Money & Me: Abu Dhabi tennis pro manages debt from the baseline

Olivier Fabre is a tennis pro at Professional Sports Services in Abu Dhabi. The 31-year-old, from France, has played tennis from a young age, with the sport winning him a university scholarship to study communications and business in the United States. He moved to the UAE three years ago and has since acquired a master’s in finance from Sorbonne Abu Dhabi.

Describe your financial journey so far.

I left college debt-free but in the midst of the financial crisis, so I continued working as a tennis pro while also selling sports shoes at Nordstrom, a big department store chain in the US. I first came to Dubai on a short contract in June 2012, then took a full-time job at the end of that year with Professional Sports Services, whose main business is tennis at Zayed Sports City. The first year here was tough. I was offered a competitive salary with commissions, but not housing and you have to pay a lot of expenses up front as an expat here. I was married and it was a financial struggle, that’s for sure. But I was never in any real debt – I used my savings. I cannot handle running up debt and then just making minimum payments or something like that. I have to pay it off – at least most of it – each month.

Are you a spender or a saver?

I’m definitely conservative. I try to save about 30 to 40 per cent of my salary each month. But I love also golf. I don’t mind spending Dh6,000 to Dh7,000 a month on golfing.

What is your philosophy towards money?

I believe in karma, financial karma. My choice is to stay out of debt. It’s a European attitude more than an American one. In the US you need to get a credit card to build up your credit score and so on; in France you don’t have that. I want to keep my finances straight. I want to have money to do certain things and be at a point where I don’t have to worry about small expenses: food, a mortgage or payments on my car. I want to have that level of financial freedom and not be extravagant, not going to restaurants every day. When I eventually go back to France I would also like not to worry about the quotidian expenses and have money for retirement.

Have you made any financial mistakes along the way?

I dabbled in stocks, conservatively. But it was just too stressful. Now I just have an insurance-related retirement fund. But my biggest financial mistake so far is buying a brand-new car in the US three years ago and then I moved here. I only sold it six months ago and lost a lot of money. It was a Toyota Camry, but I saw it as a long-term investment and paid the insurance, all the options. I bought it for $28,000 and sold it for $13,000.

If you won Dh1 million what would you do with it?

I would buy the best place I could in Paris, but it really wouldn’t go very far there.

What has been your best investment?

My golf clubs. I bought some amazing golf clubs: TaylorMade drivers and the irons by Mizuno. They are something I’m very happy having spent money on. I spent it without worrying about how it would affect my bank account. Hopefully, when my father visits I will be able to beat him. That is one of my objectives. Also, getting my master’s in finance at the Sorbonne Abu Dhabi. I was able to do it in just one year at a cost of Dh70,000. If I had done an MBA at school with a comparable name in the US it would have cost me more than $100,000 – maybe a lot more – and left me with a lot of debt.

What do you enjoy spending money on?

Golf. I see it as a long-term investment. We are not here to just work and I don’t mind spending on what I love. I play at Abu Dhabi Golf Club but I’m not a member – that’s big, big money.

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