My Abu Dhabi Salary: ‘I earn up to Dh18,000 a month as a business coach’

Monica Mahi Mathijs is passionate about investing in property and wants to have a real estate portfolio in the UK and UAE

Monica Mahi Mathijs allocates 20 per cent of her monthly income to savings. Antonie Robertson / The National
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Monica Mahi Mathijs aims to make enough passive income from different sources to be able to pay large bills and quit her conventional job.

The coach and trainer, who is the founder of Monica Mahi consulting firm, invests in stocks and property in the UK.

The Briton, who lives in Abu Dhabi’s Mangrove Village with her husband, has worked in investment banking for consulting companies for 20 years.

She started her career in London and moved to the UAE nine-and-a-half years ago.

Ms Mahi, 46, currently works full time with an educational institution in the UAE.

She also runs a company with her husband called Reach Outstanding, an executive and business coaching service.

“My real area of passion is emotional intelligence, grit, resilience training and coaching,” she says.

“My company focuses on mindful living and compassionate leadership. I work to help organisational leaders and employees achieve a greater sense of self-awareness to better manage workplace challenges.”

She has a degree in management science and a master's degree in information systems. After becoming a chartered management accountant, she was certified PMP and Prince2.

Ms Mahi is also an International Coaching Federation-accredited business and leadership coach and a Genos emotional intelligence practitioner. She has a certificate in diversity and inclusion from e-Cornell University, too.

In her spare time, Ms Mahi loves to meditate, write her journal and go for walks daily.

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

I grew up in a family business environment. My grandfather had a shop, and my parents run a car accessories and auto industry workshop. From the age of seven, we were helping out in the shop serving customers.

I did a four-year degree at Brunel University. It was a sandwich degree where you work in an industry for one year. Even before you get your first job, you know how a company works and the importance of corporate culture.

I worked as an analyst at Compaq Computer, which then became Hewlett Packard, from 1998 to 1999 as part of my degree. I earned £11,400 (Dh51,846) a year.

I was one of the highest paid in my peer group who got a job that year, and the employer also offered me a sponsorship. When I left, they gave me £3,500 as a thank-you. I used that to pay for my master's degree.

My first job after university was with Deloitte in London as an assistant analyst. I earned £20,500 annually and a golden handshake, which is a payment you are given before you join. I worked there for six years.

What is your current salary?

I earn about $5,000 (Dh18,300) a month from my start-up. I run an online course coaching skills for business. The price of the course ranges from $59 to $99.

Sometimes we have 20 to 30 people enrolling and during other months, we have 50 to 70 joining the course, so my income varies.

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

I allocate 20 per cent of my monthly income for savings.

I have a reasonable amount of savings, but I don't think we should save all our money. We should invest it. If you keep your money in your bank, you're ruining its value because of inflation.

When I was young, my mum told us not to have spare cash lying around and to invest it instead because those investments would help us down the line.

My family is into property investments. From a very young age, I saw my parents buying property and renting it out. In the UK, I've done stuff around that.

In my adult years, I have a portfolio and invest in stocks and exchange-traded funds.

I am passionate about property. I bought a house in Dubai, which I sold last year, so I'm using that money now to buy smaller properties in the UAE for passive income.

Do you have any debt?

I have one credit card in the UAE, on which I pay off a big chunk every month. I don’t use it much, only for the Skywards points.

I have one small loan, which I used as a stop gap when I didn’t work for six months, so I needed some money to cover.

I have a small mortgage in the UK because you need it to buy a property.

Have you inherited a sum of money?

Nothing yet. We do things together as a family. We all pool money and do property projects.

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

We used to see money all the time because we worked in business. We were taught about the value of money. We were told that when you have a good amount of money, invest it.

We were taught to spend in a sensible way. Primarily for me, it’s come from my parents. My mum is stricter with money.

What are your major monthly expenses?

Rent, food and the maid. My husband and I split the expenses.

How do you budget your salary?

I'm a spreadsheet geek. I like to have a spreadsheet because it allows me to plan and gives me visibility as well. So that's how I budget.

I log everything. But some months, there might be something I want to buy or spend extra on but I make sure it's all logged.

I believe money is energy and if we don't give our money a home, then how do we know what we're spending and not spending?

For example, if I'm going to buy a flat in the UAE, I need to make sure to have enough money for the deposit and the fees. If I were to buy another flat in the UAE, then the deposit amount becomes higher.

So, it’s important to have that awareness and be able to plan things.

Have you started saving for retirement?

I wish to retire from a conventional job at 55 because I'm very passionate about the coaching and training. I would also like my podcast to do well.

My intention is to continuously work because that's all I've seen. My parents still work today. So, I want to carry on working but I want to work on things I'm passionate about.

I have started saving a little bit. My passive income from stock investing should help in the future. The rental income from property investments should help as well.

When it comes to solid savings, I’ve started taking baby steps.

Do you have an emergency fund?

You need to have an emergency fund because when you lose your job, then things can go wrong quite quickly.

I have an emergency fund that can last me between six and nine months.

What do you spend your disposable income on?

I like buying good-quality food ingredients, so my grocery bill can be quite high each month because I think what we put in our bodies is important.

I have a membership with The Bridge, which is a wellness hub in Abu Dhabi. I do Pilates there. I also go out for dinner once a week.

Money is a form of security. It gives me the means to do things I want to do and it's also about value
Monica Mahi

Do you worry about money?

Money is a form of security. It gives me the means to do things I want to do and it's also about value.

If I've a good job and earn good money, I feel I'm being valued for the contribution that I am giving to an organisation. I worry that if I lose a job, then how would I sustain my value?

What are your best money saving hacks to beat inflation?

Investing in stocks. You can also put money in a high-yield savings account for three to 12 months, where interest is a bit better than the rate of inflation.

What are your short-term and long-term financial goals?

In the short term, I would like to make more passive income from my courses.

In the long term, I would like to have a bigger property portfolio across the UAE and the UK. And maybe buy another house in the UAE to live.

What is your idea of financial freedom?

Financial freedom is having enough passive income from different sources to be able to pay the big bills.

So let's say there's a mortgage on a house that I'm living in, I would like to be in a situation where my passive income can pay them rather than me having to rely on a job.

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Updated: April 23, 2024, 8:20 AM