Real es­tate man­ager Garry Mur­ray tells David Dunn how he reined in a ‘keep­ing up with the Jones’s’ life­style

The National - News - - MONEY | BUSINESS -

Garry Mur­ray is chief ex­ec­u­tive of Place Com­mu­nity Man­agers, a prop­erty own­ers as­so­ci­a­tion man­age­ment com­pany look­ing after real es­tate projects and as­sets in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Shar­jah. After work­ing in HM Rev­enue and Cus­toms in the UK, Scot­tish-born Mr Mur­ray moved to Bahrain in 2008 and worked in fa­cil­i­ties man­age­ment for a mixed-use golf project. He moved to Dubai in 2011 to work as a com­mu­nity man­ager for Place. Mr Mur­ray, 33, lives in Jumeirah Park with his wife Ker­rie and daugh­ters, aged five and 18 months.


How did your up­bring­ing shape your at­ti­tude to­wards money? A

I was brought up in East Kil­bride [south of Glas­gow] with my older sis­ter. My par­ents worked for Mo­torola; the whole town thrived off their semi­con­duc­tor busi­ness. Dad was a tech­ni­cian, mum was an HR train­ing ad­min per­son un­til the fac­tory shut down. They were al­ways graft­ing. We never re­ally wanted for any­thing but if you wanted some­thing ex­tra there would be a deal like, ‘if you can con­trib­ute this, then we’ll con­trib­ute that’ – you needed to earn the money. That is an awe­some les­son to learn. We got pocket money – about £10 (Dh47) a month – and I started a news­pa­per round and helped around the house. I left school at 16 to play foot­ball with lower di­vi­sion Scot­tish teams.

Was that your first job?

I had the op­tion to go full-time to a club. I used to play at Scot­tish Premier­ship level when I was ‘youth’, but when I went full-time I dropped down di­vi­sions and they took me on a Youth Train­ing Scheme, schol­ar­ship-type thing. Out of £62 a week I had to pay for trans­port and rent to my par­ents. There wasn’t much left, but enough to en­joy my­self. I learnt early on to bud­get.

How did you go from foot­ball to tax­a­tion?

The play­ing foot­ball part was a mi­nor as­pect of what I thought I’d be do­ing, so I did that for a year and a half and went to work at the [UK gov­ern­ment] tax of­fice. Peo­ple sub­mit­ted their claims for tax cred­its and we would cal­cu­late whether it was right. Ten min­utes from my house, flex­i­ble work­ing hours, de­cent salary, it gave me dis­ci­pline by get­ting up early for work and reg­u­lar in­come that led to my first car, go­ing out with friends, first hol­i­days. I was there three years un­til I moved to Bahrain, when I was 21. I couldn’t work in that tax of­fice any longer – I could see the next 50 years of my life dis­ap­pear­ing in front of my eyes.

What brought you to Dubai?

I moved into fa­cil­i­ties man­age­ment and as­set man­age­ment of real es­tate in Bahrain and loved it. By then it was the tail end of the eco­nomic cri­sis, but I was made re­dun­dant from a project. I was maybe three days from go­ing home. Bahrain didn’t have much work, I’d been try­ing for a year to find some­thing that could sus­tain us. It was 2011, we had sold our car, fur­ni­ture, I was sell­ing DVDs in the car park, any­thing just to make sure we could do what we had to – and then I got a phone call from Place.

Is your cur­rent busi­ness af­fected by lower rents and prop­erty prices?

Own­ers’ as­so­ci­a­tions across the world are rel­a­tively re­ces­sion­proof. When there is a con­stant le­gal re­quire­ment for what you do, there should al­ways be busi­ness. It does not mean we’re not af­fected. You may need to ad­just, maybe you can’t pay the salaries you used to, charge the fees you used to. It’s not di­rectly con­nected, but if there is less money in the econ­omy, peo­ple shop around. Also, when we started there were 10 com­pa­nies – now there are some­thing like 90. They come to mar­ket, make it leaner and charge lower fees. You adapt or die.

What is your phi­los­o­phy about money?

I started to think as I en­tered my thir­ties and chil­dren came along that money isn’t ev­ery­thing, but it helps; not the amount, but what it can do. We might do some­thing with the chil­dren that costs only Dh50 and they have the best four hours of their life. Whereas maybe be­fore we’d go to brunch, then you’re Dh1,000 down, but what are you get­ting from it? It is about the value of what you’re do­ing with money.

Do you feel you have be­come wiser with money?

I have. When I was younger I was ‘easy come, easy go’. When we moved here we were sav­ing to be mar­ried. I’d just lost my job when we got en­gaged. It changed our men­tal­ity. When you move here at a cer­tain age you can be keep­ing up with the Jones’s life­style. We did in Bahrain, but got our­selves back on track. Chil­dren are a bit of a lev­eller too, and as you get older it gets eas­ier say­ing ‘no’ to things.

Are you a saver?

Now I’m a saver. I used to spend ev­ery­thing that came in; every­body does when they’re younger. You’re fear­less. I’ve got other peo­ple to be re­spon­si­ble for now. The minute you hold your new­born ev­ery­thing changes. That mind­set change also came when I took over the busi­ness, tak­ing charge of 50 peo­ple at 30 years old.

How do you save?

Three years ago we bought prop­erty in Scot­land – a one-be­d­room flat for less than Dh200,000. There is rev­enue com­ing in, about 9 per cent [yield]. We had an op­tion to buy some­thing here to live in or use the de­posit to buy that flat out­right. It’s a very adult thing to do and I’m aware not every­body my age can do that.

I’ve also started a sav­ings plan, so when you have a bad month you’re able to cover it.

Just be­fore the chil­dren I started in­vest­ing in my­self; read­ing more, tak­ing cour­ses, go­ing to sem­i­nars – things that could im­prove my life, not just in busi­ness. In­dus­try-spe­cific cer­ti­fi­ca­tions. It moved me up the ca­reer lad­der quicker.

Is there any­thing you re­gret spend­ing on?

Things that didn’t re­ally mat­ter, in my twen­ties – games, elec­tron­ics, clothes. It took me for­ever to pay back the credit card. Now I’ve un­der­stood what in­ter­est is I re­alise that stuff prob­a­bly cost dou­ble what it should have done. I don’t re­gret much in life, but I re­gret pay­ing that in­ter­est.

Do you now pre­fer cash or credit card?

Credit card. I learnt my les­son and pay it off ev­ery month. I’m no­to­ri­ous for hav­ing zero cash on me. We like the card for re­ward points and dis­counts.

How do you plan for the fu­ture?

I’m aim­ing for fi­nan­cial free­dom. Not mil­lions in the bank, but a num­ber com­ing in ev­ery month that lets me do what­ever we want. I started to learn about how to get other sources of in­come out of the salary. Mul­ti­ple sources of in­come, spread the risk. The next thing is to buy shares. Prop­erty is a first love. The idea is to buy a cou­ple more flats. And I want to be able to do some things with my fam­ily be­fore I’m too old to en­joy them.

An­tonie Robert­son / The Na­tional

Garry Mur­ray says his chil­dren are a lev­eller in his life

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