| Dubai, United Arab Emirates

How to survive…

The family guide to surviving the credit crunch. It could be time to work for free, kids…

Never too young

When Benjamin Franklin advised that a penny saved was a penny earned, he could have been preparing us for an economic crisis the likes of which we’re suffering now. ‘It has become commonplace to borrow rather than save; a habit that can get people into financial difficulties when the tough times arrive,’ says wealth manager Ben Lester of Elite Capital Solutions. ‘If children are brought up to save and be careful with money, then they will have the discipline they need when they grow older. In later life, saving is essential for things such a deposit for a house and for retirement, so the earlier children learn, the better the benefit of saving.’ Here’s some more reasons why it’s never too early to start:

1 You’re not made of money, and neither is anyone else. The sooner your children learn its value, the sooner you can start worrying about funding your own retirement rather than their extended, luxurious childhoods.

2 Giving children the opportunity to earn their own money and manage it as they see fit will help teach them responsibility. Also, if you trust them with their own money, they may build on that when it comes to bigger issues.

3 Even the grossly wealthy know how to budget – this essential skill will help your kids organise their funds and make sensible financial choices. Showing them how to categorise and choose when to spend and when to save enforces good decision making – a skill that is useful across the board.

4 Experts agree that a child’s ability to delay gratification is one of the top indicators of success in later life, even more than intelligence or diligence. Giving kids the opportunity to save for a special item will teach them skills no amount of gift giving can.

5 Kids who have their own money can learn the joy of spending it on charitable causes, helping them develop emotional maturity and compassion, while helping others.

Show me the money!

Dubai parents have a reputation for being spendthrifts, delving into seemingly bottomless purses to fund skiing lessons, drama classes and quad biking. Few parents get their arms twisted for cash before their child reaches their fifth birthday, but by the time kids hit seven, it’s an entirely different story, with them clamouring for some financial independence.

‘I like to have my own money because I like counting it, and sometimes I want to buy myself something or a present for my mum or brother,’ says nine-year-old Mia Shaw. ‘Sometimes I get money for my birthday or at Christmas, and I get Dhs15 a week pocket money from my mum and dad. I either save it or spend it on stickers or books or toys. If I want something expensive like a Bratz doll, then I have to save up or ask my mum to buy it for me.’

Mia doesn’t specifically work for her Dhs15, although she is expected to keep her bedroom tidy, put her clothes in the laundry basket and make sure her school stuff is in order. ‘I’ve never withheld her pocket money but I have warned her that I may have to rethink the amount if she doesn’t keep her side of the bargain,’ says mum Jayne. ‘That’s generally enough to buck her ideas up!’

In the Bruce household, meanwhile, every one of Helen and Paul’s four kids knows they have to work for their allowance.

‘They get a dirham for every task they do around the house, such as putting the plates away after dinner, sweeping the floor or grooming the dog. They don’t get anything for tidying up after themselves, that’s expected,’ explains Helen. ‘If it’s a tough job, or one that takes a long time, I may give them two or three dirhams. We have a chart on the fridge that tracks exactly what they’ve done and how much they’ve earned, and if they keep all their money at the end of the week I’ll give them a few more dirhams, so they know about interest – that money can make money.’

The Bruce kids can earn as much as Dhs10 in a week, and that includes five-year-old Jacob, who’s saving for a game for his GameBoy. ‘I’ve said that if he saves a certain amount, I’ll lend him the difference, but he knows he’ll have to pay me back and he’s happy with that,’ says Helen.

As kids get bigger, so do their demands. Tina Osborne’s three boys each receive varying amounts of pocket money. Andrew, 14, gets Dhs70 a week. Effectively an allowance, he buys his own clothes, cinema tickets, taxi fares and – if he chooses to shun mum’s home-cooked food – the occasional burger with friends. Tina also buys him a Dhs25 phonecard every month. ‘I like to know where he is, but these kids do tend to chat, so if he uses more than the Dhs25, he has to top up his phone himself.’

Tina’s 11-year-old son gets Dhs30 a week, while her nine-year-old gets Dhs20, which they tend to spend on after-school snacks and magazines. ‘I think it’s important that they learn the value of money, particularly here in Dubai where kids are often handed everything on a plate. My youngest has said he’s not sure he wants pocket money anymore – he complains that I don’t buy him as much as I used to.’

All three boys help out around the house, particularly at weekends, and Andrew is also expected to watch over his brothers. But, she says, they get away with doing a lot less for their dosh in Dubai than they would if they lived in their native UK: ‘With having a cleaner and someone to wash the car, there isn’t the same opportunity for the boys to do the money-earning chores.’

Bank accounts for kids

Union National Bank’s Al Ahbab Savings Account
$ Earns 1.5 per cent interest with no monthly service charge

$ Free Visa electron debit card

$ Dhs100 opening balance

$ Free transfer from your account into your child’s account

$ Free welcome gift, quarterly kids’ days, and discounts from selected outlets.
Call 800 862 or visit www.unb.ae

HSBC’s HeadStart  Accounts
$ Open an account in your child’s name while retaining complete control

$ Interest earned depends on the balance, accruing on balances of Dhs3,000 or more

$ No minimum balance or service charges

$ Personalised ATM card for kids aged 14 and older

$ Additional benefits for regular monthly deposits

$ Free gifts, kids’ days and investment opportunities.
Call 800 4440 or visit www.hsbc.ae

Mashreq Bank Easy Saver Account
$ Open account with just one dirham

$ 2.5 per cent interest

$ No transaction fees

$ Eligible to win the weekly Mashreq Millionaire draw.
Call 04 424 4444 or visit www.mashreqbank.com

Looking to lead by example?
Contact the wealth management experts at Elite Capital Solutions on 04 709 3332 or check out their website at www.elitecapitalsolutions.com

Travel offers

Looking to get away from it all? Check out these cheap(-ish) travel ideas

Bargain days in Abu Dhabi
Fancy a day trip? There’s plenty to do in the capital for practically nothing...
• Ride the bus
Abu Dhabi’s new buses are clean, easily accessible and provide priority seating for women with kids. Some toddlers relish a ride on the bus nearly as much as a trip to Disneyland, and there’s a variety of routes. Best of all, a day pass is only Dhs1.

• Laze on the newly refurbished corniche public beach
Once dilapidated and dirty, recent construction has brought new life to the public beach along the corniche. Several kilometres of pavement run up to and alongside the new beach, which includes a separate section just for women and children and a row of coffee shops and cafés. You’ll also find several giant playground areas.

• Khalidaya Garden
If you’ve never seen the look of joy on a small child’s face as it rides a robot bear, you’ve obviously never lived – or been to Khalidaya Garden. Simply the best family park in Abu Dhabi – it’s all wall-to-wall inflatables and barbecues. It’s also huge, but away from the rides there isn’t much shade, apart from a rather measly rocky glade. Steps leading up to the Co-operative Society reveal more rides and sugary snacks, and the wafting aromas of 50 different barbecues makes this a sensory overload. Outside the gate is also an easy spot for taxis, and the No. 5 bus stops there. The park is opposite Areej Tower and open Sat-Thu 3pm-10pm; Fri 10am-10pm.

Head for Hatta
The Hatta Fort Hotel, set in 80 acres of manicured gardens, surrounded by the majestic Hajar mountain range, is only a short drive from Dubai. It has some great kids’ activities, including mini-golf, a pool and a playground to keep the little ones busy. During the week, children’s entertainer Shadam performs magic tricks and draws caricatures and sand pictures. Until June 30, a family (two adults and two children under 12 years) can stay in a deluxe chalet-style room for Dhs995 per room per night during the week, and Dhs1,195 at weekends. The price includes breakfast and dinner for grown-ups; charges apply for kids’ food and drink. (Time Out Kids adds: When we last visited we spotted a Coca-Cola drinking camel!) 04 852 3211; hfh@jaihotels.com

Family time in Fujairah
The Hotel JAL Fujairah Resort & Spa is running a ‘Time for Family’ package until April 4, which includes an overnight stay for two adults and two kids with breakfast and 25 per cent off the bill at Breeze, the resort’s Mediterranean restaurant, as well as an hour’s free swimming lesson for two children. The cost is Dhs785 during the week and Dhs885 at weekends. The hotel is nestled amongst the Hajar mountains, and the beach is a 90-minute drive from Dubai. 09 204 3111; reservations@jalfujairahresort.ae

Free Thai trip for kids
Considering a family trip to Thailand? While the South-East Asian country was in the news for all the wrong reasons last year, the slowdown in tourism has prompted operators to offer discounts to lure visitors back again. Thai Airways International’s Royal Orchid Holidays is offering a free trip to one child under 12 with every two paying adults, valid until the end of this month. There’s plenty to do for kids – take in the culture capital Bangkok with its boat trips and colourful temples, visit Phuket and Koh Samui for great beaches, or head north for adventure, river rafting, elephant trekking and breathtaking scenery. Packages start at Dhs1,780 per person to Bangkok. Flight-only fares are also available from Dhs1,080 (plus taxes and surcharges). 04 268 1701

We are family: saving together

• Develop a family budget. Looking at all of your expenses together as a family will help your kids understand just where the money goes and why. If you let your children participate in dividing funds between necessities and ‘fun’ money and then decide what long-term financial goals the family should have, they may be more willing to make their own sacrifices.

• Try meal planning. Save money (and trips to the supermarket) by deciding what meals you want to make on a weekly basis. Make an extensive list of everything you’ll need for the week’s meals then make one trip to the store. You’ll save time and food won’t go to waste.

• Learn to distinguish between wants and needs. Though it’s the simplest tip around, the only way to develop lasting wealth is to spend less money than you make. Sit down with your family and make a list of all the things that are truly needed and those that are just wanted, then consider what choices you need to make to accomplish your long-term family goals.
Want more ideas on how you and your family can save money? Check out Kim Snider’s book How to be the Family CFO, available from Magrudy’s

Time Out Dubai,

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