My Dubai Salary: ‘I earn about Dh300 a day in insurance’

Reema Bhatia invests in global stocks and gold and has an emergency fund in place

Reema Bhatia, an insurance professional, spends her disposable income on personal grooming and fitness. Leslie Pableo for The National
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Reema Bhatia has always been fiercely independent. This is what prompted her to accept a job as a call centre executive in the Indian city of Mumbai while pursuing her college degree.

The 35-year-old Indian, who’s been in the UAE for 15 years, still works hard to build assets and an investment portfolio to avoid being financially dependent on anyone in the future.

Ms Bhatia, who is single and lives in Business Bay, Dubai, currently works as an insurance professional.

She has a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Mumbai.

An only child, Ms Bhatia supports her family, including her father, a retired engineer, and mother, a homemaker.

What was your first job?

My first job in India was a call centre salesperson in 2005-2006, while I was doing my college simultaneously.

I didn’t want to take money from my family. I was earning around 80,000 to 90,000 Indian rupees ($1,085) a month.

I had relatives in Dubai and was curious to see the city, so I moved here.

I was only 20 and didn’t think I would stay here for long. Even my certificates were not attested then.

My first job in Dubai was as a customer service executive in a motor driving school. My salary was around Dh1,300 ($354).

I was in charge of registering customers. I did this job for one-and-a-half years but wasn’t happy.

So, I started taking exams to upskill myself. I did a certification in human resources and shifted my career from customer service to HR.

I worked as an HR specialist with oil and gas companies and multinational firms. Later, I switched to insurance.

My current job is my second role in the insurance industry. Previously, I worked with an insurance broker.

What is your current salary?

I have been working with this insurance company for about three years. I earn about Dh300 a day.

Do you manage to save?

I used to have more savings earlier, but now it’s getting very difficult because I need to support my family in India, pay my house rent in Dubai and take care of other expenses, too.

However, I still manage to save an amount at the end of the month because it's difficult to sustain a lifestyle in Dubai without having a financial buffer.

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What asset classes do you invest in?

I have invested in global stock markets through a broker in India. If I have a do-it-yourself approach, I could mess it up, make mistakes or choose wrong stocks.

I have been doing this for two years. But I did not have a good experience with a stockbroker in Dubai. I lost money, but no regrets.

One needs patience and must stay invested in stocks for the long term.

I adopt a medium-risk approach for stock investing because I don’t have a financial backup.

I also plan to buy an apartment in Dubai because this is where I see my future. Currently, I am trying to gather the funds and save money towards this goal.

I have also been consistently saving money in fixed deposits in India and in the UAE.

Whenever I have extra savings or if the gold price is attractive, I buy gold bars or gold jewellery.

Do you have any debt?

I have a personal loan which I took out to buy a property in Dubai. I use my credit card for limited expenses and for emergencies only.

I pay off my credit card in full every month. I’m pretty good at managing my money.

Growing up, were you taught how to handle finances?

Coming from a middle-class family, it was a hand-to-mouth existence after paying all household expenses.

From my childhood, I had seen my parents allocate money for different expenses and this taught me to manage my finances.

My dad used to jot down all monthly expenses in a notebook, and this habit was inculcated in me. Now I manage my monthly budget in an Excel sheet.

What are your major monthly expenses?

My major monthly expenses amount to between Dh7,000 and Dh8,000.

This covers my personal loan deduction, house rent, water, electricity, air conditioning, grocery, fitness, meeting friends and other personal expenses.

What do you spend your disposable income on?

I spend it on my personal grooming and fitness because I’m in an industry where people look up to me. Looking good increases my self-confidence.

I also spend on shopping on a nominal basis.

How do you budget your salary?

My personal loan is automatically debited every month. Using my Excel sheet, I know what amount will be deducted for all expenses and treat the balance as if it does not exist at all.

I try to save between Dh3,000 and Dh4,000 each month. I want to save money for emergencies rather than asking anyone for financial help.

What are your best money saving hacks?

I always set aside money for shopping when I go to India because the quality and variety of clothes there are very good.

For groceries, I don't do online shopping and instead visit different supermarkets in Dubai to compare prices and find good deals.

I also avoid eating at night because I follow intermittent fasting. This helps me save money by cutting down on food expenses and going out on weekdays.

Do you have an emergency fund?

Yes, I do and it can sustain me for six months.

Have you started saving for retirement?

I have not thought about retirement or started saving for it. That's why I’m trying to build my assets.

But I don't want to retire because I look forward to going to work, managing my business and website, dealing with clients, my social life, and so on.

I would like to work till I die because I don't want to be dependent on anyone.

Do you worry about money?

I worry about money because I want to get to a stage in life where I can lead a high-end lifestyle.

I am concerned whether I will have enough money tomorrow, so I don't need to borrow from someone to get the lifestyle I aim for.

What are your financial goals?

I want to change my job and earn double what I'm making right now.

I want to earn at least Dh50,000 per month, including commissions, so that I can manage my expenses well and not have to worry about tomorrow.

What is your idea of financial freedom?

Being debt-free. I want to feel secure knowing that I have enough money and not think twice before buying high-end jewellery or Gucci, for instance.

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Updated: March 05, 2024, 1:34 PM