Natasha Ighodaro Cunningham is a director at the PR Firm Impact Porter Novelli in Dubai. The Briton, 31, moved to the emirate just over two years ago and lives here with her husband and two-year-old son.
Describe your financial journey so far.
My mother works in finance, and that has taught me two things in life – firstly, the importance of being able to manage money effectively, and secondly, that a woman can have an amazing career and still be a great mum. So those two things have been drummed into me from a very early age. When I was 17, my parents told me to start saving for a car and whatever I had in the bank on passing my test, they would match for my first car purchase. So I got a holiday job, and suddenly, almost like an epiphany, I realised how empowering it was to earn your own money and to see your savings grow. Are you a spender or saver?
I’m split somewhere down the middle, but fundamentally I save first, then I can justify expenditure. When I am saving, I have to know what I am saving for, otherwise I can lose resolve. So every year, my husband and I set (or reset) a savings goal based on something we want to do – purchase a property, save for school fees, add to a retirement fund or make a specific investment for example. We set a number, and work out what needs to be saved every month. Then we just do it, saving at the beginning of the month, before spending. That way we never get to see that money go into our current account, and it takes away the pain of saving.
What is your philosophy towards money?
When I was younger, someone older than me, who had done well in life, said “you should always spend in anticipation of earning”. At first I thought that was just bad advice, but over time I think I have realised what he meant: one should identify the life that they want to lead, and then make sure that you can or will generate sufficient funds to lead that life. So an example is, if you are buying a house, get the best house that you can possibly get, with the biggest mortgage you can possibly get. If you are confident in your earning potential and it is a not a reckless decision, then let that added financial pressure drive you to work harder, earn more, do more.
If you won Dh1 million, what would you do with it?
I’d invest the majority of it in property.
What has been your best investment?
Honestly, I would say my husband. Cheesy but true. I think that my belief in my husband’s ability is one of the factors that has driven him to accelerate his career, and I would say that equally it works the other way round. I’m sure this is true of most couples. So I guess I am referring to an investment of faith and energy, as opposed to a monetary investment.
Do you plan for the future?
Definitely, although I find this planning has to be more “active” in Dubai compared to London, where the planning was more passive (ie investing in a company pension scheme). I think that the general consensus about Dubai living is that one should save as much as they can while they are here, because there are very few other places in the world where you get the same financial opportunity. I’m investing in my family’s future, and am trying to ensure that we have the means for any eventuality.
What do you enjoy spending money on?
Well, there is short-term enjoyment and long-term enjoyment. I’m female, so I won’t deny that very little beats a nice designer bag or pair of shoes from Dubai Mall. But that enjoyment tends to be short-lived. The real long-term enjoyment comes from purchasing assets that are likely to appreciate. The best expenditure is that which will pay out over time, and allow you to provide for family in the future.
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