'Save for the rainy day': British expat says she'd rather not discuss money with anyone

The sexagenarian shares her financial philosophy

By Melanie Swan

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Published: Thu 27 Jun 2024, 7:03 PM

British business growth strategist Ramona da Gama has made the northern-most emirate of Ras al Khaimah her home for the last two years. Professionally, she has an impressive CV, having founded and run three businesses — a media sales consultancy, a Kensington-based jazz club, and her coaching practice — as well as being instrumental in large organisations’ business strategies. She’s worked with business impresarios, such as Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou and Rupert Murdoch, as well as companies such as Virgin Atlantic and with the Shirlaws team on The Lloyds Bank/TSB Group merger. Now 60, she says talking about money is still taboo for her, but unravels the misconceptions of credit as she shares the secrets to her success.

How would you describe your relationship with money?

A means to an end. In many cases, having money helps one achieve their goals. I have set up a business, bought properties, helped charities and more unfortunate people, I travel, live and stay alive.

What good or bad lessons about money management did you learn from your mother?

My mother was always financially independent. She taught me how to go out in the world and earn my money to buy the things I wanted from a very early age. I learned to always have savings. The bad thing was that my mother did not believe in credit. If you don’t have the money, you cannot buy it. Do not borrow to buy. In one way, this was very good advice, but in today’s day and age, without a credit score, one cannot get a loan, a mortgage, or buy a property.

Who do you speak to about money matters and is it something you consider taboo?

I have an incredible accountant. He has been assisting me for 20 years, and he is my ‘go-to advisor’. Is it taboo to discuss my financial affairs with others? Yes. Apart from my accountant, I have a couple of friends who are business associates who I will share some things with, but that is about it.

Who taught you the most about financial management?

My teacher and mentor was my late husband who I met when I was 21. He had just started with PwC and I was working in my first job. I earned my salary, spent money on my monthly expenses, and saved the rest. I did not have a credit card and had a very simple relationship with money. He taught me how having credit was useful, and how not to be frightened about borrowing money from banks in order to achieve objectives. With his help I bought my first apartment in London at the age of 24 with a small deposit and a mortgage.

At 29, when I wanted to start my business, he taught me how I could structure things in such a way by having business loans and overdrafts, as a useful money vehicle to launch my business, grow it and to this day, I follow those principles. My business has been sustainable now for 30 years, thanks to him. He was my best friend and mentor. My sadness was that he passed away suddenly when I was 39, and he was only 47. To this day I use his methodology and as a business coach pass on his advice to my clients.

If you could give your child or younger self a piece of advice, what would it be?

You have to work hard to have money, there is no easy way. Always keep something back for a rainy day, invest in property, and save in a pension as quickly as you can. Take credit, but pay it off every month, and remember money is only a means to an end, it is not the be all and end all of life.

What do you value spending your money on?

I give myself treats, like travelling to new places, beauty treatments, having bespoke clothes made by my tailor and sharing my money with those less fortunate than myself.

What’s your biggest financial regret?

When my husband died, I sold our house and bought three apartments. Of the three apartments I had, I sold two and kept one. Whereas, I should have sold one and kept two.


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