My Dubai Salary: ‘I earn up to Dh80,000 a month in financial services’

Aristos Panteli, a senior institutional manager at a forex broker, only invests in high-yield savings accounts and personal development

Aristos Panteli draws a fixed salary of Dh22,000 a month, but also earns commissions. Chris Whiteoak / The National
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Aristos Panteli recalls living from one pay cheque to the next at one stage of his career in Cyprus. However, financial literacy and investing in himself have helped turn his life around in the UAE.

Today, he is a millionaire and has an emergency fund that can sustain his family for 20 years.

Mr Panteli, 38, worked as a teller in a bank for 10 years in Cyprus before moving to the UAE in 2021.

He currently works as a senior institutional manager at a forex broker in Dubai.

The Cypriot lives in Business Bay, while his wife and 12-year-old son visit him several times a year.

What was your first job and salary?

I started working in Cyprus at the age of 14 in KFC. I used to help marinate chicken. I was paid less than $3 an hour, so earned about $400 a month.

My first proper job was as a teller in the banking industry in Cyprus in 2009 after I finished my bachelor’s degree in electrical and electronics engineering from the University of Liverpool in the UK. I was earning $1,100 a month.

I completed my MBA in Limassol, Cyprus, while working in banking and also got a diploma from the American Bankers’ Association.

I worked in the banking industry in Cyprus for 10 years. At the same time, I was focusing on my bodybuilding career and participated in more than 30 competitions globally and met my idols such as Ronnie Coleman and Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Why did you move to the UAE?

I wanted to move out of Cyprus, where I was working for a company that dealt in financial markets.

After leaving that role, I was unemployed for eight months, and used loans and overdrafts to survive.

At the start of 2021, I applied for more than 1,200 jobs on LinkedIn, with zero results.

I finally got a call from a recruiter for a role in the UAE, a country I had visited twice earlier, and that is how I joined as a senior account manger with my current employer in Dubai.

I came to the UAE with about $500 after paying off all my debts.

Tell us about your current role and how much you earn.

I work as a senior institutional manager. I help clients get the best partnership deals to grow and scale their business by investing in financial markets.

My fixed salary is Dh22,000 ($5,990) a month. But my monthly income can go up to Dh80,000 after including commissions.

Do you manage to save?

Yes, I am a millionaire. I receive a 5.07 per cent interest rate on certificates of deposits with a local bank. I have several fixed deposit accounts.

I was not financially literate earlier and used to live from pay cheque to pay cheque. But when I came to Dubai, I met both millionaires and people who earned small salaries but still managed to save and send money home. This influenced my outlook towards money and made me more frugal.

What asset classes do you invest in?

I like to be liquid, so mostly keep my money in banks that offer high interest rates.

Then, I prefer to invest in myself. I spend about $800 every month on my education. I also spent $25,000 on a degree in sales and business development from Cardone University to upskill myself.

I spend on my fitness and health, and to gain more knowledge and skills.

Have you purchased property here or in your home country?

No, I prefer to remain flexible and liquid, and therefore stay in hotels.

Do you have any debt?

I do not have any loans. I use a credit card but pay it off in full every month and use the cashback facility, access to lounges and other promotions it offers.

You need to be clever with your money. That is why financial literacy is important and it needs to be taught in schools.

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

No. I learnt how to deal with finances after committing money mistakes.

I remember losing €4,000 ($4,298) in a casino in Cyprus on Christmas day in 2022. I was playing slot machines for 28 hours. That was a black swan event and I decided to improve my financial literacy and spend my money wisely.

I turned my obsession into a positive habit by listening to audiobooks. I listen to 35 books a month, seven hours daily and 12 hours at the weekend.

What are your major monthly expenses?

My expenses come to between Dh15,000 and Dh20,000 a month.

I spend mostly on my education, groceries and rent.

How do you budget your salary every month?

I allocate a certain amount to pay off my credit card every month. Credit cards are the best way to budget because you get a statement that shows where you spend money.

Self-discipline is key because there are so many distractions to spend money on.

Have you started saving for retirement?

I already have money in many savings accounts in the UAE.

I do not want to retire because I love what I do.

Do you have an emergency fund?

Of course. It can sustain me for more than 20 years. With my knowledge and skills, my family and I can lead a comfortable life.

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What do you spend your disposable income on?

I spend it on my family, either travelling, watching movies or eating out. I spend about $20,000 a year on holidays with my family.

Do you worry about money?

No, I do not because I have already made my money.

But in the beginning of my career, I was always worried about money. I did not have the skills or knowledge to become financially independent. So, my goal was to achieve financial freedom.

Today, I do not waste my time on chores such as laundry, groceries or driving because I want to focus on becoming a better version of myself and spend time with my clients.

What are your financial goals?

My financial goal is to increase my passive income.

I want to be useful and give something back to the UAE society because it has made me who I am. That is my number one goal.

What is your idea of financial freedom?

To have $100 million readily available in my portfolio.

Do you have any money saving hacks to beat inflation?

Increase my earning capacity and scale up my personal brand by continuing to learn more skills and acquire knowledge.

The more you learn, the more you earn and are more valuable in the market.

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Updated: May 07, 2024, 5:00 AM