Money & Me: Expats should utilise savings potential

The wealth manager Craig Holding was influenced by what his parents did to get themselves ahead financially during their time as expatriates.
July 27, 2011, Abu Dhabi, UAE:

Craig Holding hosted an Acuma seminar at the Holiday Inn today. Mr. Holding, an Australian who was born in the gulf, is the Associate Director of Acuma Wealth holding.

Lee Hoagland/The National
July 27, 2011, Abu Dhabi, UAE: Craig Holding hosted an Acuma seminar at the Holiday Inn today. Mr. Holding, an Australian who was born in the gulf, is the Associate Director of Acuma Wealth holding. Lee Hoagland/The National

Craig Holding is the associate director of Acuma Wealth Management in Abu Dhabi and has lived in the UAE for six years. Born in Bahrain to Scottish parents, he moved to Australia when he was 10 years old and eventually settled in Perth, Western Australia. As a child, he was influenced by what his parents did to get themselves ahead financially during their time as expatriates.

Describe your financial journey so far.

I've been lucky because I've always had a job, even through university. I started out from a humble beginning working in pubs and made the transition to a professional life, which has been difficult. After university, my first job was as a trainee and I was on about A$25,000 (Dh95,000) a year. It is all about experience. I didn't come from a wealthy family, but I've had money of my own. Starting out as an expat family helped us. My father was a quantity surveyor and now my parents own their own business and employ 30 people. Being here has expedited my savings and investments; you have a larger percentage of your salary to save and I've been able to make good investment decisions and have fun. One of the best things about being here is getting ahead financially. I don't know anybody who can save 25 per cent to 30 per cent of their salary back home.

Are you a spender or a saver?

I think I am a saver, but you also need to reward yourself if you are doing well. I've always been able to save money, but enjoy myself at the same time. I am a saver for day-to-day life, which helps me for holidays and experiences. But I save hard to have those experiences. I don't have a flash car, but I like the experiences. I would say I am a 50-50 spender/saver.

What is your philosophy towards money?

It is hard to come by, but don't waste it. If you look at how many hours you spend in your job, regardless of where you are, 10 to 15 per cent of your salary needs to be income producing. You work hard for it and it is important to reward yourself, but don't waste it.

What has been your most valuable financial lesson?

I'd say my first car purchase. It cost about A$5,000, but I didn't put in enough research to ensure it was a worthwhile car. It was probably more of a A$3,000 and I should have employed somebody who was an expert to help me. I had to flip burgers in McDonald's to pay for it. These days, I don't follow the crowd.

Have you experienced any financial difficulties?

I think when I first came to the UAE in 2005, I underestimated the cost of living, such as paying rent up front. I outlayed a lot of my cash for that and in the first four months I was here ate spaghetti on toast before my pay packet came through. I was unprepared for the financial cost of coming out here and I found that was difficult. I was down to Dh400 in the bank at the time. It takes expats two years to get on their financial feet after arriving.

What has been your biggest financial challenge?

I bought a property and had to come up with an extra 10 per cent. It was in Australia and I hadn't budgeted on that 10 per cent. I had to sell an asset to raise the money because I didn't want to go into debt to get it. My biggest challenge was proving to the finance company that I could pay it.

What do you like to invest in?

I invest in a variety of things and I take the same approach as my clients. I practise what I preach: you need a savings account, a lump-sum account, a property and direct shares. I bought my first property in Prague in 2006 for US$200,000 (Dh735,000) and it is still worth more than I paid for it. I own three properties now: one in Malaysia, one in Melbourne and the one in Prague. I am renting out all three.

Is money important to you?

I think it gives you the choice to go on that nice holiday. If you don't have that money, you can't really enjoy the experiences in the same way. Money provides me with choices to have experiences and to make my life more comfortable. I enjoy working and the challenge of it, but at the end of the day, I may not want to do that anymore and the investments that I've made will give me the choice to make it happen.

What do you like to spend your money on?

Travelling is my largest expense. It doesn't have to be the big international trips; I relax by camping and taking weekend trips here, too.

Published: August 20, 2011 04:00 AM

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