Money&Me: Balance is key to conserving cash

Azhar Siddiqui works at the Mojo Group, an integrated communications agency based in Dubai. He has lived in the UAE for 30 years and recently joined the company as a partner and shareholder.

Azhar Siddiqui has changed his attitude towards spending and saving after getting married and becoming a father. Satish Kumar / The National
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Azhar Siddiqui works at the Mojo Group, an integrated communications agency based in Dubai. Mr Siddiqui has lived in the UAE for 30 years and recently joined the company as a partner and shareholder.

Describe your financial journey so far.

I grew up in Dubai, so I was a typical expat kid. My father is in the meat trading industry and initially worked in Saudi Arabia and Oman. Then he landed a job here and moved us all over. We lived a typical Dubai lifestyle and were, to some extent, spoilt by a lot of the things we take for granted here. Money was never a problem and it was a nice, comfortable journey. My first realisation of the value of money came when I left the UAE and went to university in New York. It was my first time in a big city and my parents did not support me from a personal expense point of view. So I had to study and earn, and in the US, you really have to work hard for your money. That experience gave me a true sense of what money is, how challenging it is to earn it and how important it is to value it.

You recently become a stakeholder in your new business. Why was that?

I'd worked for 14 years in a corporate environment as an employee and I was at a point in my life where I had enough experience and confidence to leverage it and do something for myself. So I made the transition from a corporate, global multinational environment to a very entrepreneurial, boutique agency. I wanted to invest my time and efforts into building something I could claim as my own. Mojo Group is an integrated communications agency with several divisions, including advertising, media planning and PR. All of these specialisations come together to offer our clients a one-stop solution for all their communications needs.

Are you a spender or a saver?

I see myself as a spender, but I'm trying hard to move into a saving phase. That's got a lot to do with where I am at this point in life. I'm married and we just had our first child and he's 10 months old. Until now, my wife and I never really saved as such. Now we have a child, we're making an effort to budget.

What is your philosophy towards money?

I think money can be made if you really want it, but you've got to be careful because you sacrifice a lot of other things in the pursuit of money. It's about balancing how much money you want to give yourself a happy and comfortable life.

What has been your biggest financial challenge?

For me, the financially challenging point in my life is now and the year ahead because I've moved away from a very well-paid job into a business that is much smaller. Yes, I'm a partner and a shareholder in the company, but my income now is nowhere near what I made in my job, so I've got to be very careful in terms of how I manage myself and my family.

What do you like to spend your money on?

Typically, I've been a spender. I would spend it on impulsive purchases, including big items. I was walking past a showroom once, saw a car and said: "Let's do the paperwork and get this rolling." It was a Porsche. I'm glad I bought it when I could because I have no desire to go down that route again. Now I'm more thoughtful before making a purchase.

What has been your most valuable financial lesson?

I'm still learning. I tend to jump in at the first offer, whether it's buying a car or a new product and that's something I'm trying to correct. The first offer is not necessarily the best and you should take your time and be prepared to walk away.

What do you like to invest in?

My family has always invested in property and I've seen how those investments have grown in the long run. I know it's not the best investment when you consider the situation in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, but I believe when you have a long-term view it will always pay off. I wanted a villa for my family, so I took the profits I'd made on my first apartment and upgraded in 2008. While the value is nowhere near what I bought it at, I believe it will appreciate in the long run.

What has been the worst financial advice you have received?

In 2005, when the UAE stock market was booming, my friends encouraged me to buy shares in the local market. Then everything went south and I lost a lot of money. I still invest in the stock market, but I don't just listen to tips off the street. I take professional advice and diversify my portfolio as much as I can - not just across commodities, but also across markets such as India, here and the US.