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  • Writer's pictureSebastien Aguilar

Dubai Meetup 4: Our Experience with Money and Life, by Demos and Magda Kyprianou

Updated: Jun 23, 2019

(Written by Jen Lincoln, posted by Sebastien Aguilar)

This is a post detailing the October 23 Bogleheads® presentation, held in Dubai and conducted by Demos and Magda Kyprianou.

Demos is a Business Psychologist who developed strong interest in personal finance having witnessed and experience two financial crises, one in the UK and one in Cyprus. He began reading Nassim Taleb's book "The Black Swan" that provided a comprehensive, overarching view. However, it lacked details on how to manage one's finances more effectively.

Demos began communicating with a Financial/Occupational Psychologist, Kim Stephenson, in the UK who wrote a book called “Taming the Pound”. It provided a step-by-step guide on how to determine your needs and wants from life and how to build your finances around that. Kim drew on his qualifications and experiences as a chartered occupational psychologist and a personal finance advisor.

When they moved to Dubai, Demos and Magda used Kim's book to think about their own finances and how to protect themselves.

They described steps of figuring out how to plan life.

Step 1 - How do you see your perfect life?

We will not have perfect lives. But by asking the question as to what that may look like, looking at domains such as our jobs, families, experiences, hobbies, etc, we could begin outlining what that may look like.

Demos gave examples of he and Magda’s perfect life vision.

Step 2 - What does money symbolize for you?

Money will always be a part of your plans. Determining what it symbolizes for you can help you in step 3 when you are beginning to outline your goals.

There are 4 categories of symbols:

  1. Power: e.g. status in society, you compare yourself to others and think you are better than them.

  2. Security: e.g. enough to retire

  3. Freedom: e.g. do not have to work another day,

  4. Love: e.g. able to take care of my family members, supporting children

Then ask yourself- what makes you happy. They summarized the literature to show how money is just a part of what actually makes us happy and that once the basics and a few luxuries are covered, money plays less of a role.


  • Finding value in your life and acting in accordance with that

  • Meaning greater than yourself (spirituality/religion)

  • Building relationships with family and friends

  • Doing activities that use your strengths.

  • Some happiness comes from financial resources. Living in a peaceful place, having enough money to ear, secure shelter, buy some extra things. After that, statistically, happiness stops increasing.

  • Although not part of the literature, Demos having a few million in the bank can help him sleep easier :)


  • Chasing money

  • Materialistic values- keeping up with the Joneses

  • Thinking ‘once I get X, I will be happy’.

So Demos and Magda listed some of the things that made them happy.

  • Jobs they are happy with

  • Ability to travel and see the world

  • Proud dog-owners

They then took examples and showed how they aligned their thinking between their perfect life, what makes them happy, and their own interpretations of what money symbolizes for them.

Traveling, for example, makes them happy. It symbolizes freedom. They looked at their financial resources, and said as they are currently out in the Middle East, it is a great opportunity to visit Oman, Qatar, and other nearby places. Maybe a trip a year.

Securing a comfortable home is also part of a perfect life. It symbolizes security.

Securing shelter also makes them happy and is aligned with the literature. The house, to be clear, is not an investment, or should not be appropriately viewed as that. All people have to live somewhere, so the house that makes profit is ordinarily the second. A house initially is a shelter, an emotional symbol of settlement. A house is an emotional need, which resonates in security from a psychological standpoint.

As a side note, the group also discussed the Action for Happiness movement, that gathers people who are committed to building a happier and more caring society.

The last step involves being able to identity goals. Having discussions with oneself and/or partner re current vs future plans was suggested. And this links to step 3.

Step 3 - Set your goals

‘SMART’ goals acronym could be used although CHEAP SMART PLAN is better.

  • Controllable - within you control, not someone else's

  • Happy - makes you in the long term

  • Exciting - in the short term

  • Aligned - between happy and exciting

  • Positively worded - instead of wording it to avoid something pleasant

  • Specific - know what it is and once you have reached it

  • Measurable - so you know where you are and how far you need to go

  • Adaptable - if things change

  • Resourced

  • Timebound - you know what will happen and when

  • Planned - not a vague wish, but a clear way forward

  • Little steps

  • Action based

  • Noted - recorded somewhere

A retirement planning example was used to show how the acronym can help ensure that a clear way forward is outlined. The methods from the Bogleheads guide to investing and the Global Expatriates guide to investing were used.

For instance, it was shown how although you can control how you save and invest to a certain extent, your source of income can fluctuate whether you are an employee or an entrepreneur.

Some guidelines when using the CHEAP SMART PLAN

Take time to understand your own thinking and your strengths/weaknesses.

Think about how easy or difficult/impossible is it for you? What is controllable for you? What resources do you have, etc.?

So think about what makes you happy, and how money and resources can best be utilized to make that plan happen.

Once again the meetup was a great success. We all learned a lot from Demos and Magda. Thanks guys!

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