My Dubai Salary: ‘I earn up to Dh60,000 a month from three jobs’

Audrey Hametner saves 15% of her monthly income and invests in UAE and Europe-based property, stocks and bonds

Audrey Hametner, founder of The Bedrock Program, has no plans to retire and sees herself continuing board service well into her 70s and 80s. Antonie Robertson / The National
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Audrey Hametner, a British-born Canadian in the UAE, currently earns a monthly income from three different jobs.

She founded a company called The Bedrock Program in 2019, works as a fractional chief operating officer for a start-up and also serves as an adjunct professor at Middlesex University Dubai.

Ms Hametner, 49, moved to the UAE with her husband, who works in software sales, and their son in 2014 and had her daughter here. Her children are aged nine and 11. The family lives on Al Qudra Road, Dubai.

She did her undergraduate education in peace and conflict studies and international business at the University of Toronto.

She completed her master’s degree at the Imperial College London and has an executive MBA in innovation and strategy.

Ms Hametner left home 20 years ago and has worked in London, Prague, Frankfurt and Dubai. She worked with brands like Publicis, Burger King and Kit Digital.

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

In Canada, everybody starts off in retail or fast food. I happened to start off in a music store called Music World. My starting salary was $7 an hour.

My first real job after that was working for the provincial government in Ontario. I was part of a team that put together media packages for politicians.

Every morning, we would wake up at 3am, get all the newspapers together, take out clippings of relevant Canadian and global news, put captions and summaries together and create a morning briefing package. It would be delivered to the offices of premiers in Ontario.

I was paid about $20 an hour.

Tell us about your current role.

I am a bit of a multifaceted person. I am the founder of a company called The Bedrock Program. We focus on helping young people who are going to make an impact on the future of work, support them to make decisions based on their core values and identify how to lead them in business, as well as in their personal lives.

We do this by working with schools, universities, businesses, in terms of graduate scheme programmes, and families to help young people directly with understanding where they want to go and how they want to live their life in the future.

I started the company in 2019 in the UAE and then expanded to the UK in 2021.

I am also a fractional chief operating officer for a start-up called Upstrive. They offer tools that schools, universities and businesses use to help understand the well-being of students and employees. The company launched in 2020.

I have also been the co-president of the Dubai chapter of Ellevate, a global women's network, for three years. We support learning and developing women’s empowerment capabilities, and also networking.

How much do you earn each month on average?

I do not get paid for my work at Elevate, I volunteer. I do get paid for the adjunct professor role at Middlesex University Dubai.

Between these three roles, it is roughly about Dh60,000 a month.

Being a start-up founder, it is important that most of the money made is re-invested into the business. It's hard to grow if you take it all out, so I pay myself very little to ensure the future of the company.

Do you save and what asset classes do you invest in?

I have always saved. One of the things that was always taught when I was young is to put aside 15 per cent of your salary every month, regardless of how much you make.

I have always done that. Between my husband and I, we were able to do that.

We have invested in property in the UAE and Europe. I have retirement savings in Canada. We also have stocks and bonds. We have a family banker who takes care of this.

We generally look at our investments every quarter, whether it needs to be topped up or we just reinvest interest.

Currently, we have rented out our property in Dubai, but we are looking to buy another home where we will live.

Do you have any debt?

We have a mortgage because we believe in leveraging. We do not have a car loan, but we do have a small credit card balance that we try to clear every month.

Have you ever inherited a sum of money?

Not yet. My family is still quite young.

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

It was not my family that taught me how to handle my finances, but I had a good friend and her father and I used to talk about money.

I was probably 14 at the time. He was very adamant about how one should put away 15 per cent of one’s income and have a rainy day fund.

I took that advice to heart and it just became logic and norm.

What are your major monthly expenses?

Besides the mortgage, we tend to put money aside to help pay for the children's schooling.

Outside of that, it is the normal things with two children. They grow out of their clothes like weeds … the cost of food. Also, because we do not live in our own home, we have to pay rent.

How do you budget your salary every month?

The first thing we do is take away the 15 per cent savings. The general rule when it comes to savings in our family is to have three months’ worth of living expenses and salaries saved.

Then we take the annual amount we need for the children's schooling, divide it by month and put that away as well.

After that, it comes down to food and the mortgage, which is paid by the rent. We also account for the rent that we pay for where we live.

Whatever is left, we budget for groceries and fun things like eating out. We generally eat out as a family twice a week and try to have experiences at least once or twice a month.

Anything that could potentially decrease the amount that we save or the amount that we have is a worry
Audrey Hametner, founder of The Bedrock Program

Do you have any money saving hacks?

Probably what my mother taught me such as to buy healthy, make your own lunches. It is little things, like we still go to Starbucks occasionally to buy a coffee, but we will brew most of it at home.

It is about being economical and trying not to be wasteful because it is so easy to be a bit laissez-faire when it comes to money, but to maintain control is the best hack.

Have you started saving for retirement?

All our savings that we have set aside are for retirement, besides the kids’ university when that time comes.

My husband plans to retire in the next seven years. I do not have plans to retire. I love what I do and can imagine myself teaching until I am as old as I can be.

I also imagine myself sitting on boards and continuing board service well into my 70s and 80s or for as long as I have my faculties.

What do you spend your disposable income on?

Dining and experiences such as staycations or things that will leave a lasting memory for the family.

We would like our children to remember the Warner Brothers theme park, staycations or desert barbecues.

Do you ever worry about money?

Yes. I think everybody does. For us, anything that could potentially decrease the amount that we save or the amount that we have is a worry.

This could be inflation or how taxation could influence life here. While we may be well-off, we are still at that level where anything major that happens could shake the foundations of what we have.

We also worry about some of our investments abroad. We worry about what is happening in Europe or Canada to make sure that what we have is not eroding.

In Europe and North America, people are having to work later because they are living longer and they do not have enough, so it is a concern.

What are your financial goals?

My ultimate financial goal would be to work for fun and not need to worry about a salary.

I would want to maintain the lifestyle I have now, but not think that I need to make a salary every time I do something that is considered work.

What is your idea of financial freedom?

When you do not worry about money and you can truly do the things you enjoy.

By the time I get to financial freedom, I should be earning more interest than I am spending so that my principal is not being eroded.

We would want to maintain a lifestyle, that is the whole idea of owning your real estate because if you are not paying rent, you are saving a lot of money.

A lot of it is going to come when the children have flown the coop.

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Updated: March 26, 2024, 8:49 AM