Parents in the UAE want their children to value money and savings

Lavish lifestyle in the country is a cause of concern for families

Abu Dhabi, U.A.E., January 28, 2018.  Svetia Deshais, a financial planner based in Abu Dhabi.  She has three kids (L-R) Raffael, six, Nina, four and Enzo, three.
Victor Besa / The National
REPORTER: Gillian Duncan
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Svetia Deshais is worried about the well-being of her children, and that of many other young people living in the UAE, who have an expensive lifestyle compared to children abroad with less money to spend.

"When we return to our home countries we are not going to have this," says Ms Deshais, 37, a mother of three who works as a wealth consultant in Abu Dhabi.

“We are not going to have a nanny and we are not going to have so much money, so they might actually suffer depression [because] we went from the top to the bottom.”

So she is preparing her children for life after the UAE while they are still here. They know now not to expect something every time they go to the supermarket. In fact, they only receive gifts on their birthdays and Christmas.

“They have to get that in their little heads, because they are growing up with a five-star lifestyle,” she says.

And now she wants to help other parents teach their children the value of money, too.

Ms Deshais, from Slovakia, is running a series of sessions to introduce children to money throughout February and March in Abu Dhabi for four age groups: three to four; five to seven; eight to 11; and 12 plus, each featuring age appropriate content.

She came up with the idea after speaking to a fellow mum. “We were just chatting about how kids need to know more about money,” she says.

"They have no clue about the value of money and then we thought it would be good to teach them and maybe create a little session. And then that was it – here we are."

The sessions are being run through Fun with the Kids, formerly Events with the Kids, a Facebook group which organises activities and events for all the family. It currently has over 9,000 members.


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More than 200 families expressed an interest in signing their children up for the money sessions within 12 hours of the details being posted online.

“It has been a very popular event. It’s obviously something that the families are interested in,” says Marianne Pearson, 43, from the UK, who runs the website on a voluntary basis.

“But I do think money is an important area here. Some children are growing up not knowing the value of money.”

Each session will cost Dh15, Dh5 of which will be used to cover the cost of materials to make a money box to hold their savings. Ms Deshais will return the remaining Dh10 to the children to get them started.

Older children will be introduced to concepts like debt – and why they should not accrue it, as well as the value of investing and putting money aside. And the youngest ones will learn about why their parents go to work, as well as the importance of saving to buy things they like.

But is three years old too young to learn about money? The vast majority taking part in a discussion about the topic on the Abu Dhabi Q&A Facebook page thought not.

Kellie Kiernan, 39, from the UK, who is a mother to two children aged four and nine, was one of the many in favour of the initiative. She says she struggles to instil a sense of value of money and importance of saving in her children. The family has recently returned to Abu Dhabi after living in the UK for three years while her husband, an
Emirati, was on a work posting. 

“We noticed our son struggled to comprehend that his UK cousins had a significantly different economic status to him or his UAE cousins. [He would say] ‘just tell your mum to get you an iPad like this one’ or ‘why do you only go on holiday in England?’ etc. My four year-old is creating a wish list based on toy adverts she has seen on YouTube and television. She thinks coins are real money and paper cash isn’t,” says Ms Kiernan.

"I think this is a fantastic initiative."

Dan Britton, a British personal finance author for children behind the Financial Fairy Tales series of books that teach young children about money, agrees. He says it is never too early to start teaching children about money.

"Even as toddlers they are absorbing information from all around them," he says. "It's a good idea to start consciously planting positive money messages as soon as they start taking an interest."

Eri Akbar, an early years education lecturer in Dubai with training centre Quest, who teaches courses certified by UK awarding body Cache, says young children are naturally curious to learn about their world – and part of the world involves transacting with money.

Many young children enjoy using money when they engage in role play activities at nursery, for example, pretending to buy vegetables at a supermarket set-up, she says. “Hence, an enrichment class teaching money sense to three to five year olds can be beneficial, as long as it allows children to learn through play.”

However, she adds that children will not be at any disadvantage if they miss it.  

“Children will eventually learn to handle money through practical life experiences. Most importantly, how they perceive the value of money will depend on their parents, as children look up to their parents as role models.”

Ela Jayne, 32, from Australia, set an example from the start, by talking to her children about prices during the supermarket shopping while they were still babies.

At first she would tell them what they were, but by the age of two, her daughter was able to read the numbers herself. Ms Jayne started getting her daughter to work out which product was cheaper by the time she was three.

“When she was four, her brother was born and I would ask her to explain to her baby brother what she had worked out, and why she was choosing each product she was buying,” says Ms Jayne.  

"By the time he was three he was working out price per 100 grams and my daughter had moved on to managing the shopping list and determining how much we needed for a week."

She opened a bank account for her children, who are now 12 and eight, when they were born, and they are each responsible for their own contributions. She does not pay them a weekly allowance or pocket money.

They earn their money instead by carrying out jobs and are paid a rate per task, such as Dh5 for emptying and loading the dishwasher and Dh15 for cooking dinner. They are always encouraged to bank at least 50 per cent of their earnings, or the first Dh15 per week if they have earned less than Dh30.

And they are still savvy when it comes to choosing what to buy.  

"If I offer my daughter
so she can buy a biscuit at a cafe, she will ask for the Dh12 and ask if she can instead go to the supermarket where she can buy an entire packet of biscuits for Dh12, and sell half of the packet to her brother for Dh6, so they each get more and save money," she says.