My Dubai Salary: ‘I earn Dh40,000 a month as an entrepreneur’

Rubina Malik, a strategic adviser, earns money from consulting work and her investments

Rubina Malik owns properties in the US and also inherited land in Pakistan. Chris Whiteoak / The National
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Rubina Malik is passionate about the theme of women and financial literacy.

The Pakistani entrepreneur, who lives in Dubai Marina, was taught about the value of money and budgeting when she was young.

Born in Faisalabad and raised in the US, Ms Malik spent 19 years working as a business professor at an American university.

Currently on a sabbatical from academia, she works as a strategic adviser and managing director of Malik Global Solutions.

The US and UAE-based business advisory guides Fortune 500 companies and small and medium enterprises through the development and implementation of profitability and productivity programmes, and runs leadership incubators.

Ms Malik has a PhD in organisational development from the University of Georgia in the US.

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

When I was younger, I got an opportunity to intern for a couple of summers. My first full-time job was with a bank as a human resources co-ordinator. My background in the corporate world was human resources.

I drew an annual salary of $18,000 in my first job. Then I moved on to another organisation and worked in HR, and later I was a director with a non-profit. From there, I went into academia and the rest of my career was in academia.

How much do you earn currently?

I bring in about Dh40,000 (about $10,800) a month. This includes income from my investments.

Financial literacy is important to me. It was embedded in me since I was young by my mum. We lived within our means.

We may not have come from luxurious backgrounds, but my parents taught me the value of money. Over time, I learnt to have my money work for me.

My earnings are a combination of money from my consulting work and passive income from my investments.

My investments include income-generating activities such as trading in financial markets, financial instruments such as CFDs and perpetual futures contracts in foreign currencies, commodities, crypto commodities, real estate; and managing my real estate portfolio in the US.

Another important thing to know is whether you have an estate plan. I've seen so many women lose out because they weren't financially literate, but also because they didn't financially plan as a family.

Legacy planning is important. It’s crucial for children to have those conversations about finances.

I want to leave my money to some of the schools I attended, to build programmes for children. I want to create opportunities for others as my legacy.

Do you save and invest?

Saving is very important. In the US, we have a retirement plan. I used to maximise contributing to my 401(k) account. I used to put in 15 per cent of my income towards savings.

I have an emergency fund with money for three to six months and savings as well.

I also like to travel, so I have a travel savings account. I try to save money for whatever is important to me.

I have a financial adviser. I like to think I'm financially savvy but I still need help managing my investments. I review them on a quarterly basis to know where I'm at.

Have you purchased property?

I don't have anything in the UAE. I kick myself because there was an opportunity and I didn't take it. But I have properties in the US.

We inherited land in Pakistan, but we take that money and give it to a school that my dad used to sponsor and helped to build.

Do you have any debt?

Money gives me freedom and part of that freedom is to be able to support others and help those in need. This was instilled in me since I was a young girl and I have watched my parents do it.

Part of having money is having the freedom to do whatever your heart desires. For me, it's travel but also a part of me wants to give back.

I have some consumer debt in the form of credit cards that I pay off each month.

I have credit cards that give me benefits, miles and hotel points. You see the trade-off there. To me, that’s being savvy with your money.

Growing up, were you taught to handle your finances?

We didn’t have financial literacy programmes in universities. That was one of my biggest complaints and disappointments.

We need to have students understand the value of money, how to manage money, how to budget money, etc.

I was taught not to live beyond my means and manage my money. I balanced and looked at where my money was spent.

My parents taught me to live humbly. I have nice things, but I don't have to have the nice things.

What's important to me is those things that I desire, versus trying to look good, dress good and drive the latest car.

I say that tongue-in-cheek because you might see me driving a nice car or wearing something nice, but I've also earned that.

What are your major monthly expenses?

My major monthly expense is my apartment rent. I love my apartment and the beautiful view it gives me. I wouldn't trade it for the world.

How do you budget your monthly earnings?

I look at my expenses in the past months and know where I spent it. I look at the month, what’s happening and plan accordingly.

I budget from my experience from previous months, this is how much for food, entertainment, rent, etc.

I take out my fixed costs first and then manage my disposable income.

Have you started saving for retirement?

I have started saving for retirement in the 401(k). We start contributing as soon as we begin working.

But I can't see myself retiring. I see myself always working passionately on things that are important to me.

So, when I become a multimillionaire and don't have to worry about having my money, I would want to teach people about financial literacy.

Do you ever worry about money?

Yes. If something happens, will there be enough money to take care of the expenses?

Because even if you have a million dollars today, it's not enough since expenses are more than, say, 20 years ago.

What are your financial goals?

In the long term, I want to be a multimillionaire. In the short term, I'd like to increase my income to where it was in the past.

Do you have any money-saving hacks to beat inflation?

Live below your means. Think long term, not just short term.

The biggest hack is to shop in your own home. Look at what you already own because you probably have what you need or want.

Declutter and recycle what you currently have.

What is your idea of financial freedom?

Financial freedom is to be able to take care of all my necessities, be able to plan, travel – maybe take three trips a year and travel in business or first class.

It also means freedom from emotional distress and to have what my heart desires. It also includes the freedom to contribute to my community.

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Updated: April 16, 2024, 5:00 AM