Money & Me: I am a Finance Director in Dubai, but coming from a challenging background I respect money and don't spend beyond my necessity
The Finance Story 'Money & Me series' features finance professionals who share their journey with Money. This is an initiative to learn from each other.
- Hi, I am Bhavesh Raichura, 38, a Chartered Accountant from India. I am currently a Finance Director in Dubai for a leading furniture and fit-out company, The Total Office.
- I started my career at a small CA firm in India and later moved to Dubai at the age of 23.
- I worked here for 2 years before moving back to India.
- After working in India for 6 years, I returned to Dubai in 2013 and have been here since.
How did your upbringing influence your attitude towards money?
As the majority of people from India, money was very scarce for my family.
So, coming from a background with limited resources and financial challenges, I respect money and I don't spend beyond my necessity and comfort.
If I have the option between enjoying luxuries or donating for a deserving child’s education, I will donate for education.
Why did you pursue Chartered Accountancy?
I am originally from Porbandar, a small city in Gujarat, which also happens to be Mahatma Gandhi’s birthplace.
After grade 12, there weren’t enough opportunities so, I decided to move to Mumbai (aka the Financial Capital of India) to further my studies.
To be honest, becoming a Chartered Accountant was never a part of my plan! A friend of mine was going to the CA Institute and I happened to join him. That’s how I ended up enrolling for the CA course.
When I enrolled for the CA course, I genuinely did not know what I am getting into. My plan was simple – to just go with the flow and see what happens!
I kept pursuing the course, completed my articles and moved on to my CA Finals. There were also financial challenges as my father retired during my graduation. One day he said to me, “It is time to start focusing on finding a full-time job as I do not have enough financial resources to support us all”.
I made a deal with him saying that he has to take care of his finances and I’ll manage my own. And I stuck to my word!
For me, there was no option to doubt or to give up. Luckily, I cleared the exams on my third attempt.
How did you fund your studies?
My parents did their best to educate us, however, there were days where I used to borrow pens, books and at times money for my fees.
I remember waiting outside the school after my final exams, where a few rich kids would leave their books outside the examination hall. I used to collect them and study from there, in fact, I completed most of my schooling like this!
Later in life when I moved to Mumbai to study further, I lived in a hostel. They also gave us scholarships to support our education.
Till today I feel so indebted to them for all the opportunities that were provided and I try my best to pay back, by helping those in a similar situation.
Why did you move to Dubai?
After I qualified as a Chartered Accountant in 2004, I struggled to find a job in Mumbai.
I believed companies would be waiting for me, but NOTHING of that happened. So, for 3 months, I went through an extremely difficult time. I was a CA, but with NO JOB and NO Money!
With a lot of references, I got an average job which paid INR 15,000 a month (almost $ 200) which could take care of my expenses, but it was really difficult as the job demanded a lot from me.
I gave my best, but soon realized I could not continue struggling like this. I deserved more and could do a lot more with my CA qualification.
Fortunately, a relative suggested I move to Dubai for better career opportunities and I did!
How old were you when you started saving/investing?
My first job was as an Article Assistant where I got a stipend of less than $10, almost INR 400 per month and my first salary post qualification was almost $200 per month ( almost INR 15000).
I was underpaid, hence I moved to Dubai for better opportunities! My first salary in Dubai was AED 5000 per month, which when converted into INR was a huge amount for me.
I was young and this was the first time I earned such a huge amount, but I hardly spent any money on myself, instead, I used to remit more than 60% to 70% back home.
So, any meaningful savings happened only after I moved to Dubai at the age of 23!
Did your expenses increase with your increase in salary?
Yes, they did, but not too quickly. I do spend on myself and live in a nice house, but I don’t overdo anything.
What was your greatest financial challenge/mistake?
I excel at identifying investment opportunities, however sometimes investible funds are shorter than required by opportunity.
As a Chartered Accountant, I understand I can always leverage or borrow, but my conservative background holds me back in taking major leverage. Fine balancing the two and optimizing it, is my biggest challenge.
Are you a saver or a spender?
I am saver, however, if I see the value, I am always ready to part with my money. I easily spend on family, friends, and donate for the right causes, but I hardly splurge on myself.
I continuously save more than 50% of my salary, and at 38, if I had to retire back home with my kind of lifestyle, I can say that I have achieved financial freedom. This is a big achievement for me.
Do you have a financial plan for the future?
Yes, I am a firm believer in financial planning. I started writing my cash flows and my target in financial terms since I turned 23, It's always on my desktop and I update it every month, at best every quarter religiously!
Do you pay by credit card or debit card?
Being in Dubai, a credit card gives aggressive cashback. I pay by credit card to earn cashback, however, I pay my credit card bills as soon as they come in.
Since you are a finance professional, how do you manage your finances?
I manage my finances professionally and with responsibility as if someone might have given me responsibility.
I also write down my logic of investment and rationale in my diary and review how accurate it is once in a while.
I am very passionate about finance and you need to give time to investment ideas. Patience is the key, but if something does not work, you need to review and tweak things in this fast-changing world.
Do you recommend buying your own house?
I believe financial assets are more liquid, and if rent to ownership ratio is low, then there’s no point in over-committing by taking on the liability of a mortgage loan, especially when you are young and growing in your career.
There are chances that you might just stay in a job you hate so that you can pay off the huge home loans. This is not a wise decision, especially in today's time where job roles are changing and new opportunities are showing up every day.
If you ask me, people should commit to buying a house only when they are super comfortable buying it, especially since a mortgage is a long-term commitment.
I would suggest buying real estate when you are approaching the late 30's, this is the time when disposable income is higher, jobs are stable and people are mature enough to handle any challenge.
But again, if you are in a well-settled job early in life, know where you're heading then having your own place is a good idea.
What is the biggest mistake you see young professionals, getting a nice salary do?
I generally believe people who have experienced hardship might not make errors in spending money lavishly. However, there are few who get super attracted to low-interest rates, buy expensive cars, or get into spending habits which creates an unsustainable debt trap (especially expensive credit card debt).
Young professionals might not have seen the full economic cycle. Hence, it is important to know that they should save and avoid excessive leverage to sustain good and bad times.
What would you give to our readers?
My broad advice from my experience is:
- Always have at least 6 months of savings available. If you don't have it, reduce your spending and reach that level.
- You should save at least 10% of your income as you start earning, in a low-interest rate regime which is going to be the case in the future.
- Always look for future trends where you can make more money with less risk. Past formula's logic might work, but the formula itself might not work.
- I believe people should plan for post-retirement and pre-retirement separately. 10% of the money should go into your pension fund as soon as you reach your 30's. I have a good amount of money into the 'National Pension Scheme' (Indian Govt Pension Scheme).
- If you are creating a financial portfolio, 60% equity and 40% debt is a good portfolio mix for any professional at the age of 30-50 years.
- Instead of real estate, the next generation can make money in robotics, FinTech, MedTech, EdTech, sustainability and climate change.
Bhavesh Raichura is a seasoned Chartered Accountant with expertise in Corporate Financial Management, Fund Management, Business Valuations, Mergers & Acquisitions, Risk Management, and Business Relationship Management.
Now It's Your Turn...
Comment below and let us know how are you managing your money. Bhavesh is happy to help so do ask him your questions in the comments below.
(Article edited by Lindy Ntuli and image edited by Ankit Lodhi)