Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 28 November 2020

Money & Me: 'Looking back, I wish I had more education on how money works'

Author Rachael Lynn says she regrets running up $10,000 in credit card debt in the US when she was younger

Rachael Lynn was the first in her family to go to university, and took out loans to pay for it. Antonie Robertson/The National
Rachael Lynn was the first in her family to go to university, and took out loans to pay for it. Antonie Robertson/The National

Rachael Lynn is an American author based in Dubai whose debut book At Home Anywhere was published last November. Part memoir and advice letter, it was based on the self-help specialist’s personal struggle to adjust after uprooting from her previous home in Canada to the UAE. Ms Lynn, 30, also founder of the Women Connect Abroad platform for women who are expatriates, digital nomads, immigrants, or simply new to a city, also previously worked in HR. She lives with her husband in Jumeirah Islands.

How did your upbringing shape your attitude towards money?

I was born in Buffalo, New York. An only child, my parents divorced when I was one-and-a-half. My mum was a single mum. We had a period on government assistance and what they called food stamps. An anonymous donor paid for [part of] my high school tuition because mum couldn’t afford it.

When I was 18 I got a Macy’s credit card under the guise that I needed to build my credit score. I maxed that out too soon, paid the minimum, then got another credit card

Rachael Lynn

When I was young she got investment from my grandfather to start a herbal supplement shop. It didn’t go well and shut within four years. Since then she’s had numerous part-time jobs, including cleaning and waitressing; now she’s an office receptionist. It always worked out somehow.

That shaped me … to create a different experience for myself than I grew up in. So, I was the first in my family to go to university, and took out loans to pay for it.

How much were you paid in your first job?

The only way I could have a mobile phone was if I paid for it, so I had my first job at 15, at a bagel shop. When I started, it was about $8.25 (Dh30) an hour.

In university, I had two part-time jobs. I wanted more than just the basic things, so I worked for my aunt and uncle’s movie poster store, for about $10 an hour, and on-campus helping run concerts, creating the dressing rooms for celebrities and helping them once they arrived. I was about 19 at the time. It was like a university stipend, maybe $1,000 per semester. I studied human resources and right out of graduation had an internship. They hired me as an HR consultant on roughly $23,000 a year.

What brought you to the UAE?

I married my husband in August 2018 and moved here from Toronto in September. He had moved around the world, we were seeing each other, and he was here three years before me. He’s group CEO of his father’s air cargo company, which was started in Malaysia and is headquartered here.

What prompted you to write a book?

I’d been working towards the opportunity to take time off. I knew it would be an emotional adjustment, the combination of getting married, stopping work and moving and after three or four months, I was like, ‘I really need to do something’. That’s when I pitched the book idea. I searched Amazon and there are books for moving, but I didn’t recognise myself in them.

I spoke to somebody in the US and here, hybrid publishers, which means essentially I paid them to help me publish.

Was it your best investment?

I’ve learned so much from the process of writing the book. It was just under $10,000 for everything – coaching, editing, layout, design, initial PR and launch, social media and distribution. Here it is in-store, and it’s listed on Amazon [globally]. I get a percentage of the sales but you’re not really making back your investment; I needed the experience of writing the first one and even in the pandemic, people have been interested. For readers, it is making a difference too … it’s been worth that investment.

Have your spending habits evolved?

I am more a saver than I used to be. When I was 18, I got a Macy’s credit card under the guise that I needed to build my credit score. I maxed that out too soon, paid the minimum, then got another credit card.

I have adjusted myself over time and being with my husband, and in a different financial situation knowing he is (currently) supporting me, has caused me to educate myself more and be more responsible. I was definitely a spender, maybe up until four years ago. Now, I see my 18-year-old cousins and think, ‘what was I doing’.

Ms Lynn was a spender up until four years ago. Now she considers herself to be more of a saver. Antonie Robertson/The National
Ms Lynn was a spender up until four years ago. Now she considers herself to be more of a saver. Antonie Robertson/The National

I have a Canadian credit card now, purely to build a credit score, because long-term we may want to live in Canada. I pay it off and day-to-day only use debit card.

Where do you save?

I save just in a savings account. It’s not making much interest but to see it there has an effect. I know at a certain point it’s doing nothing by sitting there and when we get to a certain stage, I essentially give my husband whatever is extra and it’s turned into actual investments and, recently, life insurance. We’ve, over Covid time, kind of blended [our finances] more.

How has the pandemic influenced your spending?

Right now, my most cherished purchase is flowers. I’m making sure we have some in the house at all times. I know a good affordable place that does hand-tied boxes and market flowers wrapped in brown paper.

Beyond the flowers … before it would have been a meal out and, generally, experiences. My husband and I don’t do gifts, except for our anniversary. We try to do an experience and when we fly, go to the lounge; things that help us have a better experience are worth it.

Do you have any financial regrets?

My largest credit card purchases, that got me into debt. There were all educational and personal development spends made in New York. I ran up approximately $10,000 in debt, paid off over five years through consolidation and taking on extra clients for my work at the time as a business manager for life coaches and online business owners. The cash went straight to credit card payments. I regret making the choice to pay for things that way, but I don’t regret the experience; the outcome still benefits. Looking back I wish I had more education on how money works.

What are your financial milestones?

Paying off one of my student loans before I was married was huge for me. And my first apartment where I had no room mates, in Toronto. I had my dream of living in the city, living alone; signing the lease and being able to pay for that was big for me.

Are you wise with money?

I want to get even better but I am wiser than in my 20s. I still have a way to go as far as understanding and feeling comfortable with investments.

I’m more excited now to understand what money does, how people use it. My understanding of the philosophy of money is not to be afraid of it, afraid of what it can do and how it works in the system.

Do you plan for the future?

We are planning to have kids and for how we educate our children. We’re saving for property, for a home, possibly somewhere in north America if we don’t stay here. I’m not going to write another book until it feels that it is something I have to do. I want to have a baby or two first.

If you won Dh1 million what would you spend it on?

My grandfather passed away this year. He had no desire to travel internationally so I would fly my grandmother, who is in her late 70s and in Canada, out here, first class.

Updated: July 14, 2020 08:05 AM

Editor's Picks
THE DAILY NEWSLETTER
Sign up to our daily email