25 Aug 2016Last updated

The Columnists

How about a mid-year appraisal?

Summer is when things slow down here and you’ve got a bit of time on your hands. Why not spend it planning your financial goals?

Neil Stewart
Added 00:00 | 1 August 2013
  • Neil Stewart.

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Answer me a simple question – what does summer in the UAE mean to you? Two of the first words that will probably pop into your head are ‘hot’ and ‘humid’, but looking at it from a different angle, do you see summer as a time to overindulge or an opportunity for reflection and to look forward?

Much like birds migrating for the season, every summer, once 
the temperatures soar and the school year ends, flocks of wives
with 2.4 children in tow can be seen bounding towards the airport. The prospect of a summer holiday in their home country – offering a climate that can be enjoyed without needing a sun-brella for shelter or a cold flannel to mop the forehead – is simply too good to ignore.

But what does this mean for the men who act as the breadwinner in the family (I’m fully aware this is not always the case) and can’t afford or justify joining their families for weeks on end? The reputation and the reality are not always the same, but undoubtedly the opportunity for some men to assume a ‘bad bachelor’ role whilst home alone is often too tempting to resist.

Add to this the fact that during the summer, and particularly during Ramadan, shorter working hours combined with less responsibility is often the only excuse some men need to feel like they are 18 again.

Inside Info

Neil Stewart is a senior financial planner at Acuma Independent Financial Advice, Dubai. He aims to break his car-park-to-office-sprint record this summer. Email him at

Don’t worry, I’m not about to start preaching that socialising a little more with friends or squeezing in 18 holes of golf before the midday heat kicks in is a bad thing! But surely with all this extra time on your hands, it’s the perfect opportunity to take a step back, appraise how the first half of the year went and ask yourself what can you do to make the remainder of 2013 even better?

Historically, many of us take stock at the end of the calendar year. Christmas comes around and spending precious time with our loved ones often puts things in perspective. New Year comes and goes quicker than a taxi in the fast lane of Shaikh Zayed Road and the annual list of New Year’s resolutions gets drawn up.

Whether it be January 10 or, if you’re very good, the start of February, these promises to yourself and others habitually get thrown on the scrapheap. But why is this?

My theory is that January is a busy month on a number of levels. A new year of work, new targets from the boss, the kids are back to school… put simply, it’s all systems go again. Resolutions can and usually do become nothing more than a distant memory.

So back to summer in the UAE – less family time, less responsibility, shorter working hours for many and a climate to make even the Bedouin squirm.

What better time to appraise the following five key areas of your financial plan:

1. Debt levels: Far too many people I meet are ignoring their debt, but by sweeping it under the carpet it won’t disappear. Work with a financial planner to put in place a simple and achievable debt-repayment programme.

2. Monthly outgoings: Do you know how much you are spending each month? And more importantly, on what? Creating a spreadsheet or collecting a receipt for every single purchase is 
a good start.

3. Wills: Check your will is up to date or if you haven’t set one up yet, get it done! This is even more important when you consider the implications of Sharia. Your financial planner can put you into contact with a legal consultant who can work with you on this.

4. Ensure your safety nets and medical cover are sufficient.

5. Review and appraise your investment portfolio: When was the last time you did this? Are your investments and asset allocation still aligned to your appetite for risk? Is now an opportunity to consider adding some ethical and environmentally friendly investments to your portfolio?

Generally I find summer one of the busiest times of my working year. I always set the expectation with my clients that this is when we need to review their financial plan and look forward with optimism.

Carrying this out in an air-conditioned environment is an obvious bonus. However, wearing a suit whilst darting from the car park to the hotel reception or lobby is sadly not!

Neil Stewart

Neil Stewart