Dubai: Mohammad Ahmad is a 37-year-old Emirati marketing professional, married with two children and to date has accumulated over Dh1.5 million in loans.

"I've taken a Dh750,000 loan from the Mohammad Bin Rashid fund to build a house," he said. "The others are car loans for my wife and I and the rest is a loan to furnish the house," he said.

However, it is not a materialistic attitude that has driven Ahmad into debt but the increasing cost of living and the responsibility of children. Though he admitted in his youth he accumulated loans of Dh400,000 to buy a car and motor bike.

Related stories:

"Most people in their hearts like to be better than others and show it when it comes to clothes and cars, but it depends how crazy you really are," he said. "You need to ask yourself if you want to spend your entire life paying loans, which I didn't, so I took reasonable ones."

Figures from the "Nielsen Next: Understanding Youth in the UAE" conducted by the Nielsen Company, revealed that none of the Emiratis admitted to having personal bank loans. That figure is compared to one per cent and four per cent of Arab and Asian expatriate youth.

Thirteen per cent of the Emirati youth surveyed said they had savings accounts. This is more than the nine per cent of their Arab expatriate peers and much less than the 96 per cent of their Asian counterparts.

"My father was a good saver and always told me to save from my pocket money," Ahmad said. "He opened an account for me and made me put some money in it every month, which is something I do with my boys…but it just didn't work for me."

Unfair temptation

Habiba Al Marashi, mother of four children the oldest of which is 28, believes excessive spending is a "21st Century disease".

"The temptation on this generation is unfair," she said. "The marketing machines around the world that are eating at the brains of our youth are too much."

How to fight the urge to splurge:

Habiba comes from a middle class Emirati family and was raised to appreciate the value of every dirham.

"We were made to work for it, which is something I inculcated in my children as well," she said. "In the older days every dirham had value and we though about things before we bought them and appreciated them when we did."

"When your money isn't yours of course you won't hesitate to spend it," said Mohammad Eisa Al Marzouqi, a 42-year-old father of four boys. "When the young don't struggle to make the money and they get it as free money of course they won't care about spending it."