Jane Ashford is chief executive of the PRO Partner Group, which specialises in company formations. She previously worked in property and as airline cabin crew.
Now aged 61, the Briton is also focused on bringing more businesses to the UAE. She moved to Dubai six years ago to expand her company and lives in Jumeirah with husband Dale who, along with one of their two adult daughters, also works for the PRO Partner Group.
How did your upbringing shape your attitude towards money?
I was born in New Zealand, then moved to Japan, Spain and the UK. My father was a marine engineer, so we always travelled. It was quite a privileged lifestyle. At that stage, there weren’t many foreigners in Japan. We had a cook, a driver and maids – not because we were really wealthy, it is just how it was in that era.
I went to boarding school in the UK aged 8. I got pocket money and could go to the shop on a Saturday. We all had to have the same, everybody on the same level, but we would see who could get the most sweets with it.
I never got personal handouts when I was older … like some people get deposits for houses. I have always had to earn my living.
Did you work as a teenager?
My first job was when I was 13. I used to collect football pools (a results-predication game) money from around the housing estate on my bicycle for the newsagent. It was literally pocket money. All my life, I have had jobs, a desire to earn my own money and a bit of independence.
After college, I became a hotel receptionist. My first salary was £2,000 ($2,688) a year.
I have always liked working with people and was with three airlines. At one, we used to do charters and take a lot of old people to Spain at the beginning of winter and bring them back in the spring; it was cheaper than living in England.
What is your attitude towards spending?
I like to spend and buy nice things, have nice clothes and handbags, but I am quite sensible. I would not overspend and get myself into debt. We are not part of the “Dubai lifestyle”. I don’t need glitz and glam all the time, but I like a nice life. I drive an old car and don’t feel the urge to splash the cash. That said, money is for spending; you can’t take it with you. You come into the world without it and go out without it.
Do you put any money away?
We do save, but it is all in banks not earning any interest. I feel like we need to do something with it, but I have been so busy working. When I have got more time, we will make a plan for what we could do with our savings. I fancy buying Bitcoin, maybe some gold. When we have bought shares, we have always lost money. Our main savings are in property.
Has property investment been profitable for you?
We have always bought, done up and sold houses. We have had 10 and lost money on one property; the rest we have made money – even in the 1990s in the UK when people were handing in their keys because they could not afford the mortgage and property prices had plummeted. It was more a passion. We did a lot of the work ourselves and enjoyed it, with the added benefit of making money. It is a lot harder to do it now and make money. We have just done it in Spain, bought an utter wreck and redeveloped it. It is our retirement home.
Do you believe you have used your funds effectively?
Definitely. We have always reinvested. When we were younger, we never had spare cash. We would do up a house and buy the next, each time go up a level and get a nicer house. Money was slightly the motivator, but because we were not taking it out, we did not have it to go and buy, say, a car.
Have there been financial hiccups?
Yes. A pension endowment that we lost money on in the UK. It cost £60,000 and was supposed to bring in £100,000 at the end of the term … it was a lot less than what we put in. They really sold them back in the day. That is possibly what put us off financial services.
We learnt from it and stuck to property because that has made us money. You can see it, you own it.
Do you have cherished purchases?
I collect hats from all round the world … everywhere we go, I try to buy one. I have got a big collection – all quirky, different styles. I have got a priest’s hat from Nepal and want a bullfighter hat for the house in Spain.
Have you supported charitable causes?
Our office is in Business Bay so I can cycle to work. You clear your head and it saves money. That is not the reason, but it is greener, and my first bike, called Rosemary, was from a Dubai company called One Good Thing. For every so many bikes they would sell, they would give a bike to a refugee child. At one point, I also sponsored some Nepalese children through school.
Do you have a philosophy on money?
I doubt your business will work if money is your motivator for being successful. I have genuinely enjoyed the journey of building this company; it is more the journey and on the way, I have made money. It is not the driver, but it is great having it and being able to go out. As you get older, time becomes more valuable than money.
What are you happiest spending on?
Going out with the family, nice meals and being with people you like spending time with. We have worked hard all our lives and are now really comfortable and can go out and spend what we want. We have always travelled a lot for holidays.
How has the pandemic affected your work and lifestyle?
We were quite lucky because we got locked down in Spain over the summer. Everybody was online, still doing their job, and in some ways we are more efficient. We tend to deal with corporate entities already established overseas, from all over the globe. I enjoy helping people get their companies set up and seeing them become successful. And we have not really seen too much of downturn in the market.
Personally, there was enforced not spending because there was not much to do. So, we saved money, for sure.
Are you planning for the future?
We are hoping to retire next year. My daughter is working with me, so the idea is that she can take over more of the business.
We want to buy a dog and live in Spain for six months of the year. We also want to buy a boat and cruise around the Mediterranean, maybe a Sunseeker or a Greenline as you can run the engine on solar panels. I quite like the idea of that and also an electric car.
It is great to have a dream; that is a motivator to earn.