Money & Me: Knight Frank UAE senior negotiator on property ladder at 17

Gregory Lewis is a senior negotiator for Knight Frank, the residential and property consultants. The 33-year-old from the Isle of Wight, in the UK, formerly sold large country houses in his home nation before relocating to the UAE four years ago.

How did your upbringing shape your attitude towards money?

I was fortunate enough to be surrounded by a family that watched every penny. It went through generations as I fondly remember my late grandmother often saying “a penny earned is a penny saved”. My parents were extremely influential at a young age, making sure that I saved for my future. My father would often question what I was buying even if it was a toy when I was barely tall enough to reach over the counter to pay for it. Hated it at the time, but it made a lot of sense when I bought my first house at 17. Growing up with three competitive siblings was always a benchmark of where I wanted to be as I got older. Still some work to be done to catch them, but that’s part of the fun.

How much did you get paid for your first job?

Aside from sweeping a driveway at my family’s home for £1.50 (Dh8) that took several hours, roughly £6 per hour at Marks & Spencer. It was fantastic at the time, even though I spent a lot of it either stacking shelves, handing out parking tickets in the rain or working in the home furnishings department folding bed sheets. It was a different form of discipline at a young age and having only been exposed to school, meeting strangers and sparking a short, yet fun, relationship so they would buy a bed was infectious.

Are you spender or saver?

Bit of both. We all have guilty pleasures and if you can’t enjoy it why bother?

What is your most cherished purchase?

My vintage 1960s Lambretta scooter, which I bought for £1,500 many years ago. Sadly it is at my family’s home, but I’ve always been passionate about that era of the UK with the uprising and the voice of the youths being heard for the first time (not to mention the music), and buying this having saved for years was a small yet extremely satisfying purchase.

Where do you save your money?

Having been brought up in a real estate environment and worked full-time in the profession since 17, real estate is where I’ve guided my money. Yes, prices go up and down, but if you are in it for the long term it’s a fantastic option, fun too.

Do you prefer paying by credit card or in cash?

Credit card for Emirates air miles. Nothing better than an upgrade when it’s needed most. But paying the card off at the end of each month is a must as that type of debt can spiral.

What has been your best investment?

Percentages wise, probably my scooter strangely enough, as it’s now a collectable. However, real estate I’ve bought by far outweighs how it can advance my future. It can benefit life plans no end.

What do you most regret spending money on?

Anything I spent on my ex-girlfriend. Jokes aside, I dare say I’ve not regretted an awful lot. Unfortunately we are all guilty of spending and regretting, you just have to shrug and say “lesson learnt” as long as it’s not a vast amount lost.

What financial advice would you offer your younger self?

Save more, ask more questions, pay more attention and be somewhat more daring. You look at the most successful people and although extremely intelligent, they took risks – albeit well calculated ones.

Do you have a plan for the future?

Yes and no. Yes in the sense of when I’d like to be retired, but to get there I’m keeping my eyes open to any path and making sure I enjoy the ride. If I was asked where I would have been 10 years ago, I doubt Dubai would have been in my life’s plan. But things change, so as long your goals are in sight, why not move around and see what this world can offer?

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

Use it towards buying a property here in Dubai. Yes, the current market conditions are somewhat uncertain at present, but Dubai and its future plans are overwhelming. The year Expo 2020 was announced, prices rose some 20 to 25 per cent plus in 12 months. Just think what they will do in the lead-up. Why waste your money on rent?

What would you raid your savings account for?

Well, the plan was always for my family. Seeing as I don’t have one, it will sit tight where it is until an engagement ring is needed, my children’s school fees are to be paid and my grandkids need spoiling.

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