My Dubai Salary: ‘I earn Dh240,000 a year as a marketing manager’

Jayani Samarakkody moved to the UAE from Sri Lanka to improve her career prospects

Jayani Samarakkody, head of marketing at a furniture manufacturing company in Dubai, saves between 40 per cent to 50 per cent of her monthly salary. Photo: Jayani Samarakkody
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Jayani Samarakkody is the head of marketing for a Dubai-based furniture manufacturing and fitting company, where she has worked for more than a year.

Ms Samarakkody specialises in marketing and communications, public relations and reputation management.

Hailing from the Sri Lankan city of Kandy, Ms Samarakkody, 32, has a degree in international business management from Teesside University in the UK.

She lives in Al Barsha, Dubai. Her father runs an electronics services business and mother is a homemaker. She has a younger sister, who lives in Sri Lanka.

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

I started my career as a trainee banking assistant in 2010. That was my first exposure to the corporate world and I earned a monthly salary of 18,000 Sri Lankan rupees ($55).

But I recognised my passion for branding and marketing and shifted to an information technology company as a marketing manager with a salary of 150,000 rupees.

After that, I joined an e-commerce business and later worked with two advertising agencies. Then I decided to move to Dubai.

What prompted you to move to Dubai?

I moved here one and half years ago because of the economic crisis in Sri Lanka and to explore the opportunities in Dubai.

I had undertaken consultation work for brands in Dubai and realised that this is a city of massive opportunities. I thought this city could be the next step in my career.

Also, my income was taxed in Sri Lanka, but you enjoy tax-free income here.

What was your first job in the UAE?

I worked with an advertising agency for a very short period. Later, I joined my current employer.

My job hunt was easy because I had done some research on the local market before coming here.

I attested my degree certificate, got my CV done professionally and did some networking. All this helped me to secure a job in the UAE.

What’s your current salary?

I earn Dh240,000 ($65,350) per year.

Is this a considerable increase compared with what you earned in Sri Lanka?

You cannot compare salaries in the UAE to what you can earn in Sri Lanka because it’s like comparing apples to oranges.

The cost of living massively increased in Sri Lanka after 2021.

Do you save every month?

I save between 40 per cent and 50 per cent of my monthly salary.

What asset classes do you invest in?

I invested in a few stocks on an ad hoc basis earlier, but nothing concrete. That’s on my to-do list.

I want to invest in real estate in the UAE as well as in my home country.

I have just started thinking of investing now. Since I am in my early 30s, I think this is the right time to manage my finances better.

What are your biggest expenses every month?

I spend a lot on taxi fares because I have a nerve condition that does not allow me to drive or walk a long distance. My condition is called CMT, it damages the peripheral nerves and mostly affects the legs and hands.

I have to be on medication all my life since my condition is not curable. It doesn’t affect my work but is an added expenditure.

The cost of my medication is not covered by insurance, and I spend about Dh1,500 each month for my prescribed medication. In Sri Lanka, it cost only one-third of this.

Corporates can do more for inclusivity. A condition like mine is not spoken of because it’s an invisible disability.

I also splurge on clothes and make-up, but not on a monthly basis.

Do you have an emergency fund?

Yes, I have saved some money for emergencies because you never know what lies ahead.

This is parked in fixed deposits in Sri Lanka as well as in a savings account in the UAE. This money can sustain me for six months.

Have you started saving for retirement?

I would like to retire in my fifties or sixties. I want to own a business and have the freedom to do what I like.

I haven’t yet started saving purposefully for my retirement, but hope to do so in 2024.

Do you have any debt?

I have a credit card. I don’t pay off my credit card dues in full every month, but I don’t only pay the minimum amount either, it’s somewhere in between.

I use the credit card mainly for big purchases or if I can get a discount. I feel credit cards offer great discounts and interest-free schemes.

I also use my credit card for subscriptions like Netflix and to pay off my phone bill.

Have you ever inherited money?

Not as yet. My parents have property, but I haven’t inherited anything yet. Maybe in the future.

I come from a middle-class family in Sri Lanka. My parents invested in my education and if I need any financial help now, they support me.

Were you taught how to handle finances as a child?

My mother always stressed the importance of being financially independent and stable. She also reiterated the need to have a retirement plan and that’s how I started thinking about it.

My father focused on the importance of financial management and he is big on budgeting. That has really inspired me.

But my school did not teach me money management.

How do you budget your salary?

As soon as I get my salary, I pay off all my bills. I am not the best at budgeting, but mentally allocate specific amounts on different things I want to do each month and try to stick to it.

I also look at loyalty programmes, offers and try to buy in bulk to save money.

Are you finding it difficult to deal with the rising cost of living?

Yes. But when I was in Sri Lanka, inflation skyrocketed and there was a scarcity of products like fuel and I experienced it acutely. So, it was very difficult to maintain a good lifestyle.

I don’t feel the pinch as much here.

Have you experienced any financial hardship?

I am occasionally very impulsive with shopping. It’s far less now, but a few years ago, I ended up going overboard sometimes. This put me in a spot.

I have never experienced a major financial difficulty or went bankrupt because of it but I would have to tighten my spending for a few months to offset the impact of this behaviour.

It used to disrupt my mental peace, but I’ve learnt not to do it now.

Do you worry about money?

I do. Compared with our parents, who managed to buy real estate and make investments, what we can do with money is much less in scope.

I also worry about money because life is so unpredictable.

My short-term goals include buying an apartment in the UAE and having enough money for financial freedom
Jayani Samarakkody, head of marketing, furniture manufacturing and fitout company

What are your strategies for saving money?

Budgeting is so important: it can either be in your head, write it down or the follow the cash-stuffing method.

With access to social media, you have so many inspiring ideas to budget your money.

Use discounts, but don’t buy something unnecessary just because it is on sale. When it comes to making necessary purchases, be it clothing or groceries, make use of discounts, bulk offers, loyalty programmes and credit card perks.

If you are saving, try to go in for high-interest saving accounts or money market accounts. Check with your bank on how you can get the best returns for your money.

Also, try to pay off your debt in full.

What are your financial goals?

I want to build a successful business in the long term.

My short-term goals include buying an apartment in the UAE and having enough money for financial freedom. I want to be able to afford my lifestyle and travel.

What is your idea of financial freedom?

Having the financial ease to do what you want without any worries.

I want to have enough liquid cash, savings and investments so I don’t have to worry.

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Updated: December 12, 2023, 5:00 AM