Money & Me: ‘The Covid-19 pandemic taught me the importance of financial security’

Kira Jean, an entrepreneur, yoga teacher and life coach, wants to generate enough wealth to achieve financial independence

Kira Jean, founder of publishing company The Dreamwork Collective, has invested in property in the UAE and a beachside apartment in Queensland. She is also exploring digital currencies, other businesses and diversifying her investments. Antonie Robertson / The National
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Kira Jean, 35, is the founder of independent print and digital publisher The Dreamwork Collective.

Formed in 2017, it was inspired by a lifelong love of books and a “gifted writer” friend who died before she could publish her creative work.

Ms Jean, also a yoga teacher and life coach who mentors entrepreneurs, previously worked as a child and family therapist.

She lives in Al Barsha, Dubai, with her husband and their dog, Floki.

Did your upbringing shape your financial attitude?

I grew up in Tasmania in a rural, isolated community. A lot of the jobs were related to farming, labour and housing. My father was a builder, mum worked various jobs, in a supermarket, as a cleaner. It gave me a strong work ethic, [there is] no job I would not do.

I also saw people, including my family, struggle financially. In a rural environment, sometimes crops are not good and families suffer because they do not have stock to sell. From a young age, it gave me the passion to be financially independent.

How did you put that into action?

I worked odd jobs from the age of 10. My entrepreneurial spirit was active then – although I did not know that was what it was called – buying sweets from the supermarket, bagging them, making them look pretty and reselling to neighbours for a profit. I also danced, in theatre, so was teaching small children how to dance when I was 12.

Can you remember your first wage?

My mum was working as a cleaner. From the age of 10, I would help her and receive a cut. At 14, I was working in a restaurant, waitressing, after school.

Self-reliance is key for me when it comes to finances, it is what drives me, not relying on other people, friends or loans. It is always been about a sense of freedom that comes from that.

What brought you to the UAE?

I became a therapist straight out of university, working with autistic children and their families, which was tough when you do not have a lot of life experience. I trained to become a yoga instructor and coach, decided to pack my bags and travel the world for a year teaching yoga, studio to studio, seeing the world.

Self-reliance is key for me when it comes to finances, it is what drives me, not relying on other people, friends or loans
Kira Jean, entrepreneur

I was in Mexico and received a call saying there was a new studio opening in Dubai that was looking for teachers for a few months. I am still here, eight years later.

Are you earning income on your terms?

I think so. Being able to work remotely, building your own business and forging your path is way more doable than it has ever been. I would feel guilty if I did not make the most of that. I have nothing against 9 to 5.

I work with many creatives I am encouraging to maintain some sort of steady job because you also do not want to make your passion have to be your pay-cheque all the time … rather than being able to feel liberated in what you create.

What is your spending and saving outlook?

I am naturally a saver but also interested in the financial independence that comes through wealth creation. Having money sitting in a bank for a long time, not doing anything, does not make much sense. So, I am going to save until I find something to put that into that would help it generate more income.

How do you make your money work for you?

Investing in properties; our home here and a beachside apartment in Queensland. I will invest in Tasmania at some point.

I am also exploring digital currencies, other businesses, diversifying my investments, but also having cash in the bank, a security blanket in case [it is] needed.

What is your best investment?

Mentors and coaches, particularly around financial mindset and advice, people who have done what you want to be able to do. It saves time trying to figure it out yourself, so you can achieve financial goals a lot faster than you would otherwise.

Do have a philosophy with money?

For better or worse, the world we live in requires money. In many ways, creating wealth and financial independence for oneself is a surer way to feel you are able to pursue things that are right for you.

As a coach, as well as with The Dreamwork Collective, it is about getting people to a good place – if you are in a good place within yourself, you will do good things with your money. If not, perhaps you will not make the wisest decisions.

Have you had any financial lessons?

I experienced debt that was stressful in my early 20s. When I did not have funds, I found funds, whether it was a credit card or loan and it took years to be free from those. I did not know at that point how to be financially healthy, make healthy decisions.

I regret burying my head in the sand, not taking the opportunity to really look at the situation to find a way through it. Now, if I do not have the cash to pay for it, I cannot afford it.

What are you happiest spending on?

Books, but at this point I am earning money from those as well. Trying in as many ways as possible to feel healthy in body and mind is the main thing we are spending on: herbal remedies to boost immune systems, growing our own food and infusing creativity into our home. I was very nomadic for years but once I settled in Dubai, I realised I enjoy creating nice spaces.

Has the pandemic affected you?

We have been a remote-working organisation from the beginning as I did not want barriers to us working with the best talent. So, when the pandemic hit, we were already set up to work digitally. We were prepared and planned enough for six months but started to feel it later.

As a start-up, we realised how far we really have to be to be safe financially to move through anything that could last two to three years. The pandemic forces you to mature in the way you run the business, particularly financial planning and strategy, to have more foresight on where things could head.

Can being an author bring wealth?

You do not become an author to become rich. It is very rare a Harry Potter book comes about. The way publishing houses work today is very holistic. We work with a lot of non-fiction authors – they are looking to also leverage careers in consulting or speaking. There is a way to make money, it is not just through book sales; there is a big ecosystem behind that.

Our focus is on global sales. Part of our goal is to share stories from this part of the world with the rest of the world. We have had more book submissions than we could have ever imagined over the pandemic. People who never had time to write found time.

Do you plan for retirement?

We see our future here for a lot longer, with the business. The 10-year plan is to continue investing enough to have residual income that can keep us afloat no matter what happens with work and the world.

Beyond that, we are looking at what our retirement plan might look like. If we start now, we will be in a great position, and to perhaps retire early.

Updated: July 01, 2021, 1:19 PM