Arpan Ghosh, an Indian in Dubai, works as a communications manager for a luxury real estate broker.
He was raised in Dubai and has been in the UAE for more than 30 years. He did his bachelor's and master's degrees in electrical engineering at Pennsylvania State University in the US.
Mr Ghosh’s first job was as a lab assistant in university at the age of 20. He got his first proper job in sales in Dubai at the age of 25 and his first writing job when he was 29 for an events company.
Mr Ghosh, 39, lives in Dubai Production City with his father, aged 83, who he sponsors.
What’s your annual salary?
I earn an annual salary in the range of Dh150,000 ($40,844) to Dh160,000 on average.
How much are your investments worth?
I have personal savings worth upwards of Dh50,000. I also have a life insurance and investment scheme that I started earlier this year. So, every month $550 gets invested automatically. I have been doing this for six months and the scheme will mature after 15 years. An insurance broker was referred to me.
I want to build up my savings a bit more but am contemplating investing in a property in Dubai in the next two years. But I will monitor how prices go.
Going forward, I had some plans to invest in exchange-traded funds. I want to invest in these low-risk investments for the long term. I will have those set up probably before the end of the year.
Have you started saving for retirement and do you have an emergency fund?
So, the insurance investment scheme will contribute to my retirement savings.
The emergency fund right now is what I have got saved in my bank and the insurance schemes. I have been told that I can withdraw some money in an emergency.
Do you have any kind of debt?
Thankfully, I do not have major debt. I have to make monthly repayments, but they are not overdrawn. I try to repay all my cards in full for the most part.
I have got a couple of different cards. I repay two of those cards in full every month. There is another card where I pay more than the minimum amount every month, but not in full.
Growing up, were you taught how to handle money?
Not exactly. Growing up, finances – for the most part – were managed by my parents. They would just allocate me money as and when needed. That is probably the closest to any kind of financial management that I learnt as a kid.
I was in the US for university. I was on my own and doing things by myself and kind of picked up how to manage finances. It was just so I could manage month to month.
Once I started working in the UAE, that is when I started to realise the need to figure out how to properly manage my finances so that I did not just stay afloat but was in a comfortable position.
I reached out to my brother who works in marketing and finance and has good knowledge of it. I also got advice from colleagues who are experienced in financial management and worked out how to deal with money.
What accounts for the most part of your monthly expenses?
For me, the biggest chunk of my monthly expenses would be on house rent, followed by groceries. I currently spend Dh11,000 on rent every quarter. I spend less than Dh1,500 on utilities every month. This includes charges for electricity, cooling and internet.
Credit card expenses are not very high. I set aside about Dh2,000 every month for personal spending on going out, eating and any other purchases. I try to stick to a budget so I do not overspend.
Are you a saver or a spender?
I try to be a saver. But sometimes, I mismanage and underestimate how much I am going to spend.
For the most part, I try not to spend frivolously. I go out to eat a couple of times a month, not everyday or every week. I don’t go around spending on new shoes or a new watch. I reserve such spending for special occasions. I try to save and build up a reserve as much as I can.
Do you find it difficult to budget your salary with the rising cost of living?
Every month, as a baseline, I set aside money that is going towards rent and do not touch that amount at all. I have a monthly budget for groceries and stay within that limit. I set aside some money for my own spending, so I apportion my earnings into different segments that are used for different purposes.
That is becoming a bit tighter now, so I have to be very, very strict on staying within budget because of inflation. For example, the amount I set aside for my own spending does not buy me what it did, say two years ago.
Do you have any money-saving tips to offset inflation?
In terms of hacks, the only one I use is to look for deals whenever I go shopping. For instance, supermarkets will offer four bags of rice at a discount – that will help your grocery supplies last a longer time.
What do you spend your disposable income on?
I am a comic book and pop culture nerd. My disposable income is usually spent on either buying books, art supplies, art materials, video games and eating out.
Do you worry about money?
Money worries pop up from time to time. For instance, I had a period of unemployment this year. I changed jobs and there was a brief period where I hoped to find something that offered me the same salary that I was drawing earlier, otherwise it could get tricky. Fortunately, I have managed to stay on my feet so far.
My biggest money concern right now is rising rent because that will affect all other spending calculations.
Do you earn any passive income?
Currently, I do not. However, I am looking at some content-creation ideas on social media by the end of the year to generate passive income.
The only thing close to passive income right now is the investments that I have set up with the insurance company. But that is something I won’t be able to avail of until the term expires.
What are your financial goals?
In the short term, I would like to save a certain amount within the next year. I set myself annual saving targets. For this year, the goal was to save Dh50,000, which I have. But that will be affected to some extent by rising rents.
I am shifting apartments and will have a new lease in place at a higher rent. Some of that will have to come out of my savings. So, I will have to make that up by the end of the year.
In the long term, I would like to have a broad spectrum of low-risk investments. I would like to generate a reasonable income stream from different sources, such as ETFs.
I have a couple of friends who are seasoned investors. They will advise me as I go along to see what else I could expand into.
At what age do you aim to retire?
Ideally, by around 70, going by how things are currently. It really depends on how well my goals pan out.
I will need to take stock every five years of where I am and where I need to be.
What is your idea of financial freedom?
For me, financial freedom is not having to worry about the next pay cheque and some of the big expenses. For instance, my father went through a few health issues this year and we had to cover that. Fortunately, my brother lives here and he is able to help.
I would like to be in a position where I do not have to worry about where the money for such unexpected events is going to come from. Having a big pot to dip into is what I need.
At the moment, that is a little bit of a pipe dream. But hopefully, I can work towards that.
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