This blog is a follow up to the recent event held on planning for your children’s future and a guide to making the best choices for your children’s education, and maintaining good financial health at the same time. This is in terms of education decisions and also from a financial planning perspective to ensure you’re able to provide the best for your children.
With the help of Gabbitas Education Consultants, the roadmap for the journey ahead will cover the various major milestones in your children’s education and should be thought provoking and offer some helpful tips and considerations for the various life stages.
My children Taylor, Summer and Luis are 7, 5 and 1 so I am writing this from my own personal experience as a Dad, but also a financial professional. Hopefully it will give you some good food for thought in terms of different considerations to discuss as husband and wife.
What any planning does, whether it be education or financial planning, is to ensure you address various areas and considerations and make really great decisions about what you want to do as a family to achieve your goals.
Nursery or Pre-School
You may be very lucky, and have a local and much-loved nursery on your doorstep that comes recommended by all of your friends. But for most parents in Dubai, this isn’t the case. It’s not that there isn’t a bewildering array of great choices for Early Years, but with new schools popping up all the time and few families having the local knowledge that comes with living in one place for decades, it can be much harder to find the right nursery for your child.
Our top tips
Prepare! The time for nursery comes round very fast, and the best schools and nurseries in Dubai often have long waiting lists. Make sure you know the deadlines and understand each nursery’s application process.
Think ahead. Do you know what school you want your child to eventually go to? It may be easier for a child to get a place in the school’s nursery than it is into their Reception Year.
Shop around. The fees can differ wildly, and although you might be able to stretch and afford the nursery for child number 1, will that still be feasible if there’s a potential child number 2 further down the line?
Don’t be pressurized. Nurseries and schools are businesses too, and have punchy targets they need to reach. Don’t be bamboozled by the head of admissions’ charm offensive and feel like you have to sign on the dotted line the minute you’ve been on a school visit.
Think new. If you want to delay making the decision for a few months and are feeling stressed by the popular nurseries saying you have to commit right away, consider the new nurseries and schools that are likely to be less subscribed.
Similarly with regards to financial planning, it is very much a journey and different stages of your life will require different considerations. Some of the decisions you need to make are often the hardest to even think, about let alone discuss, however leaving things to chance is very rarely a good course of action either. With your new family you will want to make sure they are protected in case of any unforeseen future circumstances…
Wills – Have you already got a Will in place from your home country? When was the last time you reviewed this? Have you named interim guardians for your children whilst you are living abroad?
Family Protection – Do you already have life cover in place? If this is a UK policy, have you had it confirmed that you are covered in Dubai now that you are resident here? You may have life cover on your UK mortgage, but what additional amount would you have to live on and replace earnings?
Critical Illness Cover – Do you have any? What would be the situation in the event an illness meant a prolonged period not working? What does your employment contract state? If you have a UK policy with critical illness included, will this still pay out whilst you are resident in the UAE?
Savings – Are you saving for your future requirements in terms of education for children? Whilst adjusting to life as a family rather than just a couple, although your budgets may be a bit smaller at the moment, it is a good idea to get a frame work of savings in place that you can build upon over time.
Recent surveys of parents in the UAE have found that the type of curriculum is by far the biggest factor influencing a parent’s choice of school. It’s really all about taking the long view and figuring out where your family might be living in 10 years time. Would you want your child to go to university in the UK? It’s not impossible for a child sitting SATs at an American curriculum high school to get a place at a prestigious UK university, but the transition might just be slightly harder.
A-levels and the IB are more closely-aligned to the demands of a first year university student in the UK. It seems crazy to be thinking about university when your child is all of 5 years old, but it always pays to be well prepared.
Our top tips
Check the start time. Compared to the UK, schools in the UAE start extremely early. Children may be expected to be ready to start work, pencils sharpened by 7am. Not only does this sometimes necessitate wake up times before the sun rises, it can be a problem for working parents whose office hours are a bit more civilized. Check bus options and carpooling.
A-levels or IB? Even if you decide on the British curriculum, there is a further choice to make regarding studies at 16+. Broadly speaking, A-levels suit a student who is more specialist (i.e. showing a clear preference for either science or arts) and IB is great for the all-rounder.
Money matters. Ask lots of questions! What are the fees right now, and how much more expensive will they be further up the school? Are any school fees increases predicted? What are the payment options? And how many ‘hidden extras’ are there?
Leavers ‘destinations. If the school goes all the way through to 18, ask to see a list of where the leavers go on to after they finish school. Which universities, what country? If most of the Year 13 students go on to university in the US say, it might indicate that the school is better equipped at guiding pupils through that admissions process rather than the UK one.
Financial planning follows the same path here with regards to thinking about the bigger picture and longer term. Are you likely to have any further children and therefore need to move house and buy a bigger car? As a family where do you see yourself in the next 5 – 10 years? Where do you want your children to go to university? What are the current costs of this and what steps have you put in place to be able to pay for this?
There may be some uncertainty or unknown answers here as we don’t have a crystal ball, but with the right planning you will give yourself far greater choices.
Wills – If you have had additional children, have you updated your Will to reflect this? It is advisable to review your Will every few years anyway and in particular if there are any major life changes like additional children. You may not always need to physically update the Will, but it is a good idea to give it a detailed review just to make sure what’s included is still in line with your wishes.
Protection – Have you reviewed your life cover policies recently? Are the cover amounts still in line with what you require? Do you potentially need to increase the level of cover? Have you updated your beneficiary details to include further children?
Savings – Are you building upon your savings in line with pay increases? How are your investments performing? Are you having regular reviews to ensure you are still on track to ensure you achieve what you set out to achieve?
It’s vitally important for UK families living overseas to realise that the University fees for international students are much, much higher than for UK and EU students.
Unfortunately the UK system, unlike the US system, forces our young people to specialise very early. So the sooner your child gets a sense of what they might want to study at University or what kind of career would suit them, the better. By Year 11, they need to have a fairly good idea as to whether they want to pursue a sciences or humanities track.
Our top tips
Prepare. When your child is in Year 10 and 11, start having chats about future options and possible career tracks. At parents’ evening, check in with the teachers to make sure your child’s aspirations are in line with their skills and abilities.
Campus or city? Universities, perhaps even more than schools, vary hugely. A student at a campus university in the middle of England will have a completely different experience to one embedded in inner-city Manchester or London.
Now that your children will be heading to University, you’ll need to start drawing on the money that you have been accumulating over the years. You will need to make sure that the money is available at the right time (i.e. when the tuition fees are due) so you will need to make sure that you have the liquid cash available. This means that you will need to review where this money is invested to provide this income and therefore changes to your investment strategy may be required.
For your children, this is likely to be the first time that they will be in charge of their own budgets and this is something you can help them with if they will be living on their own for the first time. This was my own case when my parents wanted me to concentrate on my studies so didn’t want me to take on any additional work. I was given a sum of money each month during University that I had to use for all my groceries and general living, so it was a really good learning experience for me that way.
Protection – This is another very good opportunity to review the level of protection that you have in place. Once your children are through University, the level of life cover you need may reduce as your children as less reliant on you as they forge their own careers.
Savings – As above with protection, your focus may now be on maximizing the amount of money you are setting aside for your own future retirement. Your costs are likely to have reduced as children are through university and not living at home any more.
You may also be contemplating at this point protecting your wealth and legacy planning in terms of passing it down to your children. Areas of consideration here could include inheritance tax planning and there are steps you can put in place to ensure your wealth is passed on as you wish.
The above is aimed to give a very general overview of the journey we go through as a family when having children and educating them. Of course, every family is different and even children within the same family can also differ greatly (as is very much the case with my own children!) Therefore planning should be individual and personalised to you and your children.
The role of a education planner and a financial planner is to help you to plan through the years and be with you throughout the journey. We would be very happy to hear from and be of assistance to you to answer any questions you may have. You can reach out to us on the below details:
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