My Dubai Salary: ‘I earn Dh15,000 a month as a part-time doctor’

Gynaecologist Dr Rajul Matkar has invested in a range of assets, including mutual funds, property and gold

Dr Rajul Matkar wants to have enough money saved for her retirement. Antonie Robertson / The National
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Dr Rajul Matkar, an obstetrician and gynaecologist, is currently working towards solidifying her investments in her home country as she aims to leave the UAE and retire in the next few years.

The 60-year-old Indian, who has been a practising doctor for nearly 35 years, is also focused on paying for her 22-year-old son’s education in London.

Ms Matkar has been in the UAE for 15 years and lives in Port Rashid, Dubai, with her husband, a surgeon.

She studied medicine at the Grant Medical College, JJ Group of Hospitals in Mumbai.

Ms Matkar had her own practice in Mumbai for 20 years before moving to Dubai.

Although Ms Matkar and her husband have separate bank accounts, he transfers his salary to her and she manages their investments.

What was your first job and salary?

I passed out of college in 1990 and started a private practice in Mumbai. I never worked for anybody and was my own boss for 20 years.

When I was an intern during 1988, we were paid 400 Indian rupees ($4.80), this went up to 1,200 rupees later. While doing my doctor of medicine degree, I was paid 2,200 rupees.

My private practice paid me between 30,000 and 50,000 rupees a month. During good months, it even went up to 150,000.

Tell us about your current role and salary

I’ve always been a specialist obstetrician and gynaecologist. My first job in Dubai was with a private hospital network and it paid me Dh23,000 ($6,262) per month.

I changed jobs a lot and worked for clinics but operated in their associated hospitals. At one time, I was drawing between Dh40,000 and Dh50,000 a month.

I would also make commissions working in hospitals, depending on the contract.

However, after Covid-19, most clinics don’t want to pay you a full salary. Instead, they ask doctors to come on an arrangement of sharing expenses. You give them a certain percentage of what you make each month.

The healthcare industry here completely depends on insurance. Also, even if people follow your work, they usually prefer to go to the closest clinic because of travelling time.

The industry is also hugely driven by marketing. If the hospital does not have a plan for marketing, it’s hard to sustain.

I was in a smaller clinic but moved to my current workplace because they wanted a part-time service only during Covid.

I also blog about food, beauty and lifestyle.

For my part-time work, the clinic pays me Dh15,000 per month for 24 hours a week. I earlier received commissions for surgical work and would make an extra Dh5,000 easily.

Do you have savings and investments?

Yes, I manage to save. I've always been very conscious about spending.

When we were working in Mumbai, we concentrated on repaying the money used to buy our apartment. We didn't have any cash savings.

My father made it very clear that it was important to invest. So, I had enrolled in the public provident fund scheme. I also tried investing in shares but did not understand it much.

But after I came to Dubai, I have managed to send back an adequate amount of money. It's not as much as I would like it to be but it is there.

I have invested in mutual funds, insurance and fixed deposits. I've just put some money in National Bonds.

I have also purchased critical care insurance. A lot of critical care illnesses like cancer are not covered by general insurance. A few years ago, I bought it for my husband and me.

The critical care insurance is linked to a life insurance. We paid a premium for seven years. We can now either use that amount if one of us has a critical illness or it will go to my son when one of us pass.

I used to buy gold a lot, not so much now. I like that it is a safe-haven asset and can be used personally, too.

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Have you purchased property here or in your home country?

I purchased a property in India in 1997. However, it’s not rented out.

I have always contemplated buying property in the UAE but there's always been something else that's more important.

Over the past four years, we’ve been focusing on my son’s education.

Do you have any debt?

Only a car loan and credit cards. I make good use of my credit cards.

I do not keep an outstanding amount during any month. I also don't spend more than the card limit and always pay on time.

Have you ever inherited a sum of money?

No, but my parents and family members helped us to buy the home in Mumbai.

I didn't have to approach a bank to take money because my father didn’t like the idea of paying interest.

However, we paid interest when we had to set up our nursing homes in India.

We have now paid back all the money.

Growing up, were you taught how to handle your finances?

I was always given pocket money but we were not taught about banking. My father, who was a surgeon, handled it on our behalf.

We were too laid-back to ask him how to do it, which was a mistake. I have not done the same with my son.

I've made sure he's been involved in everything I do since he was nine years old.

What are your major monthly expenses?

House rent in Dubai and my son's education. We are not big spenders.

How do you budget your salary?

I always try to save 20 per cent of my monthly earnings. Because I put in money for rent, credit cards and travel twice a year, whatever I save gets used up.

I don’t go crazy with spending but don’t deprive myself either if I want new clothes or Pandora jewellery, for instance.

What are your best money-saving hacks to offset inflation?

I had a strategy when I was saving money for my son's education. I didn't send the money to India.

With a falling rupee and inflation, the value of that money would have been eroded so I kept it in the UAE.

I don’t dip into my savings in India and pay for everything with what we earn here.

My idea is to grow that fund corpus through my stock market investments, fixed deposits and insurance-linked payments.

What do you spend your disposable income on?

On holidays, jewellery and buying my son what he likes.

Have you started saving for retirement?

I would have liked to retire at 65 but don’t think I want to stop working till I die.

I don’t think I can sit idle at home. That’s why I have been blogging about food, beauty and lifestyle over the past 10 years.

All my investments are to support my retirement. I don’t want to dip in to those funds for my son’s education.

He finishes his degree next year. I’d like to work for three more years. My son doesn’t want us to support him financially for his master’s degree.

Do you have an emergency fund?

Sort of. It’s saved in the UAE and India and can sustain me for at least six months.

I always try to save 20% of my monthly earnings
Dr Rajul Matkar, obstetrician and gynaecologist

Do you worry about money?

I worry about not getting my salary on time or not being able to earn enough to sustain ourselves in Dubai.

I also worry whether a sudden illness could take away a chunk of our savings.

What are your financial goals?

Building my investments in India because we plan to go back in two years.

The goal is to build that corpus so that I don’t have to work and depend on anyone when we go back.

I need to have enough money saved to live off it and even take a holiday occasionally.

What is your idea of financial freedom?

To be able to buy something without depending on someone or having to take their permission.

If I’m ill, I also need to have enough money to not depend on others.

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Updated: March 12, 2024, 5:00 AM