Money & Me: Financial freedom requires planning

Sunil Jaiswal, the chief executive of Sumansa Exhibitions, credits a book with turning around his approach to making money.

Sunil Jaiswal, the chief executive of Sumansa Exhibitions.
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Sunil Jaiswal is the chief executive of Sumansa Exhibitions, the Dubai-based company behind the Indian Property Show. The Briton, who currently lives in Colombia but is planning to return to the UAE early next year, grew up in London and Bangalore and is also an entrepreneur, property investor and motivational speaker.

Describe your financial journey so far?

My dad was an income tax officer for the British government so when I was growing up no one wanted to come round because they thought he was going to take everything they had! My parents were opposites when it came to money because if my mum had £20 (Dh114), she would spend it on something nice whereas Dad would invest it. He was clever with money and tried to install those values in us as kids but I don't think it worked - I took the spendthrift approach instead, spending whatever I earnt. When I quit college and took my first job as a computer programmer earning US$15 (Dh55) a month I would spend my monthly salary within a day. That started a mindset and even when I went back to the UK and started my own IT business I did the same. By that time I had a family and cars and a house but the money never seemed to be there.

Personal Finance Money & Me

First-hand accounts of financial mishaps, windfalls and the wisdom gleaned along the way, from CEOs to stay-at-home parents.

What is your philosophy towards money?

I put it all down to the word 'share' and sharing ideas. We get taught at school to go out there and do everything for ourselves but in reality you need to learn to share and find people to complement your skills. When I look at what I've achieved, there isn't anything I've done on my own - it's all with other people.

Are you a spender or a saver?

I'm more of a saver now. Before the recession, I could spend Dh3,000 on a meal with friends in Dubai very easily. Today, I think twice about it. With the crisis the company did go through times when we had to think about what we were spending so that gives you some sensibility. While I'm more of a saver now, I'm also more of a cash-flow person. If my businesses and investments are making money every month and provided that money is more than what I spend each month, then I consider that to be a success. I know people with Dh40 million in real estate but they can't pay the electricity bill because they don't have any cash. I think today, more than ever, it has to be about the cash-flow lifestyle. You've got to have money coming in to pay your bills.

What has been your biggest financial lesson?

In the late 90s I read the book Rich Dad Poor Dad and it gave me a slap across the face. I realised that while I was successful and making £1,000 a day, if I stopped earning all my income would disappear. It taught me to look at other ways of making money without having to work and that's when I went into property in the UK. By 2003 I'd bought several properties and was making more money from the rent than my IT consultancy business. That was when financial freedom came in. By building a portfolio of real estate, it gave me the option to do other things and that's when I started teaching people the financial-freedom lifestyle.

What is your biggest financial mistake?

Getting involved with someone in a business based on my head rather than my heart. It was a logical decision, it ticked all the right boxes but there was something in my heart saying are you sure about this? £2 million lost later I finally walked away. Since then my decision process is very much based on my gut feeling.

Have you experienced any significant financial turnarounds?

When I parted from my wife, my company went into her hands along with a lot of real estate so at the beginning of 2006 I found myself back at ground zero, so to speak, with nothing but my mind and my suitcase and I needed to go out and do it all again. It wasn't a problem giving her so much because it was there to support her and I knew that making money and achieving success was just about how you approach things so I came and started Sumansa in 2006. The Indian Property show went straight to number one in our marketplace within nine months of having the idea and now we have 16 planned for next year.

Is money important to you?

You need it to live and eat but once you get to a certain level you start to work out what's important and that's about feeling connected and when you feel the most happy. When I'm with my seven-month-old daughter and my two other children - a son aged 11 and a daughter, eight - I feel very fortunate. For me money is a great tool but more important than that is to feel connected to the world.