Pia Bahri is the founder of My Gym UAE, a dedicated children’s fitness centre and US franchise with over 200 gyms globally. The British Indian, 43, a UAE resident for more than 30 years, started her career as a corporate and commercial lawyer then moved on to financial services focusing on trusts, estate planning and institutional business. After having her son in 2004, she decided to open a child-friendly business, launching My Gym UAE 14 months later after her daughter was born. The entrepreneur now has a second branch in Dubai and sub-franchises in Jordan and Egypt.
How did your upbringing shape your attitude towards money?
My family was not wealthy, but we were always comfortable and never lacked for anything as kids but were made aware of the value of money, especially when you see people around you with not enough for one meal a day.
How much did you get paid for your first job?
My law firm package was about Dh11,000 a month almost 20 years ago. It was more than enough for me as I lived with my parents and had virtually no expenses. It allowed me to travel, which is a passion, and save money while still enjoy time with friends and shop.
Are you a spender or saver?
I was more of a saver, but as I get older and the basics are covered, I figure you can’t take it with you so I like indulging in good food and travel. I like fashion but am not governed by the latest “must have” and often feel quite guilty if I spend a lot on bags or shoes. Charity is important and I like to be actively involved rather than just donating money.
What is your most cherished purchase?
A recent death in the family made me realise how meaningless possessions are, but I suppose my computer and phone, which together were about Dh5,000. I do love shoes but am a sucker for a sale as I love the satisfaction of getting a bargain.
Have you ever had a month where you feared you could not pay the bills?
Yes, but it’s mostly in my head as I usually have a contingency. It does not assuage the worry though, and I can often get quite paranoid about it and think the world is coming to an end. It’s more a battle within myself than the reality of the situation. I have a supportive family, so subconsciously I know I have a safety net, but I hate depending on anyone.
Where do you save your money?
In a bank in fixed deposits and a few investments.
Do you prefer paying by credit card or in cash?
Credit card for large purchases and cash for purchases below Dh300. I find it odd to put a Dh10 purchase on my card.
What has been your best investment?
My flat in Dubai Marina which I love and will hopefully be a nest egg as well.
What do you most regret spending money on?
I spent a fortune on baby things as I read all the books and was so scared about buying the wrong stuff that I was a bit neurotic about it. It must have been over Dh20,000 to begin with and I did not use half the things even after my second child was born. Over time I am sure this number was at least three to four times more.
What financial advice would you offer your younger self?
Don’t think you have lots of time and put it on the back burner.
Do you have a plan for the future?
Sadly still not very concrete. Life throws you curveballs all the time so it’s very difficult to stick solidly to a plan, but I am trying.
If you won Dh1 million, what would you do with it?
Funnily I ask myself this question all the time. Probably use a quarter of it for charity and a few indulgences and try to save/invest the rest.
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