Angelica de Guzman works as a sales operations specialist in the cyber security industry in Dubai.
The Filipino lives with her husband, Alqab, a Pakistani entrepreneur, and 13-year-old son Gabriel in Al Mamzar, Sharjah. She arrived in the UAE in 2005.
After completing her bachelor’s degree in business management and administration, Ms de Guzman, 40, secured her first job as a Google call centre agent in 2004, where she earned 10,000 Philippine pesos ($176) a month.
After taking a 11-month break in 2010 during her pregnancy, Ms de Guzman also worked for a freight-forwarding company where she earned Dh6,000 a month.
She is currently in her seventh job in the UAE.
What is your current salary?
I currently earn between Dh15,000 to Dh20,000 a month. This includes an allowance for my son’s education, housing and transport.
Do you have investments and savings?
I set aside 45 per cent of my salary towards my savings and investments.
I have cash savings in the Philippines and invested in a family-owned financial services company.
I have also invested in mutual funds and remit a fixed amount of money every month to a government agency that provides social insurance, retirement and other benefits to overseas Filipino workers such as me.
Other investments include a plot in the city of Lipa in the Philippines and a one-bedroom house in Batangas City, which we use when we go on holiday back home.
I also have life and health insurance, which my parents initially took out in my name and I have taken over now.
I have some money invested in cryptocurrencies but am in it for the long term. My husband manages this on my behalf. I want safe investments and cannot handle big losses.
I do not have any dependents in my home country. My father was a dentist and my mother runs her own business.
Have you started saving for retirement?
Yes, I started saving for my retirement five years ago. I invest in the government’s social security programme back home. I also buy gold.
Do you have any debt?
I currently do not have any debt. But when I was new in the UAE, I accumulated debt worth Dh65,000 and was not able to pay it off. I used to have credit cards from three banks and a loan as well. But I had borrowed only Dh15,000.
Eventually, my parents had to pay it off. Even my husband helped me to pay off the loan.
The debt repayment took two and a half years, and I made a promise that I would never take out credit cards and loans.
In hindsight, I should have been more careful and known my rights. When people from the bank’s legal department call you, they try to threaten you.
But I took a two-year car loan later. That is the only risk I have taken.
This mistake taught me more about finances and how to budget. My husband used to do the budgeting but I said no and decided to handle my finances and learn where to invest.
Do you have an emergency fund?
I have an emergency fund that can sustain my living expenses for three months. I have also taken out unemployment insurance in the UAE.
Have you inherited a sum of money?
I have never inherited a sum of money. I do not want to demand anything from my parents because they have already helped me to pay off my credit card debt.
Growing up, were you taught how to handle your finances?
My mother has excellent financial acumen. She imparted lessons on prudent spending and wise investing to my brother and me.
Her meticulous approach to financial calculations has greatly influenced my own money management skills, particularly in budgeting.
Since I did a business administration course in college, I was taught how to properly manage a business. But I think schools must teach children as early as possible about managing finances.
Otherwise, when you start working in a different country, you will struggle to handle everything from your phone bills, house rent and living costs. Coming to the UAE was a big learning experience for me.
Do you try to impart the same values to your son?
My husband and I are very strict about finances with my son. We always teach him how to invest wisely and how to handle his money.
We make sure that he is aware about life’s realities. He is aware that parents will not always be there, so he needs to learn how to handle financial problems.
My husband is teaching him how to learn stock trading.
We have also noticed that if he buys toys, he takes them to school and sells them.
He has had a bank account with Liv, Emirates NBD’s digital bank, for two years. If he wants something, he saves to buy it. When he was 12, he saved to buy a PlayStation.
We give him Dh200 as pocket money each month and this goes to his bank account so we can monitor his spending. This is linked to my bank account.
What are your major monthly expenses?
My biggest monthly expenses are house expenses (rent, utilities, groceries), school fees and, of course, savings. I treat savings as an expense.
I allocate 35 per cent of my salary towards these expenses and 20 per cent for entertainment, travel and recreation with my family.
Balance in life is always important. Allocating some of your resources for entertainment and recreation allows you to enjoy life’s pleasures, create memorable experiences and maintain a healthy work-life balance.
How do you budget your salary with the rising cost of living?
I have made a budget planner and been practising this for the past 10 years.
I am a certified “budgetarian”. I create a budget for my expenses, prioritise savings, cut unnecessary costs and live within my means.
Do you have any hacks on how to deal with inflation?
Spend only on what you can afford. Give yourself 24 hours before making an impulse purchase.
One of my hacks is to go to Viva supermarket for my groceries because their dairy products are cheaper.
Also, I defer purchases, such as buying an avocado, when they are not essential items.
Stick to your budget because people tend to overspend on groceries. When you see sales and discounts, you hoard unnecessary items. Check what is in your cupboards to prevent buying extra items.
Do you worry about money?
Every human being worries about money. Money is a basic need to survive.
I am worried that money will not be enough. You may have investments, but they may not be liquid. Suppose I fall sick, I cannot immediately sell land to pay the hospital bill.
So, my goal is to have financial freedom.
My short-term goal is to have passive income from real estate. But I prefer it to be in my home country.
However, I do not want to burden my parents, who are the only people I trust to manage property. So, I am still looking for other ways to have a passive income.
What is your idea of financial freedom?
Financial freedom is the idea of having enough money and resources to do what you want in life without constantly worrying about financial constraints.
It means I will have the ability to make choices that will align with my goals and desires, whether that is retiring early, pursuing my passions, travelling or simply having peace of mind about our finances.
Financial freedom is the state where money works for you, rather than you working for money, providing us with more control and flexibility in how we want to live our life.
At what age do you plan to retire?
I wanted to retire since I was 35. But 48 sounds more practical since I am waiting for my son to finish his graduation.
I will fund his higher education through my savings and mutual fund investments.
Do you currently earn any passive income?
Yes, I earn passive income through my investment in the family business in the Philippines.
Do you want to be featured in My Salary, a weekly column that explores how people around the world manage their earnings? Write to [email protected] to share your story
Updated: October 31, 2023, 6:13 AM