Maryam Zahra is a 26-year-old, stay-at-home mum from Pakistan. She has a seven-year-old son and a three-year-old daughter and has been living in Sharjah for eight years. She learnt her toughest financial lessons amidst her mother’s battle with cancer. It inspired her to dedicate more time to plan for her and her family’s future, living out the childhood lessons her mother had instilled in her many years ago.

If you had to write a letter to money, what would you say?

Dear Money, I’ve been angry with you for a long time because you weren’t there when my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer and my family needed you the most. Please don’t disappoint us again and be there whenever we need you.

How would you describe your relationship with money?

For me, having money isn’t about being able to buy a bunch of stuff or about social prestige; having money means being able to avoid debt; live a normal life; have basic needs and, most of all, it means being able to provide for my family. My mother had a year of serious health problems that required long-term care, so my relationship with money is very simple: I need money so I can live a normal life.

Who has taught you the most about financial management?

My mother, since she is a single parent and taught me financial management by telling how she dealt with her own issues when we were growing up.

What do you think has been the most profound experience you’ve had so far in relation to money?

When my mum was diagnosed with breast cancer, I was not ready for the news. It was a big shock for me living in the UAE where medical care is so expensive. I remember I didn’t have enough money for her biopsy or tests, so it was a very intense time for me and my family. It has taught me we should always have enough money saved in our accounts for an emergency.

If you could give your child or your younger self one piece of advice about money, what would that be and why?

Save as soon as possible — your savings could pay for important events later in your life, such as retirement, your children’s education or wedding day.

How much do you save each month?


How much do you plan to have by the time you are 65?

One million dirhams.

What is your greatest financial decision? The one you are most proud of or the most profitable one?

I’ve had bad habits. I tend to spend on fast food and eating out. I never realised how much money I was spending. When my savings account consistently had zero dirhams, I knew something was wrong and took the decision to stop wasting money.

What is your biggest financial regret?

I lost my savings in an online scam when I was trying to top up my NOL card. I shared an OTP and boom... lost all my savings.


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