New country, new people, new work environment, opportunity to learn a new culture and a tax-free salary package; a dream for any expatriate to choose to work in the Gulf countries. However, the initial excitement fades away if homework is not done properly. Later, it turns into a challenge as well.
Income of an expatriate has to be divided into three '“ one portion to spend for living here, one portion to be sent home to take care of their parents or family left behind, and the third goes into future planning '“ as most of them have pension-less jobs offering no security post retirement.
So the direct conversion of dinars into home currency might have created an excitement, but when the same gets divided into three portions, it makes you blink at the stark reality. One has to lead a below average life here to save for the other two portions.
The income tax-free package too turns out to be an illusion as huge expenses are involved in annual travel back home and buying gifts for near and dear ones.
Insurance, investments in mutual funds, equities or properties, home loan, personal loan and equated monthly instalments eat away any of your desires of leading a comfortable life. And most importantly, when one works long enough in the Gulf and returns home he or she realises that all their lives were squandered thinking about tackling the future, with no focus on the present.
People from developing economies get excited about the improved conversion rates on their currencies. They have apps installed on smartphones or laptops to constantly check the current rate.
But stop for a moment and think whether the increase of one point (or one unit) gives people back home any increased buying power. Does the cost of living offset the additional income?
Websites that offer free financial consulting, retirement planning and investment tips scare you when they calculate and present that you need few tens of thousands of dinars today to lead a better post-retirement life. And how in the world the average earning expatriate is going to generate this few tens of thousands of dinars in one go?
Gulf countries do not offer citizenships or long-term residence permits. A few avenues have opened up such as residences for business owners and property investors. However, not all expatriate employees can avail of these benefits.
Dollar pegging keeps inflation under control, which makes employers to keep the salary levels same for several years altogether.
Therefore, the financial growth is fairly static over the years while the industry's salary standards grow constantly, if not dramatically, across the world.
So, after spending several years, one may find their peers back home are more or less getting the same salaries as you do and are lucky enough to spend their lives with their families.