FI­NANCE HAS BEEN A LEARN­ING CURVE FOR ME

▶ Author Rachael Lynn tells David Dunn she re­grets run­ning up $10,000 in credit card debt in the US when she was younger and would do things dif­fer­ently now

The National - News - - MONEY BUSINESS -

Rachael Lynn is an Amer­i­can author in Dubai whose de­but book, At

Home Any­where, was pub­lished in Novem­ber. Part mem­oir and ad­vice let­ter, it was based on the self-help spe­cial­ist’s per­sonal struggle to ad­just af­ter up­root­ing from her pre­vi­ous home in Canada to the UAE.

Ms Lynn, 30, also founder of the Women Con­nect Abroad plat­form for women who are ex­pa­tri­ates, dig­i­tal no­mads, im­mi­grants or sim­ply new to a city, also pre­vi­ously worked in HR. She lives with her hus­band in Jumeirah Is­lands.

Q

How did your up­bring­ing shape your at­ti­tude to­wards money? A

I was born in Buf­falo, New York. An only child, my par­ents di­vorced when I was one-and-a-half. My mum was a sin­gle mum. We had a pe­riod on govern­ment as­sis­tance and what they called food stamps. An anony­mous donor paid for [part of] my high school tu­ition since mum couldn’t af­ford it.

When I was young she got in­vest­ment from my grand­fa­ther to start a herbal sup­ple­ment shop. It didn’t go well and shut within four years. Since then she’s had nu­mer­ous part­time jobs, in­clud­ing clean­ing and wait­ress­ing – now she’s an of­fice re­cep­tion­ist. It al­ways worked out some­how.

That shaped me … to cre­ate a dif­fer­ent ex­pe­ri­ence for my­self than I grew up in. So, I was the first in my fam­ily to go to univer­sity, and took out loans to pay for it.

How much were you paid in your first job?

The only way I could have a mo­bile phone was if I paid for it, so I had my first job at 15, at a bagel shop. When I started, it was about $8.25 (Dh30) an hour. In univer­sity, I had two part-time jobs. I wanted more than just the ba­sic things, so I worked for my aunt and un­cle’s movie poster store, for about $10 an hour, and on-cam­pus help­ing run con­certs, cre­at­ing the dress­ing rooms for celebri­ties and help­ing them once they ar­rived. I was about 19 at the time.

It was like a univer­sity stipend, maybe $1,000 per se­mes­ter. I stud­ied hu­man re­sources and right out of grad­u­a­tion had an in­tern­ship. They hired me as an HR con­sul­tant on roughly $23,000 a year.

What brought you to the UAE? I mar­ried my hus­band in Au­gust 2018 and moved here from Toronto in Septem­ber. He had moved around the world, we were see­ing each other and he was here three years be­fore me. He’s group CEO of his fa­ther’s air cargo com­pany, which was started in Malaysia and is based here.

What prompted you to write a book?

I’d been work­ing to­wards the op­por­tu­nity to take time off. I knew it would be an emo­tional ad­just­ment, the com­bi­na­tion of get­ting mar­ried, stop­ping work and mov­ing and af­ter three or four months, I was like, “I re­ally need to do some­thing”.

That’s when I pitched the book idea. I searched Ama­zon and there are books for mov­ing, but I didn’t recog­nise my­self in them.

I spoke to some­body in the US and here, hy­brid pub­lish­ers, which means es­sen­tially I paid them to help me pub­lish.

Was it your best in­vest­ment? I’ve learnt so much from the process of writ­ing the book. It was just un­der $10,000 for ev­ery­thing – coach­ing, edit­ing, lay­out, de­sign, ini­tial PR and launch, so­cial me­dia and dis­tri­bu­tion. Here it is in-store, and it’s listed on Ama­zon [glob­ally].

I get a per­cent­age of the sales but you’re not re­ally mak­ing back your in­vest­ment. I needed the ex­pe­ri­ence of writ­ing the first one and even in the pan­demic, peo­ple have been in­ter­ested. For read­ers, it is mak­ing a dif­fer­ence too … it’s been worth that in­vest­ment.

Have your spend­ing habits evolved?

I am more a saver than I used to be. When I was 18, I got a Macy’s credit card un­der the guise that I needed to build my credit score. I maxed that out too soon, paid the min­i­mum, then got an­other credit card.

I have ad­justed my­self over time and be­ing with my hus­band, and in a dif­fer­ent fi­nan­cial sit­u­a­tion know­ing he is cur­rently sup­port­ing me, has caused me to ed­u­cate my­self more and be more re­spon­si­ble. I was def­i­nitely a spender, maybe up un­til four years ago. Now I see my 18-year-old cousins and think “what was I do­ing?”

I have a Cana­dian credit card now, purely to build a credit score, be­cause long-term we may want to live in Canada. I pay it off and day to day only use debit card.

Where do you save?

I save just in a sav­ings ac­count. It’s not mak­ing much in­ter­est but to see it there has an ef­fect. I know at a cer­tain point it’s do­ing noth­ing by sit­ting there and when we get to a cer­tain stage, I es­sen­tially give my hus­band what­ever is ex­tra and it’s turned into ac­tual in­vest­ments and, re­cently, life in­surance. Over Covid time we’ve kind of blended [our fi­nances] more.

How has the pan­demic in­flu­enced your spend­ing? Right now, my most cher­ished pur­chase is flow­ers. I’m mak­ing sure we have some in the house at all times. I know a good af­ford­able place that does handtied boxes and mar­ket flow­ers wrapped in brown pa­per.

Be­yond the flow­ers … be­fore it would have been a meal out and, gen­er­ally, ex­pe­ri­ences. My hus­band and I don’t do gifts, ex­cept for our an­niver­sary. We try to do an ex­pe­ri­ence and when we fly, go to the lounge.

Do you have any fi­nan­cial re­grets?

My largest credit card pur­chases, that got me into debt. There were all ed­u­ca­tional and per­sonal devel­op­ment spends made in New York. I ran up ap­prox­i­mately $10,000 in debt, paid off over five years through con­sol­i­da­tion and tak­ing on ex­tra clients for my work at the time as a busi­ness man­ager for life coaches and on­line busi­ness own­ers.

The cash went straight to credit card pay­ments. I re­gret mak­ing the choice to pay for things that way, but I don’t re­gret the ex­pe­ri­ence. Look­ing back I wish I had more ed­u­ca­tion on how money works.

What are your fi­nan­cial mile­stones?

Pay­ing off one of my stu­dent loans be­fore I was mar­ried was huge for me. And my first apart­ment where I had no room­mates, in Toronto. I had my dream of liv­ing in the city, liv­ing alone; sign­ing the lease and be­ing able to pay for that was big for me.

Are you wise with money?

I want to get even bet­ter but I am wiser than when I was in my 20s. I still have a way to go as far as un­der­stand­ing and feel­ing com­fort­able with in­vest­ments.

I’m more ex­cited now to un­der­stand what money does, how peo­ple use it. My un­der­stand­ing of the phi­los­o­phy of money is not to be afraid of it, afraid of what it can do and how it works in the sys­tem.

Do you plan for the fu­ture?

We are plan­ning to have kids and for how we ed­u­cate our chil­dren. We’re sav­ing for prop­erty, pos­si­bly some­where in North Amer­ica if we don’t stay here. I’m not go­ing to write an­other book un­til it feels that it is some­thing I have to do.

If you won Dh1 mil­lion what would you spend it on?

My grand­fa­ther passed away this year. He had no de­sire to travel in­ter­na­tion­ally so I would fly my grand­mother, who is in her late 70s and in Canada, out here, first class.

An­tonie Robert­son / The Na­tional

Rachael Lynn was the first in her fam­ily to go to univer­sity, and she took out loans to pay for her higher ed­u­ca­tion

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