My Dubai Salary: ‘I earn Dh220,000 a year as HR and operations manager’

Arpita Tiwari started working at the age of 17 and invests in fixed deposits, gold, shares and Bitcoin

Arpita Tiwari says her monthly expenses account for 60 per cent of her salary. Antonie Robertson / The National
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Arpita Tiwari, 35, has been working as a human resources and operations manager for a manpower services company in the UAE for five months.

The Indian, who’s been in the UAE for nearly five years, lives in Discovery Gardens, Dubai.

She’s the breadwinner in her family after her father passed away a year and a half ago.

Ms Tiwari, a computer science graduate, has two siblings and supports her mother and brother financially, while her sister works as a computer engineer in Pune, India.

Her father was a government employee and her mum is involved in social services and politics.

Ms Tiwari’s family is based in the city of Indore in Madhya Pradesh.

What is your yearly salary?

My yearly salary is around Dh220,000 ($59,904).

Why did you move to the UAE?

I have been an HR professional for the past 17 years. In India, I worked with business consulting firms such as AT Kearney, KPMG and Boston Consulting Group.

In India, I specialised in compensation and benefits, rewards and payroll and when I moved to the UAE, I started handling everything that HR covers.

I first came to the UAE in 2014. I always liked the country because of its safety and proximity to India.

I moved to Dubai in 2018 when I was working for a start-up, which had a presence in India and the UAE. I was heading their HR and operations for India and the UAE, so I used to travel here every three months.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, I lost my second job in Dubai with a jewellery retailer and was unemployed for eight months.

I upskilled myself by doing courses and certifications relevant to my skills.

I had savings to sustain myself and secured a job after eight months with a tech start-up. After a year and a half, I got a job as HR project manager with a UAE telecom company.

Did you increase your salary when you moved to the UAE?

When I moved here, I first wanted to get a foothold in the market. With time and local experience, I knew I could negotiate for a salary increase.

I found that if you don’t have UAE job experience, it’d be a struggle. My first salary here was Dh10,000 a month.

What was your first job and how much did you earn?

In 2005, I started working for an international call centre after grade 12. I was on the graveyard shift and doing my college along with it.

My salary was 8,000 Indian rupees ($96) and I was 17 years old.

How do you budget your salary?

I keep track of my major monthly expenses, such as rent, travel, utilities, food and miscellaneous stuff.

From what’s remaining, I send around 20 per cent to 30 per cent to support my family and the rest goes towards savings.

My monthly expenses account for 60 per cent to 65 per cent of my salary. I save 40 per cent of my salary every month.

I always try to leave 10 per cent of my monthly salary in my account, so that I can cope if any emergency comes up. I invest the remaining 30 per cent to 35 per cent.

Where do you invest?

I have invested in different asset classes over the years. I always try to allocate at least 200,000 rupees to 300,000 rupees every year towards fixed deposits. This was how I first started saving money in 2014.

My boyfriend is more well-versed about stock market investing, so we have invested in Bitcoin and gold stocks. During Covid and post-Covid, we made amazing returns.

I mostly invest in stocks for the long term. Sometimes, when my boyfriend suggests that we trade on a daily basis because some stocks are fluctuating, we get good returns.

In July, I purchased a three-bedroom apartment in Indore for 13 million rupees using all the profits from these investments and savings from my fixed deposits. The property is rented out and the rent covers my home loan instalment each month.

My next goal is to buy a property in the UAE in two to three years. I am saving towards it. I would love to buy a villa.

Have you ever inherited a sum of money?

I have not inherited money per se, but my grandmother gave me a lot of gold. Whenever my family had surplus money and the gold prices went down, we purchased bullion.

I remember my mum buying gold for my sister and me since we were kids. She said it would be useful when we get married.

I also buy and sell gold when the rates go up. I always try to buy gold coins so that whenever the rate goes up, I can sell them and reinvest that money elsewhere.

I have never asked my parents whether I will inherit any money in the future. We have some ancestral properties.

Do you have any debt?

I have taken a home loan in India to buy my property. I currently don’t have credit card debt at all.

I took on debt when I lost my job in 2020. Unfortunately, I overused my credit card as I was trying to stay on in the UAE. When I found a new job, I settled my card dues and closed the card.

I have stopped using credit cards since. Now, I pay for my expenses with my debit card. My experience inculcated the habit of spending within my means.

Were you taught about how to handle your finances?

No, I was never taught anything about managing my finances either in school or college.

I learnt what not to do from my parents’ errors. My mum’s overspending taught me to never go beyond our means.

She wanted society to see how perfect her life was and took on credit card debt. For instance, I remember my family buying a massive eight-bedroom villa, which was not necessary.

Seeing them struggle to pay for those expenses, and my father always stressed about finance, taught me to live within my means and never go overboard.

I learnt all about investing in stocks and cryptos from my best friend. Until I was 18, all my investments were in fixed deposits, gold and savings accounts.

Have you started saving for retirement?

I don’t know if I want to retire. I hate being idle. I want to work till the day I can.

I have a goal that by the age of 40, I want to have at least 2 million rupees to 2.5 million rupees saved so if anything happens, I should have that financial cushion to fall back on.

I also wish to own a house in the city I plan to retire in. If I do retire, at 40 or 60, I wish to settle down in Goa, so I’d like to buy a home there.

Do you have an emergency fund?

I usually have two months’ worth of salary in my bank account and that’s my emergency fund.

Do you worry about money?

Until now, I managed all expenses as I could spend all my money on myself and do whatever I wanted with it.

But the thought of getting married, having kids and spending money on their upbringing and education worries me.

I am worried whether I can manage kids’ costs along with my own plans.

Financial freedom is the thought of being able to enter a shop and buy whatever I like, without any worries
Arpita Tiwari, HR and operations manager, Dubai

Have you regretted buying anything recently?

I bought a Louis Vuitton purse for Dh14,000 on a whim for my birthday in 2019. I had always dreamt of buying one.

But now my philosophy is that I want to buy an expensive purse if I have 10 times its worth in my bank account.

What are your best money-saving hacks?

I’m a big spender only once or twice a year. On a daily basis, I manage to save because I don’t go out much and am mostly at home.

Even on weekends, I just want to relax, so I prefer watching a nice movie on Netflix.

I order groceries in bulk every 15 days. I try to order above Dh100 to avoid paying the delivery fees. I have also subscribed to Zomato Gold and Noon Minutes to waive delivery fees on food orders.

I also prefer to buy memberships in places like beauty salons to save money.

What are your financial goals?

My short-term goal is to buy a property in Dubai within two years. I plan to live and work here for another 10 to 15 years.

My long-term goal is to buy a property and start a restaurant in Goa, so I want to save money for that purpose.

What is your idea of financial freedom?

Financial freedom is the thought of being able to enter a shop and buy whatever I like, without any worries.

For the most part, I can do it, but sometimes it affects my savings.

Just last week, I spent much more than I should have on a gift for my boyfriend’s birthday. He is very conscious about money and doesn’t like spending money on a depreciating asset.

I wanted to give him something that would retain its value, so I gave him a big diamond and gold ring.

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Updated: November 21, 2023, 5:00 AM