some people called me crazy. At that time, I was working for DaimlerChrysler. It was a steady job but I left everything.

I had a 15-year loan worth $180,000 (for the course), but a long time to pay and very low interest. The risk paid off 10 times. It opened my mind to a better understanding of how things work in the world and cultures. I was 29 and that shaped my whole life.

What do you enjoy spending on?

Travelling. We spend time, energy and money on that and it is money well spent. Sometimes restaurants. What matters is experiences, not accumulating or having things, and that has much more value.

Can money bring happiness?

Money cannot do much but a lack of money can become an issue. So, my philosophy is to treat it the right way, respect it.

In my family, it is not taboo to talk about it because we do not want to talk the day we do not have it. It is important to talk now, plan together and align.

We are at a healthy age where we are working and producing what we need and are wise enough to make sure we invest in something so we can take care of ourselves in the future.

Are you wise with money?

I always buy used cars, never buy new. I could be wiser; if you have the time and energy to spend, for instance, on the stock market – but not having enough time to follow it, I tend to become more conservative and buy more secure bets.

I have no regrets but I sometimes have this feeling I overpaid for something. We learn from everything.

Are you charitable?

When I was in Brazil, I was close to a hospital that treats children with cancer and was donating consistently, and to another association that takes care of orphans. They were from my home town.

I always feel more comfortable providing directly to the institution as I know how they are going to use the money. I knew the management of both. When you see there is an opportunity, you can make a difference and feel good about it.

What is your future financial goal?

To make sure my three children go to the university they want and study what they want. My youngest one is four, so it is going to be almost 20 years from now and that is the time to retire and rest a little, but that is my main goal.

Updated: November 18, 2021, 7:00 AM