Money & Me: ‘Never let your cash sit idle in the bank’

Chris Ball, managing partner of financial advisory Hoxton Capital Management, believes investing in oneself is one of the most grossly underestimated hacks to building a happy life

Chris Ball, managing partner of Hoxton Capital Management, says his current goal is to make his employees financially independent. Antonie Robertson / The National
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Chris Ball uses a simple strategy of spending less than he earns to grow his wealth. Following this method has also helped him attain financial independence at the age of 37.

The managing partner of financial advisory Hoxton Capital Management, Mr Ball moved to the UAE in 2011 at the age of 24 to take up a job in a business run by his friend's father.

The Briton grew up in the city of St Albans, just outside London.

Mr Ball started the financial advisory business in the UAE in 2018, with offices in the UAE, US, UK, Australia and Europe, and one to open in India very soon.

“We help people manage their money and invest it. We deal with retail investors and go up to ultra high-net-worth investors,” he says.

“On our platform, you can view all your assets, link bank accounts and investments. You can use also our new feature called wealth flow, which is designed to see if you have enough and when you can achieve financial independence.”

He lives on the Palm Jumeirah with his wife, three children and pet dog Skye.

Did wealth feature in your childhood?

I’m not from a wealthy family. But I wasn’t also on the poverty line either. A few of my friends’ parents were reasonably wealthy and owned businesses.

That piqued my interest in starting a business. I could see the options it gave them and the choices they were able to make.

My mother was a teacher, while my father was a panel beater and then moved to become an insurance assessor.

How did you first earn?

My first earning job was when I was 13 years old as a paper boy. It used to pay me £6 ($7.5) a week.

I did that for three years until I was 16. Then I got a proper job and worked at convenience store Tesco, which used to be called One Stop at the time, near my house.

I worked up from there until I left school and then went to KPMG.

Any early financial jolts?

When I was younger, I was probably a bit more of a spender. I shouldn’t have been.

I had just left school and started my job, so I was 18 or 19. I soon realised that my monthly payments were becoming too much, so I had to stop spending as much and put on the brakes.

I started with KPMG in 2004. It was in the run-up to 2008 when everyone was getting huge amounts of credit. I think one of my credit card payments was like £20,000 at the time. I was probably living on that a year.

I had a ‘spend today, pay off tomorrow’ attitude. That was a very early financial lesson because that is not the best way to live your life.

At KPMG, I trained as an accountant. The basics of cash flow management is not to spend more than you bring in.

It took something like that to make me hone down into what was needed to have wealth and do well in life.

How do you grow your wealth?

Very simple, I spend less than what I earn. We see a lot of people earning hundreds of thousands of dirhams every year, but they spend more than they earn. Although they earn a lot, it doesn't necessarily mean that they will be wealthy.

But there could be someone on a monthly salary of Dh10,000 who spends only Dh5,000, they will build and accumulate wealth at a much greater rate.

Before I started Hoxton in 2018, I was working for someone else. I was earning very good money at the time and could live very comfortably, but I chose to save.

So, instead of buying a flashy Mercedes or Range Rover, I was driving around in a beaten-up brown Ford Focus because I didn't want to spend money on something that I didn't necessarily need.

I wanted to save money so I could start my business. I was putting away as much money as I could on a monthly basis. I was investing it back into my personal development.

It’s also important to not just let money sit in your bank account as well. You need to leave a bit there, probably an emergency fund worth six months’ your income, but make sure the rest of the money is working hard for you.

What asset classes do you invest in?

I am really broad in the assets that I invest in. So, I have liquid investments like mutual funds and exchange-traded funds.

I then have more longer-term things like property investments. Then I’ve my business, which is non-liquid. But I've invested a lot into it over time through loans and share capital.

Investing in myself has probably been my best investment so far. I do that by taking various exams and courses to better myself.

Investing in yourself is one of the most grossly underestimated hacks you can do to build a happy life.

You have to pay for all those flashy things at some point. And I don't know about you, but I'd much rather have a life full of unlimited potential than a garage full of designer things collecting dust.

Also, I have backed myself in my business. If I put money in today, people could see that as me spending it on my business, but I see it as an investment in my business. This could be by acquiring another business or to bring on another member of staff that will increase our revenue. To me, that's an investment, not spending.

I'd much rather have a life full of unlimited potential than a garage full of designer things collecting dust
Chris Ball, managing partner, Hoxton Capital Management

Are you a spender or a saver?

I would say I’m a saver, although I'm not frugal, but not lavish either. I do appreciate nice things. But, I'm not going out there spending every penny.

I spend on things for my wife and my children. It’s more on holidays and nice experiences with my family.

Have you been wise with money?

I’d like to think so. I manage $1.7 billion of other people's money. So, I need to be responsible with my own. Now, I am wise with my money.

Any financial advice for your younger self?

Saving little and often is better than fretting over big lump sums. When I was younger, I probably got caught up in thinking there's no point in saving £150 a month. However, that adds up quickly over a long period of time.

I was more inclined towards trying to save thousands of pounds then. That doesn't always happen and you get a bit disheartened.

Any cherished purchases?

Buying my very first house in the UK when I was 27 was a big thing for me at the time. I'd been in the Middle East for a few years.

I still own it today. I go there and check on the tenants when I'm back.

I now have 17 properties in the UK and own four apartments on the Palm Jumeirah.

How do you feel about money?

I think it can be a positive influence, but it can also corrupt you. So, you have to be careful.

Money emphasises more of the person that you really are. People can get carried away with it sometimes, especially when they first get it. So, it's important to treat it with respect.

What luxuries are important to you?

A nice place to live for my family.

Any key financial milestones?

I'm lucky that if I stopped now and got rid of everything, I'll probably be set for the rest of my life. Financial independence is a key milestone.

The key was to understand how much I actually needed. A lot of people overestimate how much they need.

I live to work and really enjoy what I do, so I don't want to stop.

I don't have a goal like getting to a billion pounds or so. When I stop liking what I do, I stop it. If I stopped working, I would be bored.

What are your financial goals?

My current financial goal is to make the people that work for me financially independent.

On a personal level, I want my children to be financially independent.

I have regular meetings with my children to explain what stocks and bonds are and how much money needs to be saved in a bank account.

My daughter is probably the best saver in the family. My oldest son likes to spend his money on Fifa points, which I’m trying to discourage a little bit.

Updated: May 03, 2024, 6:02 PM