Tuesday, August 3, 2010

True values the solution for emotion-driven spending

I found this article really interesting and it reflects the true situation that Emiratis are living right now.

With a Muslim social in a new rich country on develop we have as a result, an amount of Muslims with a lot of money to spend, the values of religion were left behind, the social status change in an exorbitant way reaching a level of luxury and materialism easy to get used to and very difficult to leave, but, suddenly the World economic situation changed and what is left is a social trying to keep a level in society regardless of what they have to do to achieve it,...In a past post "Dubai: What will happen to the paradise on earth" I wrote the next quoranic verse:

"Luxurious living is an enemy of every call towards,truth, justice, and social reform"
Parents are not taking care of their sons, they are Taraf
, and are making use of Reba (when using credit cards).

Quran says:
17:16 When we decide to destroy a population, We (first) send a definite order to those among them who are given the good things of this life and yet transgress; so that the word is proved true against them: then (it is)We destroy them utterly.
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When Saeeda Al Suwaidi is upset or depressed, the mall is an over-the-counter medication to soothe her mood and chase away those mid-week blues.

"I go shopping and buy whatever makes me forget what I'm in, whether it's necessary or not," says the 27-year old Emirati supervisor with the Commercial Bank of Dubai.

Her retail vice is shoes. In the last month alone, she purchased about 30 pairs, half of which are still in their boxes she says. Typically she heads to the mall four times a week and spends an average of Dh3,000.

But emotion-driven spending is not just exclusive to Emiratis. Suze Orman, psychologist and financial author of three consecutive New York Times bestsellers including The Road to Wealth, says, "Our emotions influence up to 80 per cent of our financial decisions."

In the UAE, which ranks seventh among the world's most exciting retail growth hot spots, Emiratis and expatriate consumers' spending patterns differ according to vastly different emotional priorities. For Emirati youth, trips to the mall fulfil their families' idea of safe and legitimate fun, a way to let go, and a vent for boredom.

"Young men and women are not encouraged to stay out of the house after 9pm. They don't hang out in the evening, there is no clubbing scene for them," explains Emirati cultural consultant and writer Ali Al Saloom. "The only way to accomplish that excitement, girly talk, food, is the malls. They are the kings in giving this."

He said the reason malls do not simply represent a souq is that they are spaces to socialise and spend on meals, skiing, skating, and cinema. "Which place can parents accept their girls to go to that's air-conditioned, safe, and come home early? The mall," he said.

Sometimes a spending spree is fuelled by the need among Emirati women to mark their individuality among women clad in uniform, albeit designer and expensive, abayas. "It's about self-attractiveness. How she looks slightly different from other girls. It's a kind of competition but in a peaceful way," explained Saeeda.

Emirati households spend 13 per cent of their income on clothing and footwear compared to seven per cent by expats, according to a survey by the Statistics Centre in Abu Dhabi in 2009.

Al Saloom says there is some truth in the stereotype that local women spend a lot of their time shopping and submitting to the social pressure of carrying off a brand-centred look. "Social pressure is in the eye of the beholder. People only say there's pressure, but it actually comes from insecurity and a culture that is about being well-kept," he said, adding that some parts of the country are like Beverley Hills.

Submitting to every emotional whim by spending your cares away has ultimately created a consumerist culture in the UAE. "Communities here are becoming very materialistic unfortunately but we cannot be blamed for it," said Al Saloom, citing Jumeirah, a predominantly expatriate neighbourhood. "Everyone looks like they came out of a magazine and [the area] is well kept."

K.V. Shamsudeen, Director of Barjeel Geojit Securities LLC and a financial adviser, said many spent a "good portion" of their income on luxury brands to create an image but this was financially unsustainable in the long run. "Many working Emiratis are in a debt trap because they use credit cards for this kind of shopping."

Return to values

A return to the values of faith, which advises moderation in all aspects of life, is one solution to excessive spending habits, Al Saloom suggested. "If women are devoted to their faith they will realise they don't need to be so fashionable that they have gold on their abayas, to me that's a silly thing and there is no need for it," he said. "Project yourself in a way that matches your faith and culture not an Eiffel tower on your head and too much make up."

He said the family is "the best school" to teach children the value of money and avoid spending it according to mood on unnecessary items. "When you see a seven-year old carrying a Blackberry that explains it completely," he said, adding that children who break with family values become spendthrifts.

"Kids enter a shop with money, and ask ‘how much is this? Yalla, give me, yalla bye' and people think this is independence but they need to learn from parents how to bargain and be respectful," he said, adding that this overspending trend greatly disturbed the older generation.

Al Saloom encouraged young Emiratis to earn their own money through so they could appreciate the hard work behind it and not take it for granted. "There is carelessness about the importance and appreciation of money when we don't earn it," he said.

An expatriate dilemma

Beyond the sky-scrapered silhouette of a city overdosed on malls lurks a darker world: hard-earned money, long working hours, meager income, and a noose of debt is the reality of many South-Indian expatriates providing for their family back home.

In 2006, there were 143 suicide cases of Indian expatriates — 75 per cent were due to depression about financial issues, said Shamsudeen.

The emotional drive behind their overspending is the need to satisfy the ever-increasing demands of their families. They spend up to $3,000 (Dh11,000) and take high-interest loans from unauthorised lenders at home to get a visa to the UAE, without about two-thirds of them living here without family, according to Shamsudeen.

Their motives?

"Their strong urge to make their families happy," he said. They assume that because their sole bread-winner is living in a rich country he is able to afford all their wishes. The families expect gifts during festive seasons like Christmas, Eid, Diwali, and Onam, he added.

Expat workers also feel the pressure to overspend on emotional occasions such as a daughter's marriage, treatment of a sick family member, and educating their children to give them a better life, said Shamsudeen, who advices expats on financial planning.

Dr Raymond Hamden, Clinical and Forensic Psychologist at the Human Relations Institute in Dubai, explained that the psychological reasons behind overspending is that workers are quantifying their love for family in material terms and justifying their absence away from home and loved ones by the ability to buy these gifts.

Failing to understand the sacrifices that the workers make, the families get used to an extravagant lifestyle.

With inflation in India rising more than 10 per cent and food prices increasing by more than 17 per cent, the cost of living has increased and the workers must send more money home, Shamsudeen explained.

But as employers cut back on overtime, earnings decrease, he added.

"Like salt in the wound, the Indian rupee has appreciated so when they remit their limited earnings they get less money back home," Shamsudeen said. Then they are compelled to take a loan. "By taking a loan you become the slave of the lender and will have to take multiple loans."

To escape this vicious cycle, expats must inform their families of their real financial situation to curb unrealistic demands, Shamsudeen emphasised.

He advises two main saving techniques. The first is an Expenditure Control Chart. It includes the amount you intend to save every month and five columns with your expenditure, amount spent, essential, optional, and unnecessary items. This gives a better understanding of necessities.

The second is the Micro Saving and Systematic Investment concept whereby you save Dh1,000 monthly in convenient currency and invest it with a 12 per cent return on an Indian mutual fund for 30 years to save Dh3.52 million.

He urges expat workers to think differently about money and change their definition of saving into "what is kept aside before spending." They should also tell their families that the remittances must be used for expenses and saving.

Shamsudeen also advices expats to deal wisely with credit card debt. Even high-profile executives commonly land in Dubai jails for mismanagement of credit card debt, he added, advising the sale of assets to pay off debts.

"Credit cards are a big villain in our society," he said.


By: Deena Kamel Yousef
Edited by That's Me

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