Money & Me: Regional PR chief treasures the family jewels

PR chief Loretta Ahmed realised the importance of getting the balance right between living for the now and saving for the future when her father died last year.

Loretta Ahmed says a family tragedy changed her philosphy on money. Lee Hoagland / The National
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Loretta Ahmed is the regional chief executive of Grayling, an international public relations firm with 54 offices spanning across the United States, United Kingdom, Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia Pacific. The Briton, 46, came to the UAE two years ago.

Describe your financial journey so far.

It has been a combination of cautious planning combined with reckless spending. Since becoming a parent in 2011 that has all changed and I’m very much now in the cautious camp when it comes to planning for the future.

Are you a spender or saver?

I’ve moved from spender to saver in the last few years – and luckily that transition coincided with my move to Dubai. It would be very easy to be reckless here but it’s also possible to enjoy all that the UAE has to offer without breaking the bank. Dinner parties at home with friends and family are my favourite way to spend time, so we are not on the social circuit too often. When you live and breathe networking for your job it is the quiet time with family that you relish – a good film with popcorn on the sofa is my idea of a perfect night.

What is your philosophy towards money?

My father passed away very suddenly just over a year ago at the age of 69. We all felt robbed of our time with him and it definitely changed my outlook on life. Yes, we must all save and there is no doubt being a parent makes you really focus on having a secure future, but equally none of us know how long we are here. I am fortunate to be financially secure and that allows me to get the balance right – make sure my family and I are able to experience going to new places and trying new things but always making sure we save enough for the future.

Have you made any financial mistakes along the way?

I bought a flat in London just before the property market crashed in the UK and I sat on negative equity for a few years. It was nail-biting but it has come good in the end and it is now a good investment and something I consider a gift to my daughter for the future.

If you won Dh1 million what would you do with it?

I would move to Kenya and work with the fabulous people there who are building community wildlife conservancies – working with local people to ensure humans and animals can live side by side in a sustainable way. We all have a duty to protect wildlife in its natural habitat for future generations. I adore Kenya and its people. Plus my husband was born there. It is a place I would like to live eventually.

What has been your best investment?

Our family home in the UK. I fell in love with it at first sight and thought we were spending a fortune when we bought it over 10 years ago. I had no idea we were buying at such a great time and that its location would eventually mean we would see such a leap in value.

What do you enjoy spending money on?

Travel. When it comes to holidays I always max out: memories are priceless. Of course, if you asked my husband he would probably disagree and say diamonds. Yes, I do have a diamond addiction. But of course, that is future financial planning in itself as we have one daughter who will be the future beneficiary of my jewellery collection.

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