‘Moneygirl’

August 29, 2019

When Hanaa al Hinai walks into a supermarket with her eldest daughter, people tend to be confused and look on curiously after hearing their conversation. She demands to know her budget before she starts shopping. Here’s a six year old who talks budget!

Hanaa is passionate about educating people on the importance of saving and conducts Money Management workshops to help participants strategise a plan to save or invest for a secure future. The workshops focus on establishing goals for the participants, budgeting, educating them on banking products, investment options available in Oman, how the share market works and more.

A certified financial adviser trained in Australia, she has conducted workshops for PDO and Ooredoo staff, among others, for over eight years and is now offering her expertise to the public through personal sessions. Hanaa believes she can’t emphasise enough that it’s best to start early.    

She is inculcating the habit of saving and has taught her daughter what it means to have a budget when going out to shop. “It can be a budget for a big purchase - which at her age is RO10 or a small purchase, as little as 100bz. She caught on from the very first time, as I explained this to her over a course of a few days before we visited a particular shop she was keen on. Once at the shop, she was reminded about her budget and how to search for the price of the item. This made shopping a lot easier and fun as I no longer had to deal with any tantrums.”

She would point at a particular item and ask Hanaa what it cost. The mother-daughter duo would check the price together and she would be told if she can or can’t buy it based on her budget. “If it cost more than her budget, I noticed she would accept that and move on to find something that was within her budget. I have to say I was surprised that it worked well the first time around, but I think it has a lot to do with me explaining the concept to her beforehand and being firm about sticking to the budget always.”

Children are not born with money sense, Hanaa says. “They learn about money from what they see, hear and experience. Their attitude towards money is mostly influenced by their parents, the media, their peers and so forth and since I’m passionate about educating people on money matters, who better to educate than my own children and hence I started teaching my daughters about money at an early age, basically from when they could count from one to ten.”

Hanaa’s knack for explaining the concepts of budgeting and saving and – more importantly – putting it to use isn’t limited to her children. Some eight years ago, the bank she worked in then asked her to make a presentation to a women’s organisation on saving tips. It went off so well that the organisation asked her to develop a programme on money management for its members. She bid against two others to conduct the programme and succeeded, and hasn’t stopped since.

A graduate of the Diwan of Royal Court’s National CEO Programme, Hanaa is a deputy general manager at Ahli Bank for its retail and private banking division. “I work in the department that gives out individual loans. So I have an understanding of why people seek loans,” she says. Not just her current role, but earlier assignments too with Oman Arab Bank, NBO and HSBC, in her banking career spanning 13 years, has given her insights into people’s financial habits.

For participants of her Money Management workshops, she sets upon the financial situation of individual cases crunching numbers with clinical precision to understand spending habits, gather information on assets and liabilities and most importantly establishing a goal. “What motivates people to save is their goal. If you don’t have a goal, it’ll be difficult to save,” she says. For those interested in investing, she needs an understanding of the individual’s attitude towards risk and matches their risk profile with their goal.

Asked if the workshops are open to expats, Hanaa said, “Expats are more than welcome, because all the banking products and investment options are available to everyone in the country. There are products available to expats in which they can continue to invest even if they decide to return to their country.”

And though she’s running a business in helping people save and invest, she insists all of this is unnecessary if people use their common sense. “There is no secret to saving. There’s nothing out of the box in my sessions. It’s about getting people to sit down and understanding, putting pen to paper… It’s basically putting what you already know to practice.”

The workshops she conducts for organisations are in-depth and two-day engagements, while the training sessions open to the public are six-hour events which she announces on her Instagram page named after herself.

In a comment posted on her Instagram page, Hanaa has been given the nickname ‘Moneygirl’, to which she has a rather modest reaction. “I think that derives from the fact that there are perhaps not many women out there currently who can provide sessions on Money Management,” she reasons.

As for the most significant observation through the eight years she engaged with people teaching them how to save, she says they can become better savers or investors if they are educated at a very young age. “Most countries do not educate kids, whether in primary or secondary school, on the importance of having goals to strive for, ability to make informed decisions, the difference between needs and wants and so forth when it comes to money.”

Drawing parallels to explain her point, leaving no room for debate, she says, “Before you are given a licence to drive, you are taught how to handle the car and the rules of the road so you can drive properly. Imagine if every fresh graduate went through a ‘How to manage your money’ course before they got their first salary. We would have a young generation more prepared for the real world and its financial requirements.”

Starting young

“At the age of six, I felt she (eldest daughter) was mentally ready to understand the concept of money and its capacity to grow. I used the three-jar concept. This involves a weekly allowance that I provide her and she puts the money into three jars.  One jar is for saving for her desired goal (a toy worth RO10), another jar is for spending (going to get some smaller items under RO1) and the third jar is for donating. It’s important that children learn the concept of giving from an early age. This will teach them to become more involved in their communities.

“Now, when she gets her weekly allowance, she divides it into these three jars. Each week we count how much she has in her saving jar to see how close she is to reaching her goal and she is encouraged to keep going.

“The idea of the allowance is to give your kids some control of spending that teaches them the value of money at a very young age.”

Motivating people to save

“People are motivated once they have goals for which to save. I’ve found that people tend not to save when they have no goals set that they would like to accomplish and hence all their money gets spent because what else is there to do with it! However, those who have set goals for themselves and their family tend to have better savings than those who don’t. These goals can range from buying land, paying off debt, buying a new car, going on vacation and so forth.”

Cash or card

“I would say pay via debit card; it helps you keep track of where you have spent your money should you wish to go back and check.

“Many banks also have promotions on debit and credit cards that allow you to take advantage of offers available on the cards like merchant discounts, cashback and such others.

“When you pay cash, you tend to not keep track of your account balance and where the money went. When you use your card, you get an instant SMS notifying you of your new balance which can sometimes jolt you to stop spending unnecessarily.”

Hanna’s top five tips to save

1. Set your goals

2. Track your expenses

3. Prepare a budget sheet

4. Cut out unnecessary spending

5. Select the right savings products

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