Restaurant manager Ralph Joseph Cruz is quick to admit that he’s not always been as smart with money as he is now.

The Filipino father of one child fulfilled his remittance obligations to his family and sent cash to cover their living expenses while he worked in Dubai.

“But I didn’t know how to properly manage money,” said Cruz, 37.

He devoted a large part of his salary to going out.

“I thought as long as I send money to my wife, that’s fine.”

But his mindset changed when he started working for the seafood restaurant chain Off The Hook in 2017. Mr. Cruz realized there was more he could do, including saving for the future of his 12-year-old son.

With nine offices in the United Arab Emirates, the company offers financial literacy mentoring to its 90 employees to help them better manage their earnings.

Mr Cruz, who is based in the Port Saeed restaurant in Deira, first came to Abu Dhabi from his country in 2014.

“You can’t earn that much in the Philippines, but I have to think about my son’s future, that’s why I’m here,” says Cruz.

“I used to send money to my wife and son; just give them enough for basic needs.

“Once I posted it, I would do whatever I wanted; [I thought] I had done my duty … now it is no longer like that. “

I didn’t know how to properly manage money. I thought as long as I send money to my wife, that’s fine

Ralph Joseph Cruz, restaurant manager, Off The Hook

Together with his colleagues, Mr. Cruz was encouraged by his boss, Rolly Brucales, the manager of the restaurant chain, to review his spending habits and financial possibilities.

Mr. Brucales, who is also from the Philippines, wants his employees to feel like part of a family and to be given better knowledge of dealing with money.

Accountant by profession, Mr Brucales, 46, has made it his business to impart financial knowledge to the employees of the restaurant chain.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, the company invited motivational speakers to inspire employees.

Despite the global health crisis, none of the restaurant’s employees have been laid off. Instead, Off The Hook added four branches.

The process of financial literacy for the restaurant staff usually starts with an Excel spreadsheet to show expenses and potential improvements or cost savings, Brucales says.

Lessons include insights into investing in the stock market and mutual funds, with advice from Mr. Brucales, friends, and co-workers through group presentations, over coffee, or zoom chats.

Mr Brucales, a father of three who lives in Abu Dhabi, says some of his compatriots tend to spend on “food and glamor” while in the United Arab Emirates.

In some cases, they return to the Philippines with little to show for their time abroad, he adds.

He wanted to “change their direction” and how they used their earnings – and he realized that he could do this through his organization as it grew.

“It was my goal and that of the partners that the employees, when they leave the company, be trained in how to handle money when they return,” he says.

“In our community, many live like millionaires and buy things they don’t need,” says Brucales.

But they return to the Philippines with no property or investment and end up working again, he says.

“We need to remind them what the big ‘why’ is that you are here … for your family. They can then raise their family members [who are receiving remittances] as.”

Making money is easy, but keeping it and growing it can be a challenge for some

Rolly Brucales, General Manager, Off The Hook

Mr Brucales, who has monthly meetings in each store, says it’s “easy to make the money” but it’s challenging for some to keep and grow it.

His tips include keeping 30 percent for investments while the remainder of the salary goes towards living expenses and remittances. In addition to the investment risks, it is also important to identify the purpose of the investment – such as the financing of old-age provision or training costs.

“The secret is to list the expenses on a monthly basis; That way, you know where your money is going, ”says Brucales.

“With every investment you have to think carefully about what you are going to do. The analysis is very important and part of our learning … what a mutual fund is, the stock market. “

At the beginning, however, the task can simply be to help an employee open the right account in the Philippines through which they can then feed their investment vehicles.

Mary Ann Capistrano, a recently promoted store manager after nearly four years at Off The Hook, admits she was not a “good saver” before leaving the Philippines to work as a cashier and waitress.

“My family did not oblige me to give them any money,” says Ms. Capistrano, who is single.

“But my aunt who asked me to come here has returned to the Philippines forever, so I am [now] the breadwinner. “

Financial mentoring taught her how to achieve more with her dirhams and helped her focus on achieving her goals, she says.

“I have to understand why I have to save and invest for myself,” says Capistrano, who previously sent her entire salary to the Philippines for her mother and grandmother who needed medication.

Now she’s more effective in budgeting and saving on renovating a family home and buying her own apartment to start a family.

Ms. Capistrano says Mr. Brucales allowed her more financial discipline and strategy, even though she was already frugal on her personal expenses, as she wasn’t throwing a party on her last 30th birthday.

She now feels more confident about her future.

“I used to focus on my family, but since I became literate [lessons] I had to save for myself and at the same time send money for my family, ”she says.

Ms. Capistrano also plans to invest in Off The Hook through the company’s incentive program, which allows employees to become shareholders.

Employees are regularly given an incentive amount when their branch meets targets – they have the option to take it as cash or invest in the company for which they receive dividends.

I need to understand why I should save for myself and why I have to invest

Mary Ann Capistrano, Store Manager, Off The Hook

“It’s like it’s theirs,” says Brucales, who sees the program as a great way to reward employees while building loyalty through a tangible investment.

“We have set ourselves a goal in every branch. Most of the time, they hit the target and get a percentage of it, ”he explains.

“We want to innovate the way we lead and the people behind this success [with] the same vision. “

The brand, which is popular with Emiratis as well as Filipinos and other nationalities, has three branches in Dubai, five in Abu Dhabi and one in Al Ain. Franchise branches are to follow in Sharjah, Ras Al Khaimah and other GCC countries.

Mr Brucales, the son of merchant parents who run a meat stand, moved to the United Arab Emirates in 2004.

Mr Brucales first traded supplies for a medical company in Abu Dhabi, then began selling Filipino real estate to GCC-based Filipinos seeking long-term investments, and opened a tailoring shop to satisfy his entrepreneurial appetite.

He and six business partners, including his wife Angie, opened their first Off The Hook restaurant in Abu Dhabi in 2016.

Mr. Brucales cites his successful business trip from “humble beginnings” as an inspiration for caring for employees.

“I have made it my mission to strengthen not just my employees, but everyone in terms of financial literacy so that they can consciously achieve financial freedom,” he says.

“I speak. I want everyone to go home with money and investments. “

This also includes Mr. Cruz, who has set himself financing his son’s education as his financial goal.

Since he has reduced his personal expenses, including nightlife expenses, he saves more for his family’s future beyond what is needed on a daily basis.

He’s created an account to fund a college education and is also investing in Off The Hook.

“With financial literacy, I started thinking long-term … I have to have a goal [and] I have a goal now, ”added Mr. Cruz.

Supporting financial literacy employees is becoming more common in companies, says Carol Glynn, founder of Conscious Finance Coaching.

“Improving employee finance literature is beneficial for employers as studies show that financial stress leads to lower productivity and more absenteeism,” says Ms. Glynn.

“According to USA Today, companies that invest in financial literacy or wellness programs for their employees achieve an average return of 300 percent from a happier, more present, and more productive workforce.

“And this applies to individuals of all salary levels … the lack of knowledge of money or education is a problem in all income groups and industries.”

However, it’s important to make sure employees understand the risks and terms of buying stocks specific to the company they work for, says Ms. Glynn.

The pandemic was a wake-up call for everyone to save money, and a child’s college degree or an apartment can be the tangible result of an employee’s work in the UAE, Brucales says.

“It’s also a success story for the brand as your organization and staff are financially stable,” added Mr. Brucales.

“We’ll make sure they take more of their money home with them because the brand’s success comes from them too.

“Sometimes other employers forget that.”

Updated: August 22, 2021 at 5:00 a.m.

UAE currency: the story behind the money in your pockets

UAE currency: the story behind the money in your pockets

UAE currency: the story behind the money in your pockets

UAE currency: the story behind the money in your pockets

UAE currency: the story behind the money in your pockets

UAE currency: the story behind the money in your pockets

UAE currency: the story behind the money in your pockets

UAE currency: the story behind the money in your pockets

UAE currency: the story behind the money in your pockets

UAE currency: the story behind the money in your pockets

UAE currency: the story behind the money in your pockets

UAE currency: the story behind the money in your pockets

UAE currency: the story behind the money in your pockets

UAE currency: the story behind the money in your pockets

UAE currency: the story behind the money in your pockets

UAE currency: the story behind the money in your pockets