Wealthsimple is a whole new kind of investing service. This is the latest installment of our recurring series “Money Diaries” where we ask interesting people to open up about the role money has played in their lives.
The work really never ended for my family. We just had this kind of hunger in us since I can remember. And being a hustler, a go-getter — it starts from your background and how you were raised. And that’s where I get it. Working is the way I kind of deal with things. In a funny way, working is how I define success. Hard work actually makes me feel good. I can go to bed at night if I’ve worked really hard that day. It’s my way of therapy.
My parents moved us to London from Albania when I was one. My mom learned a whole new language — she learned English, studied to be a psychiatrist, and got a job working for the National Health Service. She still works there — last night she was on call all night, for about twelve hours. My dad — he runs pubs. I saw how hard my parents worked when I was growing up, and I wanted to make a better life for my family and myself.
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My parents never forced anything onto me, my sister or my brother. But once we showed an interest they were always supportive of us making career choices. And when I was growing up, I had this idea of what I wanted to be. I just didn’t know how to do it. My mom, who’s a bit of a dreamer like me, said, “Okay, we’ll take you to classes.” And so I kind of quit school at sixteen and really just committed to this one thing: singing. Which is a financial commitment, and a commitment to a different path in life.
I like to have a plan. I really want to have a big family and live in the countryside and have loads of kids and feed my ducks. Ducks!
I remember going to the Glastonbury Festival for the first time, just to see it. I was a backpacker, just sitting in the mud with my little tent. I loved it. And then, later, it ended up being one of my first major performances — on the main stage at the Glastonbury Festival, the Pyramid Stage. I was like, “Wow, my life is changing.” And I remember thinking, “I want it to stay that way.” I had the same feeling when I performed at the Oscars. It was just a world I never thought I’d step into. I remember being on the stage and just stopping to think: “OK, this is insane.”.
But you know what’s funny? It was a smaller moment that ended up feeling more dramatic to me. It was a few years ago. I remember saying to my friends, “Let’s go to this pub.” And we went. And I genuinely couldn't sit in there and have a pint without people coming up to me. And I found it really kind of shocking. I grew up in pub environments — like I said, my dad ran a pub. For me being in a pub is like being in my living room. My friends had to say to me, “Rita, you can't. It's hard for you to do this now. You understand that, right?” And I guess I didn’t until that moment.
I know I’m like young to say this at 26, but I always think about the future, the long haul. I like to have a plan. I really want to have a big family and live in the countryside and have loads of kids and feed my ducks. Ducks! I have a few friends who live in the country — some in the Cotswolds, some in Suffolk. And it always makes me very jealous. I love the idea of just being in a field. I could get into that. I mean I love being out in the world with people having fun, don’t get me wrong. But when it’s time to calm down, I’d love to have a little getaway somewhere. Success is not about “I want to make this much money” — money comes after the creativity. But I’m planning for that getaway.
The first big thing I bought when I felt like I’d made it was for my parents — I paid off their car bill. They were so happy. And for myself? To splurge, I collect sneakers. I love sneakers. I have a massive collection of sneakers. I think it’s fair to call it an obsession. I probably need to see a professional about it or something. And I don’t know if I could I ever sell them, even if I fell on hard times. That's how much I love them.
Hopefully, though, I’ll never have to make that choice.
As told to Jason Adams exclusively for Wealthsimple. Illustration by Jenny Mörtsell. We make smart investing simple and affordable.