Money & Me: First-generation born and bred in Dubai is master of his own destiny

Muhammad Osman Khan is the country manager for Elance-oDesk, an online workplace for freelancers. The 28-year-old Pakistani is also the founder of the marketing company blueorange. Mr Khan was born and brought up in the UAE.

Describe your financial journey so far.

I have been fortunate to have parents who settled in the country 40 years ago, making me a first-generation child born and bred in Dubai. I witnessed the growth of Dubai as a teenager through the early 2000s, which made me realise that ambition and drive will take you places. I entered the workforce at 20, but found it challenging for a youngster. Soon I realised the only way to grow was to prove myself by starting at the bottom and climbing the ladder over time. After years of experience, I felt I had to grow further, so studied a master’s degree in England. That was when the markets crashed and by the time I graduated opportunities were scarce. Luckily, I secured another marketing role similar to my previous one. After three years in the role I realised I had to venture on my own to put into practice my vision of marketing in the digital age.

Are you a spender or saver?

Money is meant to stay in distribution, as it creates more opportunities for people in the community. In essence, we need to find a balance between squandering and hoarding, with each extreme being easier than moderation. I like to spend from what I have today instead of what I expect to have tomorrow. With that approach, I avoid interest-based transactions and choose to live debt-free and within my means.

What is your philosophy towards money?

Your lifetime income is predestined – you cannot have a penny more or less than what has been written for you in your lifetime. What matters are the choices you make to acquire your wealth, which signify the true value of it. You want to earn money through hard work, where trust, honesty, and legality are all of great importance.

Have you made any financial mistakes along the way?

Pursuing my master’s right before the financial crash in 2008 meant I had to pay my fees when the British pound was at its peak – a month later, the exchange rate was at the lowest it had ever been. I was then overqualified for a market that was struggling to come to terms with the crash, ending up on a similar pay scale to before the master’s, which financially at that stage did not pay off. I also invested in commodities with my hopes pinned on gold, however, the decline in prices was another learning experience.

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

I would create goodness by investing in businesses that have a social and economic impact. The part I love about my work at Elance-oDesk is the impact we are having globally on people who previously had no opportunities due to their geographic location, and businesses who could not succeed or grow due to lack of access to talent. By removing these boundaries, work is being reinvented for millions.

What has been your best investment?

Surely the master’s degree, which was a turning point for me. It taught me how to think instead of what to think.

Do you plan for the future?

I live in the present, and focus on actions that are in my immediate control. I do have goals, which means that my plans are at a macro level, with a focus on what I have to do every day to achieve them. Financially, my belief is that I must have savings to last a year – just in case my source of income were to completely dry up.


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