Money & Me: Dubai elevator engineer has a shrewd eye on the future

Kiran Joy Varughese is a quality control engineer in the Dubai office of a multinational elevator firm. The 30-year-old second-generation UAE expat has lived in Australia and India – where he is originally from.

Describe your financial journey so far

I was dependent on my parents for financial backing until I completed high school, and they also paid for my university education. While in India for my bachelor’s degree, I was advised by my bank manager to invest in the stock market through my own stock portfolio, as well as through the mutual funds option offered by the bank. I borrowed the funds to invest from my parents. Once in Australia, I took up a few part-time jobs to pay for my expenses and saved the rest. Now, my wife, who I married in 2013, and I have full-time jobs to finance our needs.

Are you a spender or saver?

I would call myself a logical spender, as in I spend when required and save the rest. I don’t follow a particular ratio for this, but can confirm that a majority of what my wife and I earn is saved. In fact, we try to restrict all our expenses to one salary. My perception is that is it OK to spend, as long as you are wary of leading yourself in to the black hole of debt.

What is your philosophy towards money?

I follow a three-point money philosophy: 1. Without money, you are unfortunately a “nobody”; 2. Never be in debt; 3. There’s no such thing as a “free” lunch.

Have you made any financial mistakes along the way?

Yes. To build my personal stock portfolio, I invested through a guy who promised quick returns by investing in mid and small-cap stocks, for which he claimed he had access to insider tips. I ended up exiting from those stocks with steep losses. I haven’t let up on stock market investments entirely, and still have some money parked in mutual funds in India and in Dubai. I check the stock market trends every day and continue trusting in the economies impacting those stocks.

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

I suppose 25 per cent of the amount would be set aside for a holiday, whimsical shopping for me and the wife and a dinner party for my well-wishers. I would put 50 per cent into a fixed deposit with a high rate of return. And the remaining 25 per cent would go into mutual funds.

What has been your best investment?

My parents were looking to buy a new home in India when I was studying there. The town I was in was witnessing quick growth, with a number of new apartment complexes coming up in prime locations. Based on a whim, I inquired after one apartment building in the centre of town, which had just been announced in 2005. In no time, a spacious three-bedroom apartment was booked, and the building was completed just in time for my parents’ retirement. The instalments for the apartment were paid mostly from the profits earned on my equity investments in India during the bull run of 2003 to 2007. The apartment is already worth three times more than the original price.

Do you plan for the future?

Of course, my history of saving has always been driven by a wish to keep my future secure. My wife and I budget ourselves and use several tools to save, including mutual funds, direct debits towards National Bonds, savings certificates with banks as well as high-interest savings accounts and fixed deposits in India.

What do you enjoy spending money on?

Food has always been a weakness. I spend a lot trying out new restaurants. I also plan a trip abroad to a new destination every year and visit my parents and my beloved Kerala at least once a year. I enjoy shopping online – you get great deals and things you’d never find here can be delivered to your doorstep.

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