When Emirati Amer Bin Breik was 13, he used the US$55 he received from his family on the Eid holiday to buy shares of a local petroleum company. He soon became hooked on stock trading after his brother introduced him to investopedia.com, a virtual stock market game.
Playing with virtual stocks wasn’t enough for Bin Breik. But he realized he needed more money to make real trades. So he contacted some dealers in China to supply him with electronic gaming devices that he could sell locally at a profit on souk.com. The young entrepreneur watched his money grow until it was enough to invest in the United Arab Emirates’ markets.
"By the time I was 16 I had started analyzing the stock market on my own, because I believe that the best person to manage your money is yourself," Bin Breik says. "I started attending seminars and reading books day and night, scanning hundreds of charts to understand how to analyze markets and, at the same time, hypothetically testing different strategies."
Now 22 years old and a student at the American University of Sharjah majoring in finance, he’s managed to double his capital with his first significant investment in U.S. markets, and founded InvestUAEMoney.com, a website where he dispenses financial advice to a loyal following of subscribers. He’s got sponsors too: business news provider Thomson Reuters and UniTicker, a Jordanian company, provides him with stock market software. Irish firm AVAFx provides his site with a platform for foreign currencies trading (known as forex). Bin Breik caters to all ages, though he finds that his clients are between 25 and 60 years old.
"Generally speaking, teenagers are not very financially savvy," he notes. "They have a long way to go and really need that to become aware of their finances. Most teenagers spend without thinking about their future. The truth is that you will need a house, you will need a car, you will need to send your kids to school and there’s only so much your salary or anyone out there can do to help. So teenagers have to be aware of what is waiting for them in the future – things will not be as easy as they are right now."
Bin Breik seems years ahead of his time. The remarkably mature teenager believes it is never too early to start building wealth. "At a young age, with fewer responsibilities and unnecessary expenses, it is easier to save up or begin building wealth," he says. "Later on in life there will be more responsibilities and many necessary expenses which will leave you with no option but to spend.
"As a teenager your capital is small, so you need to aim to build your capital large enough to make your investments profitable," he continues. "Once you have a significant amount of money, you can start investing smartly. The ocean is made out of droplets and you have to start somewhere, the earlier the better."
However, with local banks making it increasingly difficult for teenagers to save — most do not have accounts for anyone less than 18 years old — just what are the options for teenagers in the UAE thinking about saving?
Some expatriate teenagers open up a bank account in their country of birth. A local option is Dubai-based National Bonds, a Sharia-compliant savings scheme that seems made for teenagers and students. UAE Nationals, residents and non-residents over the age of 16 can save with National Bonds, whose annual recorded profits are significantly higher than those offered by savings accounts and 12-month fixed deposit accounts. A parent or guardian can also buy National Bonds certificates for a minor. Each bond costs AED 10 (US$2.75) with a minimum purchase of AED 100 (US$27), and there’s also weekly and monthly draws — those with accounts of over AED 3000 (US$816) can win up to AED 1 million (US$272,240).
"National Bonds makes it really easy for young people to save, so start your savings with them, build your capital and educate yourself on other ways to increase investment. You can then also consider moving on to a mutual fund", Bin Breik says.
InvestUAEMoney.com provides easy-to-understand information, but it is tailored to people who already understand financial terms, educating investors on how to read charts and depend on their own analysis to purchase or sell stocks. So Bin Breik is planning to launch the InvestUAEMoney Academy, where people of all ages would be able to learn how to invest in the stock market, how to read charts and much more, from the basics to the more advanced courses.
"Investing has taught me many things, but it’s mainly taught me patience," he says. "I’ve learnt to save my money and watch it slowly grow – which enables me to become a better investor. It’s also made me more ambitious; I’ve become closer to many of my dreams and it’s given me a lot of opportunities."