Finance 101

Effective investment strategies for youth in the Middle East

Imad Gharazeddine
Effective investment strategies for youth in the Middle East

The importance of investment education

Over the last 10 years, I’ve stubbornly researched ways to bid the 9-5 lifestyle farewell. I started this blog series believing people have a right to financial education. This education should empower everyone to make smarter investment decisions and live happier lives. More importantly, effective investment strategies for youth in the Middle East should be practical and free.

Investing & financial security mean different things to different people. Your goal may be to travel, provide security for yourself and your family, or retire early. It may also be to open your own business, pay off student loans, save for an MBA or simply maintain your current lifestyle. Regardless of what that goal may be, the fundamentals of investing don’t change.

My ultimate goal is to present to you the conclusions I’ve reached on how to invest properly. I’ll start from scratch, and assume you are brand new to this. I want to empower you to make confident decisions on how to invest your savings and help you reach financial independence.

About the author

“The boy is going to be a millionaire”, my father would remark after I’d breathlessly explain to him and my mother that I needed them to send more money to Canada. I moved to Montreal to attend university in 2003, after I spent the majority of my childhood & adolescent life in the Middle East.

As a university student, the idea of finding small wins, loopholes, and life hacks on a day to day basis drove me. The harder to stumble upon these hacks were, the more satisfied I was when I found them. The Dean called me to his office one day to lecture me for “abusing the examination deferral system”; I had deferred one course three semesters in a row. Throughout that lecture, I had an virtual grin on my face for finding a loophole. A loophole in a deferral system that had never been questioned.

It’s no surprise, then, that my father saw the same “loophole hunting” drive in me, and made that uncanny remark.

The “mysterious” world of finance

Shortly after I moved to Montreal, I opened my first bank account. Soon after that, I got exposed to what I, then, saw as the “mysterious” world of finance. I learnt that one could get paid 2% per year  for just depositing money in a savings account. And that this 2% becomes 3% if you froze those funds for 6 months (An investment called a GIC), I was hooked. Surely there was a catch. Wasn’t there?

I spent the next few months scurrying through all the fine print and finance articles I could find online. I’d read about interest, time value of money, compounding - the 8th wonder of the world), inflation (don’t worry, we’ll cover all these soon), and taxes (also known as: why I moved to Dubai).

The state of investment literacy in the Middle East

What I also noticed in the region is that financial education is lacking. Really lacking.

Fast forward 10 years, and here I am: Dubai resident. Geek at heart. Software Engineer by profession. Still, I brand that “Dean’s office” grin every time I watch scenes like this:

When it comes to investing, people are either too rich to care (well done), too busy to worry (please read on), or too focused on the next “hot stock” tip to be consistent about their financial well-being — they essentially pay too much for adrenaline.

Was I too rich? No. Too busy? No. Inconsistent? Yes, absolutely. Financial discipline & consistency came later. But the lessons were not cheap.

If you take nothing else away from this blog, I hope you at least learn from the mistakes I & others have already made and, of course, enjoy the terrible jokes.