Money & Me: ‘I invest in Montblanc pens’

Philippe Mathijs, founder of Reach Outstanding, occasionally treats himself to luxury purchases after hitting savings goals

Executive coach Philippe Mathijs has invested in properties in the UAE and England. Victor Besa / The National
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Philippe Mathijs, founder of executive and business coaching service Reach Outstanding, recently quit his 30-year corporate career in investment banking and financial services to pursue his passion.

The Belgian national, 53, now works as an executive coach and leadership adviser and consultant. He’s been in the UAE for 10 years.

“About 10 years ago, I started realising that people are increasingly coming to me for advice. The more senior I became, the more people were seeking me out for advice,” Mr Mathijs recalls.

“At some point, I realised that I should do it properly and become a coach. I trained with both Tony Robbins and the International Coaching Federation to become an accredited coach.

“For 10 years, I did both jobs [coaching during the night and weekends] to help with the transition.”

He quit his corporate life at the end of 2023 and took up coaching full time, after working for companies including JP Morgan Chase, the Bank of America, Hewlett-Packard, UBS and Barclays.

In the UAE, he worked with Network International, Wirecard and Delma Exchange.

He studied architecture for four years to become an architect and pursued a bachelor’s degree in information technology.

However, he soon realised that architecture was a networking-based profession in Belgium. Since he knew no one in that network, he found it extremely difficult and decided to move to London to do his MBA instead. He was in London for 20 years.

After living in Dubai for nine-and-a-half years, Mr Mathijs moved to Abu Dhabi seven months ago.

He now lives with his wife, who is originally from England with a Punjabi background, in Mangrove Village.

How did wealth feature in your childhood?

My parents were teachers. As teachers, money was not as opulent as other professions.

What it taught me from the beginning is the importance of hard work and that if you keep at it, no matter what obstacles you have, you will ultimately reach your goal.

How did you first earn?

I was working with an architect on site in Belgium. I helped with everything from planning and he made me do the hard work like mixing cement.

The job paid me £3 ($3.77) or £4 an hour, but it was really less.

Did you face any early financial jolts?

Earlier in my career when I was an IT developer, I found myself with no contract and no work. Because I was in my early thirties, I was not the best at saving. I did not have anything to fall back on.

So, I had to rely on credit cards and borrowed money. The minute I found a job, I completely changed two things. First, I repaid all the debt within the first six months. It also started changing my mindset to start saving.

I managed to find a balance between saving and spending. Saving a lot helped me reach my financial goals.

My luxuries are Montblanc pens. I give myself an allowance, which allows me to spend on my favourite things. This incentivises me to save more.

The limited-edition Montblanc pens are true assets and increase in value over time.

How do you grow your wealth?

We are investing in properties in the UAE and England for the future because at some point, we all need to retire. These properties will give me some kind of a passive income.

We had a property in Dubai, which we sold for a big profit. We are renting now because the real estate market is high.

In the UK, the property market is different. So, we're using the fact that the market is low to invest.

Since interest rates are much higher, I put money in a high-yield savings account, which has worked really well.

Money helps me pay the bills, but it's not what drives me
Philippe Mathijs, founder of Reach Outstanding

Are you a spender or a saver?

Well, earlier I would have definitely been a spender but now I’m much more of a saver.

But if I were to be an extreme saver, it wouldn't work for me. That’s why I treat myself, like you would treat a child, for example, and say that 90 per cent of what we want to save is saved and 10 per cent is for you to spend.

I’ve been doing this for the past five years.

Have you been wise with money?

Not always. In retrospect, if I had been wise with money, I would have done better when I lost my job in my early thirties.

Life and experience have taught me to be much wiser.

What has been your best investment so far?

It's been on myself. When I wanted to start my coaching career, I wanted the best accreditation.

I've invested a lot in my learning and studies, for example, I have an executive certificate from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

It was a worthy investment that was a gamble at first, but really paid off.

Any cherished purchases?

Yes, one of the Montblanc pens is a very special one.

Whenever I go to a Montblanc store, they want to buy it back because it's increased in value so much and they have demand for that specific brand.

I started buying these pens 10 years ago.

How do you feel about money?

Money is a by-product. And by that, I mean when I coach people, I coach them for their growth.

Money helps me pay the bills, but it's not what drives me.

So, I'm driven by watching people grow and helping them grow. Money will happen as a result of it.

Any financial advice for your younger self?

Yes, to plan for rainy days, but don't go to extremes.

What about key financial milestones?

I want to make my company so successful that I never have to go back to any corporate job.

We've given ourselves a set of numbers, we’ve achieved the first one. But the number is kind of irrelevant. What matters is the satisfaction it gives me.

What luxuries are important to you?

One of my ultimate goals is to leave a legacy. For me, the biggest luxury is education and growth of people.

It’s a different luxury than a watch but when you look at the news and you see children from countries that are not as affluent as we are, those kids could be incredibly bright and yet not have the chance to flourish. That's what I want to leave as a legacy.

Updated: April 05, 2024, 6:02 PM