Money & Me: ‘My doctorate has helped to increase my earnings'

Ray Tinston, director of events at Arada, says he is a strict saver and invests in property

Ray Tinston, director of events at Arada, says his biggest luxury is to find time to spend with his family. Antonie Robertson / The National
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Ray Tinston credits his time working in the UK army and a five-year stint as a chef for his project management skills.

The two careers helped to improve his discipline, dedication and focus, the 52-year-old from Yorkshire says.

Mr Tinston, who has lived in the UAE for 15 years, says he is now leveraging those skills as director of events at UAE developer Arada.

Married and a father of four, he lives in Mira, a community within Reem in Dubai. He has twin girls under the age of three, a daughter who’s at university in the UK and a son who works in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

Have you always worked in the events industry?

My background is in events management, but I've always worked for traditional venue managers. Just before the pandemic, I was offered an opportunity with Arada, which is a community developer.

I had a sense that the events market was taking a bit of a turn. People tend to work for the same three or four organisers. That's not what I wanted from my career.

Prior to that, I was running my own business, travelling a lot and using Dubai as a base. My wife wanted to start a family and said it was likely to happen only if I was in the country.

What does your job entail?

We manage the venues where we host events. We host international events such as the Olympic qualifiers for the World Skateboard Championship.

We also sponsor UAE cycling and athletes, so we have a very broad remit. We do more than 1,000 activations in a year. We also manage a cycling track in Sharjah.

I also head a business called ManBat, which is an initiative where we partner with UAE farmers. It started during the pandemic as farmers’ markets, but we now have a retail shop in Sharjah with a hydroponic farm, which we use for education and to grow fresh produce for our community, Aljada.

We expanded into food service last year, which supplies caterers and hotels.

Did wealth feature in your childhood?

One side of my family is wealthy, but humble. My mother comes from a wealthy family, but they were always very honest and hardworking. They made sure my mother made her bed and had a very normal lifestyle. She passed it on to me.

We were lucky that we had a driver, cook and cleaner, but I still had to make my own bed and cook for myself and the family.

It was very important to my parents that I was grounded. It's been a good lesson.

The other side of my family are more working class, but very similar ethos, simple, humble and hardworking.

It's the same thing with my children. They are hardworking and dedicated. They don't always make their beds, but they try.

How did you first earn?

I finished school and wasn't sure what to do. My family and school counsellors wanted me to study law, but I wanted to go to the navy. However, I ended up going to the military instead.

I came out not quite sure what I wanted to do with my career. I wasn't ready for university. So, I trained as a chef in my first job. I was 20 years old.

I did quite well as a chef. I got paid probably the equivalent at the time of about £100 ($126) a month, with accommodation included, like most hospitality careers. It was pocket money. I spent around five years doing it.

To go from the military to being a chef, there were similarities, discipline, for instance. I liked the operations, planning and it made me a good project manager. I just didn't realise it then.

It formed a lot of my behaviours for my whole career. I'm quite disciplined, dedicated and focused. It was a good place for me to start.

Any financial setbacks?

I’m quite disciplined and a saver. I'm very careful with money. My financial difficulty was when my first wife and I parted company in 2012.

We got divorced in Dubai, but she went back to the UK. She had trouble managing money and got herself into debt. My issues were to deal with the large pile of debt that she left behind and simultaneously raise two kids.

The only way I could do that was because I was working with a government entity then.

I was responsible for her debts and reached out to the 14 banks that she'd secured credit cards from. I had to go through a negotiated plan to repay the debt and it took me nine years to repay.

I had to consolidate the debt a few times. I don't like taking loans but had to do so to pay off the bigger debts.

Fortunately, in my career, you're able to earn good bonuses and so those went towards it. It was one of the reasons I went into business so that I could generate significant income to settle this debt.

It's strange to be doing this in your 40s when I was working towards retirement. It was one of the hardest things I had to go through.

What it taught me was that you have the ability to generate more revenue than you think. If anything untoward happened, I now have the strength to start over again, no matter what the circumstances are.

How do you grow your wealth?

We have some property in the family. I'm looking to invest in more UK property this year.

The rest of it is hard work, bonuses and commissions. I take lump sums of cash and put it back into property for estate building purposes.

Banks aren’t paying good interest rates anywhere in the world, so the only way to make a difference is either investing in real estate or commodities
Ray Tinston, director of events, Arada

Banks aren’t paying good interest rates anywhere in the world, so the only way to make a difference is either investing in real estate or commodities.

I'm a very, very strict saver. I am mindful that one of my older children is still in university, so I still have a lot of outgoings.

I've got young kids, but my wife has a well-paid job in communications and public relations. So, there's two high earners in the family.

Have you been wise with money?

Yes. Where I might have been a little foolish is maybe some investments that I made early on that haven’t yielded anything.

I have a plot of land on the coast, for example, which I bought with my first bonus. I never bothered to develop it. If I had developed it at the time, it would have been cheaper. But I wasn't in a position to do it. If I develop it now, the development costs are so high that there'd only be a marginal return.

What has been your best investment?

My wisest investment has been on my education. I thought there was a gap in my education and decided to pursue a doctorate during the pandemic.

I studied artificial intelligence and behavioural science language and how it’s applied to tourism marketing.

It’s paying dividends already. It’s opened so many doors for me and helped to increase my earnings.

Usually, my investments are on my children’s education or improving people's lives around me. It was the first time in many years that I've made a selfish decision.

That investment has been good for my kids, my team and my peers because I've inspired them to study, too.

Do you have any cherished purchases?

I bought a gold tie pin many years ago using my entire second paycheque.

I still have it. It's probably worth a lot of money now, but describes me well. I'm quite sentimental.

Any financial advice for your younger self?

Yes, buy and build property with every penny you have before you get married.

I'd invest in buying more land, building and borrowing, pouring money to set myself up.

Do you have any key financial milestones?

I bought my first properties very early. I'm very proud of investments I made in my thirties.

My only regret is I didn't hold on to them.

What are your financial goals?

My wife and I are trying to set up an estate, which we can put into trust for the kids.

I would like to semi-retire, probably by 62. I don’t want to fully retire.

But I would like to have estates or family estates set up.

I would have retired probably at the age of 45 had I not divorced.

What luxuries are important to you?

Time. I think you're a wealthy person if you have time, time to spend with your family and have leisure.

How do you feel about money?

I’m not fixated on money. I’m more interested in what money can do to bring you the things that you want. Money is a tool – not the goal.

Updated: March 01, 2024, 6:02 PM