UAE-based expats not saving enough money

A survey has revealed that three out of five expats living in the United Arab Emirates, particularly Dubai, do not save enough funds to be able to maintain their lifestyle once they retire.

Research carried out by Guardian Wealth Management (GWM) found that people earning between DH 10,000 and DH 30,000 will be the worst hit as very few of them are able to set aside any money at the end of the month.

What’s more, the survey found those who made between Dh40,000 and Dh60,000 per month were not saving enough, with 75 per cent putting less than one-fifth of their monthly earnings towards retirement.

“Most expats think they can live a life of opulence,” explained Hamzah Shalchi, the regional head of GWM. “But they lose touch with the importance of planning their future so they can lead a similar life of comfort and luxury when they stop working. Unfortunately, they will have a rude awakening when they realise they have not saved enough for their retirement.”

These revelations can seem surprising, given that 34% of expats in Dubai aim to retire at the age of 55 and 53% before they are 60. What’s more shocking is that 58% of expats living in Dubai only aim to save 10 years prior to retirement. 10 years is not deemed a sufficient amount of time to make any significant retirement savings. Given that Dubai has a particularly high cost of living, many expats could struggle financially post-retirement, potentially having to move back to their home country in order to live comfortably.

We take a look at some of the reasons why many expats in Dubai struggle to save money and what financial strategies can be put in place to counteract this issue.

Amazing architecture of tropical resort in Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Why do UK expats living in Dubai struggle to save?

Dubai is one of the most lavish cities in the world, so it’s unsurprising that it contains over 240,000 UK expats. The question remains, why are so many expats in Dubai struggling to save money?


Given that Dubai is such an extravagant location, many expats become consumed by the lavish lifestyle, spending money on nights out and luxury dining. This predicament tends to affect expats in their 30s and 40s, leaving little money aside to go towards savings. Whilst it can be difficult, cutting back on leisurely spending can create substantial growth in your savings to go towards your eventual retirement.

Credit card debts

Before making a start on your retirement savings, it can be beneficial to address any high interest debt such as credit card payments. These high interest payments could potentially add up to thousands of dirhams (DH) each month, making saving a struggle. If you find yourself in this situation, it’s recommended that you speak to a financial adviser who can help find the best financial solution going forward.

High cost of living

Dubai is renowned for its high living costs, often equalling London prices. Research has shown that a middle-class lifestyle is now 30% costlier compared to 20 years ago. As a result, it can be difficult to save without having a budget in place. A budget can help you keep track of what you are spending each month. It’s also useful to have a target of how much you want to save each month which can prevent you from making unnecessary purchases.

When looking at your past purchases, assess which expenses are essential and which costs you can do without. Keeping track of spending can help you take control of your purchases, only buying what you can afford within your newly set spending limit.

Should you find that you are unable to eliminate any of your purchases, it could be time to look into other methods, such as finding a part time job.


Stress is a common factor amongst people who overspend. Making non-essential purchases here and there can be satisfying temporarily, whether it’s buying new clothes or going out with friends. Dubai is known for its strong working culture, so many may use spending as a way to treat themselves and help reduce work-related stress levels. This pattern of behaviour can also be helped using the budgeting model mentioned previously. Whilst there’s nothing wrong with making non-essential purchases, having a plan can make sure you are spending within your means.

No financial targets

For younger expats, the idea for saving in retirement can seem unnecessary. However, with people now living longer, it’s recommended that you start saving as early as possible. Delaying retirement planning until later in life can make saving even more of a struggle. Financial professionals recommend that retirement savings should start as soon as you begin earning.

Having specific financial targets in place can help you become more motivated about savings. You could set yourself a set time that you want to have your debts paid off or a goal for a big purchase such as a house deposit. These specific goals can help you to become more financially aware, making saving less of a chore.

If you’re thinking of moving abroad and would like to know more about foreign exchange risk, please give us a call on 020 7350 5474.