Money & Me: ‘I have learnt to diversify my savings’

Entrepreneur Robyn Abou Chedid believes money is best invested in travel and her business

Robyn Abou Chedid, the founder of Guided Agency, says she is more mature in her approach to spending and doesn't use credit cards. Chris Whiteoak / The National
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Robyn Abou Chedid is an executive coach, consumer behaviour specialist, personal brand strategist to executives, and founder of Guided Agency.

Born in Australia to Lebanese parents who fled the civil war, she moved to Dubai 10 years ago and worked in digital marketing.

After more than 16 years in marketing across several regions, she decided to use her experience and specialist knowledge to help professionals and corporate leaders.

Ms Abou Chedid, 35, lives on Dubai’s Palm Jumeirah with her fiancee and their puppy, Biscuit.

Where did money feature growing up?

My dad was an economist, my mum was in marketing, but when they came to Australia, their degrees weren’t recognised so they had to start from scratch.

They started several businesses — delis and cafes — and when businesses didn’t go well, they started new businesses. Everything was poured into love and giving us a safe environment.

Both then re-studied; my dad was actually in university with me, doing accounting. Mum went into French teaching and translating.

My father was also an athlete, represented Lebanon in basketball, so put discipline into our personalities, to be strong, do our best and reach our full potential. Education was at the forefront.

What did you take from that?

Whatever my parents were going through, they always created this mindset of abundance; money comes and goes and the more work you put in … money’s just a result of what you’re doing, it is not something that you go chasing.

And if you wanted more things, you need to save.

How did you first earn?

Through my parents, in the cafe. My dad would give us A$2 (Dh5.11) here, A$5 there, maybe A$10. Then I was a receptionist at a doctor’s clinic at 15.

What was your early financial outlook?

I got a scholarship and the university would say: “Do you want it to go towards your fees or do you want cash?”

I took the money every year and put it towards travel. The driver was to experience other cultures and people.

I had a couple of jobs (to cover my fees). I worked at a beauty salon.

I would prioritise what I wanted and then did what I needed to achieve that. I needed to travel longer, so got a second job at a florist working weekends.

Why the UAE?

To live overseas. In Australia, you save to travel, then come back and you have got “the holiday blues”.

I wanted to live somewhere I don’t get that feeling. Everyone mentioned Dubai, because I also have a Lebanese background, and I met a gentleman at an agency, also Lebanese Australian.

He said: “Your career growth will accelerate by 200 per cent of what you were doing in Australia.”

So, I took that opportunity.

What influenced your career route?

I was very interested in consumer behaviour. My uncle worked for L’Oreal in Europe. They ran a campaign where they put a shampoo bottle on the shelf, attached a teddy bear and sales went up because mothers were emotionally drawn to give it to their children.

Initially, I wanted to be a physiotherapist to Kobe Bryant, but literally 10 minutes before the close of university applications, I took everything off physiotherapy and went for marketing.

Money buys you freedom but, at the same time, it is not what makes me whole
Robyn Abou Chedid, founder of Guided Agency

How did Guided happen?

I am fortunate throughout my career to have had great leadership … individuals that accelerated my career, in terms of mentorship.

I was on a mission to bring these individuals and C-levels to the forefront, because I want people to find and hear them … no one really understood what personal branding was, especially in this region.

I was at Emaar for a few years and saved up to start my own business. I have always had that entrepreneurial mindset, doing things on the side, personal training women, a spray tanning business, then I started Guided … two weeks before Covid hit.

I’m now under the umbrella of one of the top recruiting agencies here.

What is your spending outlook?

I am more conscious of saving, but I still spend. If I want something, I just learn to make more.

I don’t necessarily restrict myself, but I’m a lot more mature in my spends and don’t have credit cards.

I’m living on the Palm and our rent has gone up by Dh100,000, so we are going to move.

I would pay if it is worth the lifestyle and was reasonably priced — there is an emotional side to money, not just transactional, but that is stupid money.

Entrepreneur Robyn Abou Chedid says her best investment is travel. Chris Whiteoak / The National

And saving?

I have learnt to diversify. Back home, I used to put it in high-interest savings accounts, but here I used to hoard cash and realised that is actually not a good thing, even though it got me through Covid.

Now I am looking at investing into property in Dubai and Australia.

I put travel at the forefront during my 20s, loving life; now I have hit my 30s, I am exploring property, shares.

I would like to have entered the property market earlier, but everyone says that.

What is your best investment?

Travel. That changed my mindset in terms of interpersonal skills and how I talk with people. It made me more patient, understand cultures.

Now I apply that in business; especially in this region, it is invaluable. I learnt to slow down, to enjoy my surroundings and to communicate better.

The other thing would be having my own business, taking that step into the unknown, even though there is a tactic behind it.

How do you see money?

It buys you freedom, because that is how the world operates, but at the same time it is not what makes me whole.

I always wanted to earn enough so I am able to support anyone that needs help. Enough to still be happy in my every day and be able to also give back.

I was earning a lot and then Covid hit. I had a dip that put me on the back seat a little, but also thinking: “That’s okay, I can do it again.”

It was a case of shuffling of priorities. I never felt less of a person, although money does give you confidence.

Any big expenses on the horizon?

We are getting married in four months, doing a destination wedding in Bali as everyone else’s affordability is a big factor too and Dubai is expensive for people to travel into, especially now from Australia.

We looked at the numbers, the minimum we need to be putting away so that we are not in debt because we would like to clear the wedding costs prior.

I am definitely a lot smarter (with money). We can always be wiser, but it is an evolving thing.

Are you materialistic?

I value everything that I have but everything’s replaceable.

If I had an abundance of money right now, my first thing would be to buy airline tickets.

As you get older and earn more … I like to stay in nice hotels and eat in nice restaurants. Travel is a necessity, but for a lot of people it’s a luxury.

Where are you heading financially?

I have a retirement fund back home. I don’t necessarily need to stop working, have that need to put my feet up at a certain age; it is just finding balance.

I feel content, the job is always giving back, but I don’t want what I am doing to consume me. So, if I can find smarter, wiser ways of making money work for me, I am definitely interested.

Updated: February 20, 2023, 6:56 AM