As a new dad and financial planner, I meet and work with a lot of young families here in Dubai. In my time here I’ve generally found that there are generally three types of expat families living here:
- THE JONESES. These families are thriving, either one or both parents are working by choice (the “Joneses” generally have the best medical insurance and sufficient disposable income/savings to cover any unforeseen expenses.);
- THE LIBRANS. They are comfortably making ends meet, again either one or both parents are working and this is generally by choice (the “Librans” have managed to balance what Dubai has to offer in terms of earnings, spending and saving. The Librans generally have good medical insurance and some savings set aside for emergencies.);
- Finally, we have those that are either in debt or using debt to make ends meet. In this group, either both parents have to work or only one is working and the other is struggling to find work. This group can be further split in two:
- THE FIGHTERS - Those that are in debt through circumstances outside of their control, such as losing a job or unforeseen and unavoidable expenses.
- THE SPIRALLERS – Those that are in debt because they are caught up in a lifestyle they cannot afford. The majority of people I meet in this group are young and single and generally the support they need is around budgeting
I have decided that The Fighters need a coach in their corner so here are my training tips for new families:
Begin with a budget
The number one tip for the Fighters, and actually anyone wanting to start a family, would be to review your finances and draw up a detailed budget. The most important element of a budget is that you draw this up together with your spouse and agree on how you are going to allocate money. The second most important step is actually sticking to the budget. Remember that it only takes a few months of tracking your expenses to get into a routine and make this a lifestyle habit. I use a spreadsheet for my own budget, but FinArt (All Banks Secure Money Manager) is a handy app that works on your mobile and adds your expenses to the app automatically based on your bank SMS notifications, which is very smart. Wally is another budget-tracking app that also comes highly recommended, along with YNAB (You Need A Budget), which makes the bold claim that the average user saves $3,300 (around Dh12,000) in the first nine months – yes, that’s how long it takes to make a baby.
Check out your maternity insurance
Your second step is to understand your medical insurance and any limitations that may apply to maternity and new born cover. Technically, anyone on a Dubai visa should now have medical insurance in place. This can be a real eye-opener and for many of us, our companies only provide the minimum cover required in terms of DHA Health Insurance Law.
DHA legislates that for ante-natal services, Insurance Providers must cover 8 obstetric visits, 3 ultrasound scans and the various blood tests as per the legislation. For in-patient maternity, the maximum benefit for normal delivery is Dh7,000 and Dh10,000 for a medically necessary Caesarean Section. Optional Caesarean’s are only covered up to the normal delivery limit.
Keep in mind that with these Essential Benefit Plans, the hospital network is very limited, so don’t expect that you will necessarily be birthing at Al Zahra or City Hospitals. If you do want increased cover limits, you may need to take out your own private medical insurance.
If you are already pregnant when you move to the UAE, then you would have to take out your own maternity insurance and pay a loading because the pregnancy would then be classed as a pre-existing condition.
Assess your birth costs
One thing you may not otherwise think about is the fact that different types of births come with different costs. More medical interventions - whether in the form of pain relief, induction, forceps or surgery like a C-section - equal additional expenses compared to a vaginal birth with none of these things. While you can’t necessarily predict or control how your birth will go, it can help to visit a range of hospitals to get a feel for how they work, as some are more pro-vaginal delivery or pro-C-section delivery than others. As part of your birthing research, I would also highly recommend doing an antenatal course rather than a once off session. Although they can represent a significant expense, the classes that my wife Lauren and I did with Jasmine Collins opened our eyes and changed our beliefs on what is best for mum and baby.
Read more: 'How to choose your birth hospital in Dubai'
Your next budgeting tip is to negotiate with your medical providers. This may come as a surprise, but if your insurance has set limits, the hospital or your doctors may be willing and able to discount certain costs to ensure that you do not have to pay too much out of your own pocket.
Build an emergency fund
A crucial element of shaping a budget is to start building emergency savings early. You never know what could happen and the last thing you want to do when bringing a baby into this world is to have the additional financial stress of debt. This is a very personal thing depending on individual budgets. I would recommend have at least six months’ worth of expenses in easily accessible savings which you can set up with your individual bank, but the ideal situation is to have six to 12 months’ worth of income. I would also suggest my clients keep some of their emergency cash offshore. The reason for this is if they have a joint bank account it will be frozen if the main account holder dies. This will be an issue for the surviving spouse as they may not have access to cash until the estate is wound up.
Plan your purchases wisely
You should have seven to eight months from when you first find out you’re expecting to when the little bundle of joy arrives. This means you can buy a big-ticket item once a month or wait until things go on sale. You can be confident that there will be a shopping sale at some stage during the pregnancy, so research what you want and then buy when the price is right. You can also buy things secondhand at the Baby Bazaars, held once a month at Times Square Centre, or you can join Facebook groups dedicated to the sale of preloved baby items in your local area.
Read more: 'How to ace Baby Bazaar'
Remember that once baby arrives, there will be a host of new and regular expenses so you want to reduce your debt as much as you can before they arrive.
Paul is a Certified Financial Planner®, husband of Lauren and the father of their 15 month old son, Jonathan. You can contact him on 0568342270 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. He organises regular events for the dads, both with and without the little ones. Follow their journey on Facebook, Instagram and newdadindubai.com.