Business | Investment

UAE residents' savings fall short

Most residents do not save regularly and feel they do not save enough

  • By Kevin Scott, Staff Reporter
  • Published: 00:00 June 29, 2011
  • Gulf News

Dirham notes
  • Image Credit: Gulf News Archive
  • A recent research, conducted by YouGov Siraj, shows that 71 per cent of people in the UAE do not save regularly.

Dubai: Nine out of ten UAE residents feel they do not have enough savings to adequately support their future, according to a new study by National Bonds Corporation.

The research, conducted by YouGov Siraj, shows 71 per cent of people in the UAE do not save regularly and almost half the population saved much less than they planned to last year.

There are also major discrepancies between different nationalities and emirates. Sharjah residents are spending more on basic necessities such as groceries and household items but increasing expenditures in Abu Dhabi come down to transportation, eating out, rents and the consumption of luxury items.

The 2011 National Bonds Savings Index analysed responses in three key areas, perception of savings potential, the current savings environment and personal financial stability, to measure changing attitudes towards saving in the UAE.

"People are still paying for years of bad habits and misuse of credit cards. It is about a lack of knowledge and how to manage debt. We want to stress the importance of saving by tackling the root cause of the problem, which is about managing your own personal finances," said Kinan Esmail, executive director of marketing at National Bonds.

‘Distress mode'

"There is a desire to save but people are in distress mode. There is a lot of negative sentiment out there and a lack of know-how in terms of managing expenditure," he added.

The survey shows a drop in savings sentiment among Emiratis and Western expatriates but an increase in sentiment among Arab and Asian expats over the past year.

Of those who do save, 64 per cent said the amount is usually less than a fifth of their income with 40 per cent of Emiratis and Arab expats saving less than a tenth.

Dr Mohammad Al Asoomi, a UAE-based economist, said it was important for all UAE residents, regardless of nationality or the emirate in which they live, to start putting part of their salary into a savings account each month.

"One of the reasons [for a lack of savings potential] is the culture in the Gulf. As oil prices rise and the standard of living gets better, Gulf citizens are looking to spend a lot of money on luxury goods such as cars, watches and furniture, Al Asoomi said.

"Most Emiratis live here on a permanent basis so they do not think about saving as much as expatriates, who are only in the country for a limited period of time," he added.

Al Asoomi says rising inflation and an increase in the cost of living is forcing people to spend more of their income on food and essential items. However, he says there are cultural and economic reasons behind the differing attitudes between nationalities.

"Many expats are in the UAE to save money and to support their families in countries across the world. This is the main difference in thinking between an expat and a local," he said.

"At the moment, many locals spend all their salary, wait for the next pay-cheque and then spend it all again. This is wrong and they need to put a savings plan in place instead of living month to month."

Good for economy

"It is time for local people to start putting aside a percentage of their income into a savings account. It is important for them and it is important for the UAE economy," he added.

YouGov Siraj conducted the study in both Arabic and English across a sample of 501 respondents, who were screened for age, income and bank usage.

The survey, which is in its second year, took place in February and March and aims to provide a reference point for the development of savings patterns and habits among the general public.

"We sampled 500 people across a broad range of ethnicities. In particular, we wanted to know their opinions on the current savings environment, whether they plan to spend more or less over the next six months and their current level of financial stability," said Suhail Shaikh, research director at YouGov Siraj.

"The poll allows for a four per cent margin of error either way. A lot of preparatory work went into the planning stage of the study to ensure we got the most accurate outcome," he added.

National Bonds, which has over 620,000 customers in the UAE, now plans to embark on a financial education roadshow to educate different sectors of the community on how to manage their spending.

The company has also launched an employees savings scheme that allows customers to automatically save part of their salary in National Bonds each month.

"Around 1,200 people have already signed up to the scheme, which includes companies such as the Dubai Financial Market, telecommunications operator du and Dubai Airports Company," Esmail said.

Learning lessons

"We have had quite a healthy uptake for the scheme and the number is growing steadily. Most people have learnt lessons from the global financial crisis but there is a lot of variation in savings sentiment across the various emirates. It is not a blanket issue that covers the entire UAE."

"A lot of customers also stay with National Bonds after leaving the UAE. A large percentage have kept money and savings with us, especially those who have returned to India. We have also noticed an influx of fresh capital due to improved online services and the political unrest in other parts of the region," he added.

Savings scheme

What is National Bonds?

National Bonds is a Sharia-compliant savings scheme that gives customers the chance to win cash prizes each month.

The corporation, which is licensed and regulated by the UAE Central Bank, announced an annual profit of 3.78 per cent for 2010, which it says is higher than the market average of 0.46 per cent on savings accounts and 2.40 per cent on 12 months fixed deposit accounts.

National Bonds also says customers aged 12 months to 70 are automatically entitled to individual Takaful coverage up to a maximum value of Dh125,000 at no extra charge.

Comparing costs of living in the UAE

Comments (9)

  1. Added 16:56 June 29, 2011

    I agree with this and this is mainly because of the too much expensive accommodation. Many people are bound to live only in the urban vicinity because of several reasons and as almost all facilities available only inside city. The other main concern is paying of parking charges which is implemented almost in whole city. The goods prices are hiking very fast on regular basis. The schooling is very much expensive as compared to other countries. So many other causes which are well known to residents.

    Salman Khan, ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates

  2. Added 16:20 June 29, 2011

    My salary is not much high but thank God for 6 years here i'm debt free and i have new house its a matter of sacrifice and self-dicipline. Still saving for my future.

    Hope, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

  3. Added 14:30 June 29, 2011

    When i started to find a job here in UAE, it was all planned. my husband and I mortgage a condominium which is until now we are paying monthly, this is our inverstment but both of us don't get a monthly salary but we used to find ways to take money from my company as borrowed. We don't have credit cards or car. If we needed to get a car, we used to rent. So far, we have a few investment in my country. Our lifestyle here is very simple.

    Uzziel, sharjah, United Arab Emirates

  4. Added 14:24 June 29, 2011

    If the rents in Abu Dhabi are much lower, people can at least save so much more.

    Priya, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

  5. Added 12:03 June 29, 2011

    Had some difficulty in interpreting the chart . What those numbers are representing against for example grocery, or transportation ? Are they percentage or actual numbers ?

    mohommad sageer , Dubai, United Arab Emirates

  6. Added 10:48 June 29, 2011

    @Vicky, if people would agree with you on that, I bet 99% of them would land up in Jails, to get somewhere in Life, you need hard work and dedication and sacrifices along the way, not Debts, what is the use of me having a Car, a House but I drown in Debts, what happens to me, say if I loose my Job? Or I don’t get my Salary on time and have Bounce Checks, etc. be realistic my friend, we are all humans, we don’t need debts to get ahead in life, what is life if you can’t have peace of mind! And everyday you get stressed out to pay your debts and slowly fall into depression?

    MR, Dubai, Portugal

  7. Added 09:50 June 29, 2011

    Well, first it was the banks, they went on issuing Credit Cards to people right, left and centre, to top it all people were given personal loans, well some people were lucky with this while the majority of people I know just drowned in their own debts. Worst of it all was when the banks had to collect the money, they used 3rd party companies, who treated the people badly, used filthy languages, threats, etc. By God’s grace I did not have the above issues as I stayed well away from that temptations, but I suffer my own problem as my company never pays the salary on time, hence you can never plan your expenses and by the time you get the salary in hand, you have bills to clear and then your left with little to pull through till your next salary, this chain continues for years without being able to save for a rainy day, the Government started WPS, wonder how it never effected my company as we never get salaries before the 15th of the month…. : (

    MR, Dubai, Portugal

  8. Added 09:49 June 29, 2011

    i agree for regular saving.

    dr kisan Rajaramji Patond, Ajman, United Arab Emirates

  9. Added 08:25 June 29, 2011

    Most of the peipole surveyed here are well past their prime working age. Debts help you to build assets (Property, Business, car,etc.). Its all a matter of managing your debts in investment rather than wasting it. Without debt you can never get ahead in life. What is the point of buying your own house at the age of 40? Without risk you never get ahead in life. period.

    Vicky, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

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