Dubai: Are you struggling to save money for retirement? Is your bank account looking a little empty after years of working in the UAE? Fret not, you’re not alone.

According to a Dubai-based financial planning company, even those at the upper end of the pay scale are having trouble setting aside a portion of their incomes for savings and investments.

Guardian Wealth Management polled 3,000 Gulf-based residents, which include 2,400 individuals in the UAE, between December and January, and found that three quarters of them are only able to put less than 20 per cent of their income towards their retirement.

About a fifth said they’re able to save just 0 to 10 per cent.

The survey reveals something else that might sound odd to you. The respondents who are struggling with retirement savings are not average-income residents or trying to make ends meet with a Dh1,000 to 3,000 monthly paycheque.  Most of them enjoy incomes of between Dh40,000 and Dh60,000 per month.

Yet, despite such attractive salaries, they’re facing not-so rosy retirement prospects: they won’t be able to spend as much as they do now or maintain a lifestyle of occasionally jet setting to holiday hotspots, dining at fancy restaurants and buying luxury items.

“The majority of the expatriates expect to live a life of financial security when they retire, with enough savings to afford holidays, buy luxury items and pursue their hobbies. But in reality, they are not putting enough of their monthly salary into savings and investments, and face a retirement dependent on state pensions,” the Guardian Wealth Management said.

The inability to save is not a problem among big spenders and top earners alone, but among low-wage earners as well. A common refrain from the majority of residents in the UAE is that they always end up spending all of their monthly earnings. Part of the problem is because their salaries are barely enough to meet living costs.

Ravi (name changed), who works as a taxi driver in Dubai, has recently seen his monthly income shrunk from around Dh5,000 to Dh2,100 a month due to low passenger volumes. “Sometimes I pay about Dh1,000 for one month’s worth of fine and if you take into account the rent and cost of food, there’s nothing left for me to save,” he said.

Other financial obligations can also put a drag on savings. According to Mohammed Qasim Al Ali, CEO of National Bonds Corporation, saving for retirement is “gaining precedence” among UAE residents but “debts due to personal loans and credit cards remain the biggest challenge.”

National Bonds’ latest survey found that 50 per cent of non-UAE nationals are still paying off personal loans, while 38 per cent are making credit card payments. A small number, about 13 per cent, are settling mortgages.

But for the big earners, the problem stems not from insufficient incomes or money-related issues, but simply from lack of financial discipline.

Hamzah Shalchi, regional manager of Guardian Wealth Management, said many UAE residents  prefer to live an opulent lifestyle over saving money.

“Too many people are living in the ‘now’ and failing to plan for the future. They don’t realise that an opulent lifestyle now can mean a less opulent lifestyle once they retire. People are living longer but are continuing to retire at the same age (60-65), therefore they need to start saving earlier to account for the extra years,” Shalchi told Gulf News.

“Unfortunately, a lot of expats in this region face a rude awakening when they come to plan their retirement. There’s a big difference between living out your life in financial security as a retiree and struggling to get by as a pensioner.”

“Too many expats think that because there’s no tax, they can live a life of opulence. But they lose touch with the importance of planning for the future so they can lead a similar life of comfort and luxury when they stop working.”

Still, the majority of the expatriates expect to live a life of financial security when they retire. More than 80 per cent of the survey respondents said they prefer to live a high standard of living upon retirement with more than enough disposable income to pay for their desired lifestyle and added luxuries.