The UAE has the image of tax free earning and good lifestyle but against the backdrop of cost of living rising do people still manage to save part of their income at the end of the month? A recent survey by Souqalmal.com, the leading price comparison site of the Middle East, of 900 respondents found that 4 in 10 save less than 10% of their monthly income. Out of those, half claim they do not save anything at all.
Among the best savers are Western expats with almost half of them saving between 10-30% of their monthly income followed by expat Asians with one third saving within the same range.
Expat Arabs seem to find it harder to save, with 32% not saving anything at all and 12% admitting they do not know how to save.
They are closely followed by UAE Nationals with 30% saying they do not save at all.
UAE residents want to save more but fail to do so
There seems to be a desire to save with 65% of the respondents admitting that they should be saving more than they are currently doing and 44% claiming that unfortunately they save less than they did three years ago.
Ambareen Musa, Founder and CEO of Souqalmal.com comments: “The combination of high living costs, the perception of “being rich” due to no taxes and a lack of education on how to manage income and debt could explain the results of our survey. We found that many residents do not have a clear management of their monthly incomings and outgoings.”
“While enjoying a good quality of life now is important, saving adequate amounts for the future is even more so, especially as people typically do not accrue social benefits while working in the UAE,” Musa added.
On a positive note, the older age groups are also better savers than the young with a third of the over-45 age category saving over 30% of their monthly income.
Basic bank accounts still savings instrument of choice
Among those who save, almost 40% of people rely heavily on a simple bank account to keep their extra cash, which seems to indicate a lack of awareness of available investments options. The second favourite way to save was property investment at 32% and least popular option was stocks and shares taking only 8% of the vote. Alternative investment instruments for hard-earned cash do not need to be high risk with options that include fixed deposits, bonds or even online saver accounts.
Investment options vary among the different nationalities with Expat Arab being the winner (47%) in choosing a basic bank account. Western Expats and Expat Asians are seen to choose a combination of bank account and property investment whereas UAE Nationals choose a combination of bank account and shares.
Ambareen Musa adds: “Many UAE residents clearly want to save more yet few have a good understanding of all the potential products available and how they can receive good returns at relatively low risks. People tend to over-use a normal bank account, where a little homework could potentially provide many ways of saving for retirement. From our side, confirming the findings of the survey that a lot people are looking to save more, we received a lot of requests when we launched the comparison site about whether we could also include savings products. We therefore launched our deposits and savings section in May 2012 to give people visibility on what is out there in the market and be able to compare.”