Money & Me: Dubai yoga instructor maker her finances stretch

Laurence Gibbs is a freelance yoga instructor in Dubai. The French national, 55, has worked in the fitness industry for the past 35 years and slowly transitioned from gym work to yoga because it “spoke to her.” Ms Gibbs has lived in the Dubai for the past eight years with her husband.

How did your upbringing shape your attitude towards money?

I’ve never been money-orientated. If we go on holiday, we don’t go to a deluxe hotel, but a budget hotel where we can meet and talk to the real people who live there. We live a budgeted life, but we don’t deprive ourselves of anything. We live well, but we don’t overspend. We live within our means. If we can’t afford something we don’t buy it. I’ve never been in debt or owed money to anybody or anything.

How much did you get paid for your first job?

I’ve always been paid peanuts. The first job I did was about 30 years ago and I can’t remember what I was paid. If I had been doing what I do for the money, I would be a really sad person. I am doing it because I enjoy it; I teach yoga because it gives me pleasure because I provide a service that helps people deal with stress and problems that society now creates. If I give them a moment of peace, then money is secondary. Since being in the UAE, I started doing private teaching and this is where I make money.

Are you spender or saver?

I am a saver. But I have my mom­ents too. I am a woman, I like my shoes.

Have you ever had a month where you feared you could not pay the bills?

No. We buy what we can. If we can’t, then we don’t buy it. I don’t take credit. My husband is 61 and I am 55 and we treat ourselves within our means. I think this goes well with yoga. It is not all about what you can seek, but about what is inside. There’s a good quote that says “things are made to be used and people are made to be loved”. But people tend to forget that when they overspend or overeat.

Where do you save your money?

In the bank. In the beginning of our married life, we lived in Kuwait and saved some money. We got a mortgage on a small two-bedroom house in England. This house is paid. We also bought a one-bedroom flat for investment that we rent in England as well. We’ve been living in a pretty big house in Dubai that we don’t need, because our kids grew up. And now we are looking into buying a two-bedroom flat in Dubai.

What has been your best investment?

Having two children. One of them works in Dubai and the other one lives in Bangkok. They are 27 and 28.

What do you most regret spending money on and how much was it?

In general I regret spending money on clothes – not like it was a huge amount – but every now and then, I would say what the heck? Why do I have all of these clothes? Possessions are something that we get tempted into because of society and the way it bombards us to need things and want things. But I would never spend Dh3,000 on a handbag.

What financial advice would you offer your younger self?

Invest in property early. I should have invested in my late 20s, early 30s. At the time, we had a retirement plan with a financial adviser, but we realised they were cowboys. We didn’t do well and we lost. I would definitely not do that again. Property is yours, you own it, you can live in it or rent it, or sell it.

Do you have a plan for the future?

We don’t know where we would like to retire yet. It could be somewhere in Europe. It doesn’t have to be England or France, but anywhere. We are quite open. Your home is where you make it. But my husband and I would like to work for charity or give some of our time where money is minimal. It can be Vietnam or a country that needs us. We could live simply for few years and give back.

What would you raid your savings account for?

I would buy a small villa in Portugal.

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Shereen El Gazzar

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