My Dubai Salary: ‘I earn up to Dh2 million annually from my investments’

Stephen Kishore, a life and leadership coach and a business transformation adviser, works towards his income being at least four times his expenditure

Stephen Kishore says income-generating funds and exchange-traded funds account for a big chunk of his income. Pawan Singh / The National
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Stephen Kishore pivoted from working in the corporate world in 2021 to become a life and leadership coach and also runs a business transformation advisory for organisations.

Mr Kishore, who’s in his 50s, has achieved financial independence and earns a considerable income annually from his investments.

In his corporate career, Mr Kishore, who holds an executive MBA from the Indian Institute of Management, Calcutta, specialised in helping organisations achieve business excellence, manage customer experience and change management. He holds two master’s degrees.

Mr Kishore, who’s lived in the UAE for 17 years, is from the town of Coonoor in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu and was working in Chennai before moving to Dubai.

He lives in Dubai with his wife, who is a fitness instructor and a nutritionist.

What was your first job and salary?

My first job was as a management trainee with a non-banking financial company in Chennai and the salary was quite meagre. From there, I moved into the telecom sector in 1997. I was around 26 years old then.

I worked with telco company Airtel for eight years and then moved to the UAE and worked with a boutique consulting firm. I later worked for a bank for eight years and then moved to Dubai Multi Commodities Centre and worked there for another eight years.

Why did you decide to transition to entrepreneurship?

I had always been developing strategies for organisations, so I wondered whether I could develop a personal strategy. In 2012, I developed my first personal strategy of what my strategic goals are and how to achieve them. That set the framework for where I am today.

In 2016, I lost my parents and that completely changed the purpose of life. The Covid-19 pandemic in 2020 also brought a lot of changes.

Two books primarily helped me to choose my path. One is The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss and the other one is Atomic Habits by James Clear.

Tim Ferriss defined the new rich well. He said the new rich want to make just enough money to live their defined dreams (not make money for money’s sake), distribute mini retirements throughout their lives, instead of all at the end, and only work on things they are excited about.

In his book, James Clear says real wealth is not about money, it’s not having to go to meetings, not being locked into status games and not worrying about others claiming your time and energy. Instead, real wealth is about freedom.

I also like the book, The Psychology of Money by Morgan Housel, which says the biggest value of money isn't to buy luxury goods, but to gain control over your time and life – the ultimate form of freedom. So, these are my priorities.

My wife and I love travelling. We like to enjoy small things in life rather than run behind money. Because I developed a personal strategy in 2012, I slowly started working on achieving my financial freedom.

By 2020, I also enrolled into a life and leadership coaching programme. It completely transformed me. I now look at life through intuition and believe in the power of manifestation.

How much do you currently earn?

I have set my investments and they earn me an average of around Dh1.7 million ($462,900) to Dh2 million a year. Apart from that, I make money out of my business transformation advisory and coaching business.

About 55 per cent of my earnings come from income-generating funds and exchange-traded funds.

These are global market funds operated by investment managers which give me a consistent monthly income and an annual 9 per cent to 10 per cent return. I don't go for funds which give me more than 10 per cent to 12 per cent because I want to take calculated risk only.

One needs to select two to three funds, which have consistently proven to give returns, and invest in them through a systematic investment plan or dollar cost averaging. Every month, you put in a certain amount of money and invest for a long period of time. If someone is not willing to have a five-year investment horizon, they should not be investing in the stock market.

I strongly believe fund management company Vanguard and majority of my funds are with them. I invest in one of their ETFs called VOO. The other funds I invest in are SPY, QQQ and IWM.

I also keep a significant amount of money in my emergency fund in the iSave account with First Abu Dhabi Bank because it offers a 5.25 per cent interest rate.

Apart from that, I invest in real estate as well as in blue chip stocks from the US and India. I invest in them for the long term and ignore short-term market fluctuations.

I have seen three financial downturns: the 2000 dotcom bubble, 2008 global financial crisis and pandemic in 2020. In all the scenarios, my investment portfolio went down by 25 per cent. But I did not take out money from these stocks and they have come back.

My funds in India are managed by professional fund management companies.

I also earn money by trading in options, but that’s a small part of my portfolio.

You need to establish an income funnel, which constantly gives you the income to run your life. I believe that my income should be a minimum of four times of my total expenditure.

How do you earn money from property?

I earn income from property in three ways. I get rental income from Dubai and India, and also generate it by investing in real estate investment trusts in the US.

Do you have any debt?

I have good debts. Bad debt is taking too much risk without having the ability to repay it or borrowing to support your ongoing living expenses.

Good debt has the potential to increase the underlying asset value, expand your potential income and help accomplish your objective.

For instance, buying a property on a loan is a good debt, while a credit card loan is bad debt.

I’d also like to highlight that people take insurance very lightly here. They take medical insurance because it is compulsory, but critical illness insurance and life insurance are very important, too, but overlooked. If you own a property, you need to take property insurance.

Have you ever inherited a sum of money?

I inherited a property from my father. I sold it when it appreciated in value and reinvested the money into a different property.

In the past, my investment was into employee stock options in India. When the stocks appreciated in value, a lot of people sold it off, but I did not and used it as a base to take a loan. I slowly built on this and it helped me to eventually pay off the loan.

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

My mother, who was very intuitive, taught me two things. She used to tell me that I can enjoy life but always need to have a healthy bank balance. If I didn’t, I was either not earning enough, not saving well or spending more. I always kept a good bank balance and never had to borrow money. This helped me to live life within my means.

My father was very good at mathematics and logical thinking. I learnt mental computing, rational validation and organisation of information and thoughts from him. That helped me to look at investment decisions rationally and plan my finances with discipline.

What are your major monthly expenses?

On rent and travel (during the months we take a holiday).

How do you budget your salary every month?

I don't budget because I believe in living in abundance. I don't create any hard limits but have soft limits.

I review our expenses every six months to check whether we need to reduce it or not. But the discipline is built in, so we don't spend on unnecessary things, while also enjoying life.

At what age do you wish to retire?

I don’t believe in the concept of retirement. I have achieved financial freedom.

You should not let your money sit idle in the bank because you can earn a higher interest rate now
Stephen Kishore, life and leadership coach

Do you have an emergency fund?

Yes, it should ideally sustain you for a minimum six months. But mine can sustain me for one year’s worth of expenses.

What do you spend your disposable income on?

Primarily on travel, our education and experiences with friends and family.

Do you worry about money?

I don't. I believe in abundance and manifestation. Being in the coaching industry, I’ve seen a lot of people have negative connotations towards money, which stops them from achieving financial abundance and financial freedom.

What are your best money saving hacks to offset inflation?

You should not let your money sit idle in the bank because you can earn a higher interest rate now. You should put your money in high-yield saving accounts to offset against inflation.

You should also adopt the dollar cost averaging method of constantly investing your savings to ride out the short-term market dips.

What is your idea of financial freedom?

It’s the power to produce wealth. By that, I mean producing an automated, consistent income. That’s financial freedom.

The UAE plays a big role for those aspiring to achieve financial freedom. The able leadership, potential for good rental income generation, a stable currency, opportunities and saving prospects enable people to achieve financial freedom in the country.

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Updated: May 21, 2024, 5:00 AM