Money & Me: expat life coach regrets lending to people

Lisa Laws, who is a life coach, considers herself good with money. The 47-year-old British national left the housing market before the 2008 crash, but learnt the hard way not to trust “friends” to whom she has loaned money. Mrs Laws has been living in the UAE for nearly 13 years. She is also the mother of two children aged 14 and 12.

How did your upbringing shape your attitude towards money?

My father is a businessman and he never believed in spending money you didn’t have. The business he ran was successful, but not mega successful. He wasn’t a risk-taker. He had supermarkets with his brother in the UK. From a positive side, it shaped me that I would never not pay a credit card bill at the end of every month. I tend to manage money quite well, but on the negative side I was told that there is no such thing as a free lunch and you cannot be mega successful. I think that made me comfortable. If you get mega successful, it would be taken away from you.

How much did you get paid for your first job?

I think the first job I had, I was on £5,200 (Dh27,000) a year. That was back in about 1988 or 1989.

Are you spender or saver?

I’m more of a spender. I am not a big saver.

What is your most cherished purchase?

About 10 years ago, I bought an antique Omani chest. I just love it. It is a cherished purchase and you can’t just get them any more. It has gone up a lot in value and it is hard to find them in Abu Dhabi. My second would be a laptop.

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

I had the fear, but I have always known that I would be able to pay the bills. I don’t know what it would be like not being able to pay them. This has never happened to me.

Where do you save your money?

I’m not a big saver. I tend to pay a mortgage. Any money that I was going to save, I would use it to pay off that. I think that interest rates are so rubbish that it is not worth it. There’s no saving in the market that would give a return that is more than inflation. There’s no point or incentive to save here. I have a mortgage on a house that increases in value, so I pay for it when I have extra money. Properties are my pension.

What has been your best investment?

I was in and got out of the real estate market before it collapsed in 2008. This was my best gain and best losses in a year. I lost because I decided to lend money to a quasi-friend and never saw it again. He went to jail in Dubai.

What do you most regret spending money on?

People that don’t pay me back, definitely. It is lending people money that you never get back. Don’t expect to get money from people you lend money to. That’s the key.

What financial advice would you offer your younger self?

Spend money on experiences rather than things, so more on holidays and enjoying time rather than shopping for things. I was quite good with my younger self and good with money. I used to worry about not ever getting on the property ladder. I used to worry about that. Another thing that I used to worry about is the economy. It always goes in cycles. It would be to trust that it would always pick up again, or trusting the cycle of finance and economics.

Do you have a plan for the future?

I guess I do. It is to own as much property without debt on it as I can, so the rent from that would pay my retirement. My current plan is to finish my mortgage in 10 years. At the moment, I am on a budget because I am studying. I am doing a master’s degree, so I am working less. My two-year plan is to spend as little of my savings as I can.

If you won Dh1m, what would you do with it?

I would give some to charity, I would have a mega holiday and I would invest the rest in property.

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