Smart money management is vital for survival

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Imagine this: it's a year or two before the financial crisis is about to hit. You have arrived in the UAE as a new expat and start living big. You borrow up to your eyeballs to fund your new, luxury lifestyle, which requires a host of accessories: the luxury SUV, the expensive villa complete with pool, five bedrooms and just as many bathrooms, brand-label clothes, nights out in costly restaurants and clubs, long weekends away; a few quick trips over to Europe or Asia for good measure. And then, suddenly, you are teetering on the financial edge. It's reality-check time. The financial crisis has hit and you are on shaky ground because you've been laid off from work. Living beyond your means for the past couple of years has taken its toll on your finances. You have no savings, a few maxed-out credit cards, a car loan and/or a personal loan. Your end-of-service gratuity is not enough to bail you out of trouble. If only you'd lived within your means, you moan, and did what many expats do: use this time to secure your financial future. On the flipside, lots of other expats were just like you: never thinking about tomorrow, or even next week for that matter. It's only money, right? And it's there to spend. Well, yes, it is "only" money. And, of course, we do need it. But we also need to manage our finances in a responsible manner. There will come a time when we have to retire. Do you really want to survive on a measly state pension? There will come a time when many of us will need to buy a house for our growing families. Do you really want to rent for the rest of your life and pay off somebody else's mortgage? Of course we need a car. But do you really need the most expensive one? Who are you trying to impress? This week, I'm highlighting the importance of smart money management. Responsible money management has never been more crucial than it is today, I write in my column. The global financial crisis and the multitrillion-dollar bailouts of the world's banks are proof of that. And let's face it: nobody's going to bail us out like all those western governments (thanks to taxpayers' money) having beein bailing out all those flailing banks. So it's up to us to be responsible, to teach our kids the importance of saving and managing money wisely so they turn into fiscally responsible adults. It's up to us to take care of our financial futures because nobody else will do it for us. And it's up to us to avoid becoming yet another statistic in the global financial mess that is playing out today - and will for a long time to come. If there's one goal you should set yourself now, it has to be shoring up your personal finances, sticking to a budget, never living beyond your means, making sure you have enough set aside for an emergency and saving responsibly every month. It's never too late to start. After all, our financial futures - and that of our children - depend on it.

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