Money & Me: 'Quality time with loved ones is priceless'

Ruwaida Abela Northen tries to balance her spending and saving to ensure a secure financial future for her family

Ruwaida Abela Northen, founder of JRN Consultancy, says her first job as a sales and marketing co-ordinator paid about Dh1,800. Khushnum Bhandari / The National
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Trilingual mother of four Ruwaida Abela Northen has launched an all-female business where work-life balance is at the core of the company’s ethos.

Implementing a four-day working week, Ms Abela Northen is focusing on the future of working for women after founding JRN Consultancy, her boutique PR company specialising in luxury lifestyle, travel and hospitality, two years ago.

Born and raised in Tripoli, Libya, Ms Abela Northen lives with her family in Dubai and worked in Malta, Qatar and Bahrain before arriving in the UAE.

How did your upbringing shape your attitude towards money?

Being a child of a diplomat, my early years were spent traversing different countries, absorbing diverse cultures and lifestyles.

However, the transient nature of our lives didn’t lend itself to a deep understanding of money management.

It was only after I left home that the significance of financial prudence dawned on me. This evolution in understanding shaped my endeavour to instil financial literacy in my children from a tender age.

Did your family life influence your desire to run a women-led business?

My upbringing in a family that revered work – not merely as a means to financial security but as a conduit for personal development – instilled a robust work ethic in me from an early age.

However, the spark to operate a women-led business was kindled through my two-decade tenure in the corporate world.

As I ascended the corporate ladder, the conspicuous scarcity of women in power, especially in hospitality, became increasingly apparent. Particularly in the last decade of my corporate life, I often found myself as the sole woman seated around the decision-making table.

This reality was both a revelation and a motivation to alter the status quo. Establishing JRN Consultancy was a deliberate stride towards creating a conducive environment for women to thrive professionally, challenging the gendered norms of the corporate sphere.

It was about forging a realm where women could not only partake in but lead the discourse, thereby contributing to a more inclusive and equitable professional landscape.

How much did your first job pay?

My career began as a sales and marketing co-ordinator with the Corinthia Group in Libya, back in 2003. I vividly remember the thrill of earning my first salary of about Dh1,800 ($490).

It wasn’t just about the amount, but the sense of achievement and the promise of a fruitful career that lay ahead.

Those initial earnings symbolised the start of an exciting professional journey, one that would traverse continents and cultures. The journey led me to the GCC for the first time, more specifically to Bahrain in 2010, where I got paid Dh4,500.

Are you a spender or a saver?

I lean more towards spending as I believe in enjoying life and living in the moment. It’s about creating rich experiences and memories, which, to me, is an investment in a fulfilling life.

However, marriage and parenthood ushered in a paradigm shift, nudging me towards a balanced approach. Now, I endeavour to strike a balance, enjoying life’s luxuries while ensuring a secure financial footing for my family.

What is your most cherished purchase?

My most cherished purchase is a rare Rolex watch that I managed to acquire for my husband’s birthday.

The quest for this particular timepiece was both exhilarating and challenging given its scarcity. Finally, being able to gift it to him was a moment filled with joy and fulfilment.

It was not merely a gift, but a token of love, appreciation and shared milestones and considering how hard they are to come by, I guess it is also an investment.

Where do you save?

In the bank.

What is your biggest financial milestone?

A crowning financial milestone in my journey was the day I realised that JRN Consultancy had crossed the million-dollar mark in revenue.

It was a euphoric moment, encapsulating the hard work, dedication and strategic acumen invested in building the consultancy from scratch. The realisation was not merely a numerical achievement but a validation of the competence and the value that we were bringing to our clientele.

Have you ever had a month where you feared you could not pay the bills?

When I left the family nest, stepping out from the financial safety net provided by my parents was a reality check.

There were months when meeting bills was a struggle, a stark contrast to the financial cushion I was accustomed to. This period was a crucible, testing and honing my financial acumen. The adversity served as a catalyst, igniting a fervent resolve to work tirelessly towards achieving financial independence.

Do you use a financial adviser?


Do you have any financial regrets?

One financial regret that lingers is the missed opportunity to purchase a house in 2020, during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic.

At that time, the real estate market was in a lull, and the house was priced considerably lower than its true value. Fast forward to today, the value of that house has soared by Dh5 million more than its asking price back then.

This scenario was a poignant reminder of the potential long-term gains that can come from real estate investments, especially during market downturns. It also underscored the essence of timing in investment decisions.

While it was a missed opportunity, it has sharpened my foresight in identifying and seizing potential investment avenues in a timely manner, turning a regret into a lesson for future financial endeavours.

Do you plan for the future?

I am a firm believer in striking a harmonious balance between planning for the future and relishing the present. Life is a blend of meticulously crafted plans and spontaneous joys.

While it’s crucial to have a solid blueprint for the future to ensure financial security and fulfil long-term aspirations, it’s equally important to live in the moment, embracing the joys and experiences that come our way.

What luxuries are important to you?

The luxury of travel and quality time with loved ones is priceless. They provide a respite from the rigours of professional life, offering a chance to rejuvenate, learn and create cherished memories.

One financial regret that lingers is the missed opportunity to purchase a house in 2020, during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic
Ruwaida Abela Northen, founder of JRN Consultancy

How much do you have in your wallet right now?

At the moment, I have a modest sum of Dh400, about £100 ($126.55) and €50 ($54.50), earmarked for travel. However, I seldom carry cash as I have fully embraced the ease and efficiency of digital transactions, particularly through Apple Pay.

What car do you drive?

With a large family of four kids, I drive a BMW X7, a spacious vehicle that accommodates us comfortably as it's a seven-seater. It’s a blend of functionality, style and driving pleasure, aligning with my lifestyle needs.

Do you prefer using a credit card or cash?

I prefer the convenience and traceability offered by credit cards.

What financial advice would you offer your younger self?

I would advise my younger self to delve into the realm of financial literacy sooner.

Understanding the dynamics of money, savings and investments at an earlier stage could have propelled me towards financial security earlier on.

Nonetheless, the journey has imparted invaluable lessons, shaping not only my financial outlook but also my mission to foster financial literacy in my children.

What would you raid your savings account for?

Being a hotelier and a traveller since a young age, I would consider raiding my savings account for a family holiday. To me, the essence of life is encapsulated in the experiences we garner and the quality time we spend with our loved ones.

Updated: December 15, 2023, 6:02 PM