Why Your Money Should Work Harder Than You, with Jessica Ramella, inaugural winner of The Apprentice: ONE Championship Edition

Episode summary

Jessica Ramella shares how she won The Apprentice, and how she plans to put her new $250K USD salary to work.

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Episode transcript

Philipp: Welcome to another episode of In Your Best Interest, your personal finance podcast.  I’m your host Philippp Muedder, and that was just Jessica Ramella, the inaugural winner of The Apprentice: ONE Championship Edition. Jessica has secured an employment contract worth US$250,000 to work directly under the CEO of ONE Championship, Chatri Sityodtong, as his prodigy and Chief of Staff. And now, she’s here with us today to tell how she came to win The Apprentice, and how she’s going to manage her new salary. Welcome to the show, Jessica.

Jessica: Hi, thank you for having me, Philipp.

Philipp: Yes, it's very good to meet you again. For all the listeners, I’ve met Jessica actually almost a year ago I think, it's actually very close to a year ago today through another friend of ours, and we had dinner. And I did not know that only a few weeks later, Jessica would enter The Apprentice. And we've never seen her again for a few months and didn't even know where she really was. So she never really surfaced again after the dinner. But Jessica, it's so good to have you. Obviously, we were all a bit shocked when we heard that you were in The Apprentice because when I first met you like I said, you were still in the corporate world. You are telling me about your job, and all those things. So first and foremost, maybe you can tell the audience a little bit what is (02:00) The Apprentice: ONE Championship Edition. Especially for our listeners who are not necessarily in Southeast Asia.

Jessica: Yes, of course. It's so funny I remember that dinner perfectly, and I remember you saying something like: oh, we should meet in like a month's time and go for dinner or something like that. And in my mind, I knew that I wasn't going to be available, and I was like yes, sure. So The Apprentice is, like you said, a reality TV show, usually, it's in the US or in the UK and it's been running for 17 years; it's a huge enterprise. And essentially what it is is a bunch of professionals, usually the same amount of men and women, getting together and competing to get the top spot. 

Which would be either to get a job at a certain company, or to get funding for their own business in the UK. So usually it is targeted towards business, but this one, the ONE Championship Edition, had a bit of a twist. Because ONE Championship is the largest martial arts media property in Asia, they wanted to also find something that had an element of sport attached to it. 

So they were essentially looking for the perfect corporate athlete, and the reason behind it was, not because they wanted to get someone that was good at sports, but because they wanted to have the grit of the fighters, the discipline, the warrior spirit. So the show has a new element in which you still have to do physical tasks and your business challenge throughout each of the episodes. And each episode someone gets eliminated and goes home.

Philipp: Super interesting. You were talking about having the element of sport as well, were you always sporty before? Or was it one of the criteria that they looked at during the casting?

Jessica: It was definitely a criteria that I looked at in the casting. I think I did sports throughout my entire life, but I would have never considered myself an athlete or someone that was fit.

Like I did sort of like football in school and gymnastics and things like that, but I was always a little bit overweight. 

And then maybe in the past 3 or 4 years, (04:00) I went through a very big fitness journey, and I lost a ton of weight. And I think that carried me through now, and I still work out now and I go into the gym. I don't do sports, but I work out a fair amount. 

And I think thank God that was there because otherwise I would have never been casted. They wanted people that were fit, and to be honest the show was so intense that I don't think you would have been able to get far if you didn't have an element of fitness.

Philipp: Absolutely. So when I met you, you were still in a job, a month later or like literally 4 or 5 weeks later, right, you joined ONE Championship. Were you still employed? Did you have to take the risk of… Did you have to take your risk of actually quitting your job or how did that work out? Especially, you come from a job where you might not win the competition, so you might have no income. And then I assume that you're also on a work permit probably in Singapore like myself, that means you have to leave very quickly if you don't have a job, right? So was it a stressful situation? Was it something like, oh no, this is the risk I wanted to take?

Jessica: It was so stressful actually because I had quite a lot of holidays racked up because of COVID and lockdown. So for me, I just told my boss the truth. I told him that I got cast on the show, that I wanted to do it. 

It was a once in a lifetime opportunity, and to let me take that holiday leave that I had, and then to give me the rest as unpaid leave. And originally, he was just not feeling very OK with the idea. He said yes, but he felt like I was betraying the company. Why did I want to go? That my priorities were not in sync with the company? 

And I tried to explain to him, like, this is a win-win situation. Like I’ll be away for, let's say, best case scenario, if I win 8 weeks, but then you can use that as marketing, you'll still have me for like 6 months until I have to start my new job, and we can find my replacement for all of this type of stuff. But to him, (06:00) like it was just never sitting right. He felt like I was already jumping ship.

So they agreed that they were going to give me that time away, and when I came out of the show after 8 weeks, once we had finished, on the day or the day after, they fired me. And they essentially said that, during this time, they decided that they realigned and that they couldn't take the risk of not having me and this type of stuff. 

So then they just fired me from one moment to another, like my team was expecting me back the next day. And I’ve never been fired in my life, it was a very weird situation. And also like to be fired after coming from winning the show. 

I’m like, I am more valuable than this, like I don't deserve this. But that's what happened, and exactly what you said. I’m on a visa here, so I have 30 days to… So after 3 years in the company, I’ve built your entire business in Asia. I started as one person here, and now you have 30. 

Like I talk about revenue, all this type of stuff, and now I have 30 days to leave the country (11:11) and pack my bags, and it was 2 days before Christmas - it was crazy. So I managed to convince them to not cancel my visa for a while, and that's what I did. They allowed me, for like the Christmas, New Year holiday period, to just enjoy myself and just not have to worry, and then in January, they cancelled it, and I luckily got One Championship to activate my visa, yes.

Philipp: Early on, yes. Because you couldn't tell anyone that you won, because it wasn't even publicly released yet, right?

Jessica: Exactly. It was very stressful, and I couldn't talk to anyone. I couldn't talk to my friends. It was actually a very isolating time in my life because you disappear for 8 weeks, people don't know where you are. You're lying to them about where you were. Like I told people that I was in Spain visiting my mom, then I’m not able to tell them the problems that I have with my previous job. 

I don't have a way to tell them about the new job (08:00) that I have coming up. I don't have a way of telling them what I’m feeling coming out of the show, I cannot tell them that I won. I just felt like I was in this bubble where everything was a lie, and I just wanted to be quiet all the time.

Philipp: Yes, I can imagine how tough this is. Because on one hand, you have that high from winning, right? And being in such an intensive competition for 8 weeks. And then you have that low of like, oh, what am I going to do? And not able to talk to anyone. Yes, I can imagine that being super tough. 

If we take a step back though, and we'll look a little bit more at The Apprentice, right? It's obviously made up of business challenges. What were some of the most memorable experiences throughout the competition from a challenging standpoint, from the sport, but also from a business standpoint. 

Jessica: I mean, this was probably one of the best experiences of my life. I had so much fun, even though it was torture, I think something that I’ll never forget is that I slept, on a good night, I would sleep like 2 hours a night, and that's a good night. And I can't believe the strength and the resilience my own body was able to push through and manage to perform, and think coherently on 2-hour sleep for 8 weeks. 

So like that's something that I think I’ll never forget that really stuck with me. But on the positive side, it's definitely the relationships that you build. You meet people from all over the world. The 16 candidates, we had people from 9 different countries, which was very different from the US and UK edition, where contestants were from those countries. 

So not only did you have to adapt to their careers, their personas, their backgrounds, the competition - also their culture, and adapting to that part. On the sports side, I mean they were all super difficult. I think the hardest for me was probably the BJJ challenge. Where we had to do some Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and I had to go against this Russian girl who does martial arts, and she made me eat the ground like there was no tomorrow. (10:00)

I’m like a head taller than her, and like she broke me in two. The next day I could barely even move, I felt like a truck hit me, so that was definitely interesting. 

And then in the business side, I think this show was designed for someone that had gone through a lot of different roles, or their role had to wear a lot of hats. Because we did marketing, we did sales, we did forecasting, we did customer service, we did so many little things. And I think if you don't have a good grasp of P&Ls, and sort of a little bit of corporate finance. Not super intense, but to the point that you can understand about margins, and how you can actually upsell and all these types of things. You wouldn't have been able to succeed. 

Chatri is very determined on things like numbers and revenue and all these types of stuff that are, of course, very important for a business. But I don't think that he would have gone with someone that wasn't comfortable at all with the financial side of a business.

Philipp: Interesting. I think that the sleep aspect was very interesting too, right? Two hours of sleep for 8 weeks, that's pretty tough. But hey, it shows you that your body can probably do more than you'd think beforehand, because you thought obviously that wasn't possible before and it kind of, it worked for a short period of time, right?

Jessica: Yes, exactly. It was definitely an interesting test of how far I can push myself.

Philipp: Yes. So then what did you think, or what do you think is the biggest factor or factors that contributed to your victory then?

Jessica: I think that there's quite a few. I think one of the main things is that I’m a people person and I think that was a determining factor towards the end. I’m very good at sort of building relationships with people, and for the most part, even though I had some very strong enemies in the show, the majority of people really liked (12:00) me and respected me. 

So like I got the respect from my peers, I was liked by them. And in this type of competition, you need your team to get to the end. There's only one winner, but by yourself, you can't get there. So I think the fact that I was able to work with my team, work with the producers, work with Chatri - like he was able to see sort of like who I was as a person and my ability to be a people person, which is important as a Chief of Staff. But I also think a big differentiator that you see in the show is my sales ability.

There's an episode where you know we need to actually go and sell to businesses and to people. I think I had something like over $10,000 above everyone else or something like that. 

So I remember when this happened, I was so stressed about the sales challenge because it's typical that you say oh, I’m a sales director, and then you go on TV and you barely sell anything and you humiliate yourself in front of the world. 

So I was really stressed that this would happen out of bad luck. But actually, it went great. And when I finished the sale, I think I closed something like 13k with this particular customer. And just to put it in perspective, everyone was closing maybe around $1,000, some people closed $200, and I sold $13,000.

So I remember I came back and told my team, I was like oh, I closed 13k, my friend, one of the contestants corrected me and said you mean $1,300? I was like no, I mean 13k.

And they're like, oh my God, we won like, we were just like, it was a great moment for me and for almost like reassurance of my skills and like the hard work that I’ve put in the past 10 years of my life working.

Philipp: They actually worked out, huh? So sales skills, do you think that's something that you would pass on to people that's one of the most important things in life to learn about soft skills or sales skills in general? It's not, let's say you're selling something to people, but understanding people, is that something that you would say is a very (14:00) important life skill?

Jessica: I do think so. I think we are selling every day of our lives, just me talking here to you when you meet someone when you are buying something in the supermarket like we're constantly selling something, right? 

It may be your personality; it may be actually a product or maybe just like the fact that you want to convince someone to give you something. So everything is a negotiation, everything is sort of like an exchange. 

I remember when I went into sales at this point, I never wanted to do sales. But it was the only job that I could find that had really transferable skills. So it was something that I did a bit of marketing, I did a bit of sales, I did negotiation. If I ever wanted to open my own business, I would have to know these things. 

And I would learn about pricing, and I would learn about budgeting, and inventory, and targets, and commissions. So like all of these things sort of made sense to me, that I wanted to learn.

Learn how to hit the phones, like so important, and to read people and all these things. And also on the other side, it was the only job that I could find that the harder I would work, the more money I would make. So in sales, like if I hit my target or go above, I get a bigger commission. Any other job, it doesn't work that way. So at that moment I really needed money, so I was just like you know what, let's just try it out and how hard can it be, right?

Philipp: No, I agree. I have always been in sales positions as well, and I think the same reasons probably too, right? After college, I moved to the US. I needed to find my own, I didn't want to rely on my parents. And I think when you look at the world of, when you look at your career, I think sales is a very great place to start. Because first of all, you said hitting the phones, we used to have at Morgan Stanley. We had to call, I think a thousand calls a day basically to get any kind of sale, to even have a conversation with people. 

It's very humiliating, but you learn really quickly that a no is not that bad. Because you can call the next person and the next person, (16:00) at some point you get to your yes. I think those skills are super transferable, and humbling. 

But like you said I had exactly the same mindset, right? Okay, well I can go on to a career and you slowly progress over 30 years, you make a little bit more money, but you're always at the ire of your boss, so to speak. Whereas in sales really the numbers speak a different language, there's not much, I’m a numbers person so I think if you produce numbers there's no conversation, you don't have to have a conversation with your boss about that, they see it, right? So for me, that was exactly the same experience from that perspective.

Jessica: Yes, I love that, there's no discussion. It's not like if you don't like my style, or you thought that I said it differently, sorry. Like the sales speak for themselves. It's not a matter of opinion, and in that regard, I really love it. And also I mean I love building rapport with people, and reading them, and reading the room and trying to figure out how to convince them, and like turning a no to a yes. 

So like all of that art of understanding the human psyche, like I really am passionate about. So that then became more of a passion than just like this random 9-to-5 job that I was doing for money.

Philipp: Yes, I think it's super interesting. And same kind of thought process that I had when I went into it as well. But if we go off topic from The Apprentice, and we actually now go backwards in Jessica’s life, and as I mentioned in my introduction, at age 18 you left Venezuela, your home country. But Venezuela obviously is in the news sometimes for the people listening, especially if they're interested in finances, it comes up quite a bit actually because one of the issues in a lot of the South American countries is always inflation, right? 

So can you explain a little bit when you were growing up back in Venezuela, until age 18, how you thought about money? Were there any like, I don't know, any role models or your parents, how did they teach you about money? Kind of like the first experiences of saving or maybe even spending money?

Jessica: So growing up in Venezuela, (18:00) my parents were... I think comfortable. I wouldn't say that I come from a particularly wealthy family. But I never was missing anything. We would go maybe in one holiday a year, so that gives you a bit of an idea of how things were.

So I went to a good school. So in that sense, I came from a good family. And my parents were quite strict about money with regards to - particularly my father with regards to earning whatever you get. 

So I’m an only child, and I think for them, it was really important to not spoil me, and that I understood the value of money. So for them, it was very much like well, if I wanted to get a certain thing, I remember my dad would negotiate with me and tell me, okay, but you get an A on this test. And if I didn't get the A, unfortunately he would not buy me the watch or the present or whatever.

Philipp: First negotiation skills already learned there, huh?

Jessica: Yes. And my mum I feel like she was very much of the same mentality, but a lot less strict in a sense of, I think for my dad, he would have been comfortable with me buying a pair of jeans when I was 15 and wearing it until I was 20. 

My mum understood that I was a teenager, and I wanted to be fashionable and go out with friends and look good. So like, every once in a while, she would take me shopping and we would just buy a few things here and there. 

But I think they were very strict in regards to having my own money, so they never really allowed me to have my own money, or have the freedom to spend it on whatever I wanted. It was very much like, if you've earned it, we'll buy it for you. 

But I never had alimony, they never really got me pocket money that then I could just blow on whatever I wanted. So it was very much like if you want it, you need to go ask your parents until I was 18, pretty much.

Philipp: OK, and then at 18, what made you leave home?

Jessica: So the situation in Venezuela was a bit (20:00) of a crisis, to be honest. And also at home at that time, things were quite rocky between me and my father. And I just needed to go abroad, I also wanted to be an artist and explore the world and know cultures, and it's not particularly the normal path that I’m supposed to follow. 

So I know like for Venezuela’s standards, I always felt, like, a little bit like a fish out of the water with regards to this. So I just wanted to go overseas and see if I could find other weirdos like me, or someone else I wanted to just, you know, not settle for whatever I’ve been sold my entire life. 

Which was a very linear life, and I moved to the States to go to college, and I went to community college, because I couldn't afford university. And it was just an opportunity for me to get better at English, learn other cultures, get better studies, try to study or make something out of myself. 

And this is where things start to really, like, changing, right? Because I go to community college for 2 years, and then 2 years later, you have to go and do university, that's kind of how it works in the States. But as an international student, you pay an arm and a leg for university.

Philipp: Very expensive.

Jessica: I mean even community college was incredibly expensive, for being community college. But at that time in Venezuela, we had something that is called currency control. So you couldn't get Dollars in the country, you couldn't just go to your bank and buy Dollars, even at a crazy extortionate rate. 

So what's happening is that the only place that you could get Dollars would be in the black market. So then imagine you're paying international school fees which are in the hundreds of thousands plus black-market rates, like it was impossible for my parents to pay for it. 

They did pay for my community college, but at that time, it got to the place where they said, unfortunately, we just can't pay for this any further. And at that moment, I had to kind of come up with a plan, and I decided to (22:00) move to London. 

So I have an Italian passport from my parents' side. I had never lived in London, never been there, but I already spoke English coming from the US and I thought, what's the worst that could happen? If I hate it, I’ll just go somewhere else, but at least I can probably go to university there for free. That was my thinking, which I was wrong. But that was the plan when I was told to come.

Philipp: I went to high school in the US for an exchange program to learn English as well. And I wanted to stay and go to university there, and then I went to look at some universities and I showed my dad in Germany, sent him hey, how much it cost, right? And he said you can come back, it's free here, so I went back to Europe for the same reasons actually. Yes, it's so expensive there.

Jessica: Yes, it's crazy. And then what happened is: I arrived in London, and I applied to university. I'm excited that I’m just going to do 2 years and I’m going to finish. Turns out that because I had never lived in Europe, and my parents hadn't in the past - God knows - 30 years, I’m essentially a European passport holder, but I don't qualify for a university. 

So they told me you need to work and pay taxes for at least 3 years before you can apply to get university for free. At that moment of course like I said there's currency control, the relationship with my dad is severely falling apart at this point. And now, I am living in London, which is a very expensive city by myself, which I’ve never been to and I can't go to university for free anywhere in Europe.

And that's really where I would say like my relationship with money became, it changed, because I came from a very comfortable household where I had pretty much whatever I needed to be 100% sort of on my own. 

I didn't not depend on my parents’ money or savings at all. And I now needed to figure out a way to pay rent. And I think that was the first time that I was really broke for the first time in my life, and I started working in an ice cream shop. 

I was working double shifts, (24:00) like 12 hours, just living in a tiny little room that I was renting from a woman that rented it from the government, and she was like renting it to me under the table. 

Like times were a bit tough at that time. I was eating something called a £3 meal deal, which is essentially a sandwich, a drink and a bag of crisps and that was like my lunch every day for God knows how long, just because it was £3 a day, like, is what I could afford. 

But I think like that time allowed me to, I think maybe what it did is that it injected a lot of fear in me, because I felt like I didn't have that safety cushion anymore to fall back on, with regards to my parent’s finances, or anything like that. 

And I needed to just now, find, and make a living of my own. So I started sort of working my way from an ice cream shop. (29:50) From the ice cream shop, I then moved into the Apple Store and I worked in, you know, front of house in Apple welcoming customers. 

Then from there, I went and worked sort of like the executive assistant of a guy that the company essentially sold FMCG goods to smaller stores. 

And from there, like I started assisting the sales team, and from the sales team, I kind of started selling trucks of pampers to the Scandinavian market. Like the most random thing ever. 

From there, I moved to sell advertisements for an insurance magazine. And then from there, I started doing events, and then I did like massive tech events here in Asia. So it's been a very strange, hopping around, doing everything I could and chasing probably the best salary that I could also at that time.

Philipp: Yes. And so when you think about it, from going from what was a £3 (26:00) meal deal, right? And having no discretionary income. At what stage then throughout that journey that you just mentioned, were you starting to think like, oh, I need to save something, maybe I think I’ve read before and I think I watched some other interviews of yourself, and I think at some point, you started to take care of your mum as well from a financial standpoint, I think. Maybe I’m wrong, but maybe you can tell me a little bit how your personal finance journey kind of changed over the last 15 years or since you're 18. 

And going from this £3 meal deal to maybe making a little bit more money, able to save a little bit. Did you, did you not, did you spend more? What was the journey like?

Jessica: So it wasn't until I started the job in the advertising magazine, that I got my first role where I had targets and commissions. So until then, whatever I was making was a flat salary, and I was finishing the month with probably like £5 on my bank account.

And in this job, I just worked as hard as I could to hit that target, and for the first time ever, I got a commission. Which I remember at that time was £20,000. That was my commission for that, I believe quarter. 

So I had the option to make £80,000 in commissions, which I mean, it was almost impossible. But when I finally hit my first target, and I got my 20k, I had never seen that much money in my bank account. I was like, ecstatic. And I remember I told myself, if I save all of this, I’m going to get resentful and I’m not going to reward myself for the hard work. And then I’m not going to do it again. And I need to repeat what I just did, which was hell. 

So what I did is that I took 10% out, and I just said this is your play money, and then the rest goes in your bank account. And funny enough, for the next 10 years, this is exactly what I’ve done. 

So every commission I’ve ever had, (28:00) I've made, and looked at one of my jobs before the software company that I was working on. I think one of my highest commissions was maybe around $80,000 Singapore Dollars for like half a year or something like this. 

So like it was a very good 6 months, and all of that just got saved. I mean I took 10% out like I always do, but that allowed me to start building sort of like a little fund of my own savings. I never really knew what that money was going to be for, I didn't know if it was still like buying a house, I didn't know if it was just like being there in case of a rainy day. 

I eventually, as you said, you know things with my parents then started really deteriorating. My dad sort of removed himself from the family unit, and then my mum, who is a housewife and hasn't worked in 30 years is now on her own, so she now falls sort of under my care. 

And luckily having that money, and having that ability to just not have to freak out, right? To say, OK mum, like I know that maybe right now you're going through the divorce, and you're super sad. Let me fly you to Singapore, so you can be with me, or come stay with me for 3 months in London, and you can live with me. And I’ll move into a bigger apartment, so being able to take those little hits for her sake was a luxury, and I’m very happy that I was able to do it with some of the money that I had saved.

Philipp: And I think you mentioned a lot of good things there, spending only 10% to motivate you to keep going and being able to save the 90% is super huge. So I think a good point I always tell people especially when you know you start saving for retirement, it's like 40 years away, it's so boring, such a boring topic. But it's kind of like, you have to reward yourself along the way, right?

You have to have shorter-term goals like travel or spending money as well. Because you will need the motivation, it's a marathon, not kind of like a sprint race (30:00) as people say. 

So I think that it was really cool that you mentioned that, and you've done that by yourself from early on when you first started making commissions. 

The other thing you said is, you set that aside and you saved it, right? Which then allows you to have that luxury to have your mom come stay with you for emergencies. 

You have your own emergency fund, probably one of the reasons why you could also take a little bit more risk in moving around the world. Because if you have some savings, it makes life a lot less stressful. 

Where I wanted to go with this is what did you do with that money? Did you always just leave it in cash, were you interested in investing at all?

Because a lot of people save a lot of money, they leave it in cash, they don't think about inflation, and it happens in other places in the world too. Even if it's 2% or 3%, it's still inflation, and you still don't get any interest on your money mostly across the western world at least currently. So how were you thinking about it? Did you learn about personal finance? Do you have friends that work in it? What's the process there for you?

Jessica: So actually, it's almost shameful, but in my family or in my studies, no one ever really talked to me about personal finances, almost at all. And I think the figure of sort of leadership and wisdom in my life with regards to money would have always been my dad. 

And at the age where I started making money, he was not in my life anymore. So for me, saving was essentially just putting in my bank account and leaving it in a different bank account so I don't touch it essentially, that is saving. 

Now I know that it's almost the same as putting it under my mattress. But I didn't know any better, and I could hear some of my friends talking about investing or about buying shares. But for me, I also had the challenge that I don't know where I’m going to live next. 

I don't know what currency I want it on, I don't know who to ask for help, you don't know who to trust. Everyone has an agenda. I don't want to get ripped off, and this thing has taken like 10 years of my life (32:00) and it's literally my blood, sweat, and tears. And not only mine but also like it's my security cushion and my mother's. 

Like right now, there's no Plan B except me. So in that regard, I always felt very panicky to do anything with it, other than just leaving it in a bank account. And I know that that's wrong, but I was just afraid. I was frozen in action because I didn't know where to ask for help. Eventually, maybe a few years ago, one of the companies I worked for, gave employee shares. And through, in the third year or something, they went through a sale or a merger. So a lot of those shares, we were rewarded, a good chunk of money, nothing massive but like very decent.

And I was like, OK, this is starting to be real money, and I know that it's not doing anything. At this point, I’m already in my late 20s, and I know that there is such a thing as like your money working harder for you, and all of these concepts that I’ve heard and read. But I just don't know how to apply them. 

And actually, right before The Apprentice, I essentially, a friend, actually Rachel, which is our friend that we have in common, that she's super smart and switched-on when it comes to finances. And I guess someone that I can trust, and to also be vulnerable and tell her my shameful truth. 

She then put me in contact with a financial advisor that she trusts, and recommends. And I got in touch with him, and sort of like got him to help me set up some sort of plan, right? So what can I do with this money, like what are my goals, my priorities, where do I need it to go? And just essentially start saving for the future, or like in the same way that I am now. But actually, with intent.

Philipp: Yes, interesting. I think you need to find that person, right? (34:00) Because of the education systems all across the world, I have not found one good one yet where they actually teach you about personal finances. I think it's a shame actually that you graduate high school, because like in Germany you go into an apprenticeship a lot of times, where you work and study for the next 3 years. You don't necessarily have to go to university. A lot of the big car manufacturers in Germany, right? That's kind of like what a lot of people do. 

But even here, you get your paycheck and now what? Literally, no one teaches you savings rates, investing in general. And it's becoming more and more important because there are no more government pensions. Or like no more, there are some government pensions, especially Singapore is pretty good about it. But no more corporate pensions. Like my parents in Germany who worked for 30 years, they worked at Bayer or BMW, there were some really nice pensions, but they're not there anymore.

Jessica: And I come from Venezuela, I’m definitely not going to get it either. So like from a government standpoint, again like I said I am my Plan B.

Philipp: Yes, you are. And then that's why people you need to fortify, or like build a fortress around your money. But then you also need to understand hey, how do I make them work for me? I think that's always the hard part, like how do you make that money work for me? I work really hard for the money, now I need that asset to produce passive income or investment return. So that I can live off that in the future, right? So that you kind of repeat that over and over and over again. 

What is especially on my mind is a lot of times people don't talk about their finances, very openly with friends, right? But you go on The Apprentice, it's very public, everyone knows what you get afterwards, right? 

So even if they don't know how much you had before or how much you saved, they do know now how much you're making, and it's not an insubstantial amount. So has that changed how you talk about money? And how does that change how people talk to you about money? Because it's very exposing, right? So that's where I want to get to. (36:00)  Like how does that change, or to the good or the bad, right?

Jessica: It's funny. I feel like I’m not a particularly closed-off person, I feel like very few topics with me are off-topic. But when I was broke, I was very open to talk about money. I was like oh, I’m just making a thousand pounds, like it didn't… Like the struggle was real, I was living it and I had no shame attached to it. 

The more money I started making and saving, the more shame I started to develop around it, and I don't really know why or why that started, but I guess I never wanted to make anyone around me feel like less than me or belittle them in any way. 

So I think I started becoming kind of quite aware of this. But at the same time, I remember working in sales, like I normally work around men all the time. So I usually am probably one of few girls in the team, and I always want to know what the guys are making. 

Because if they're making more than me, I would lose it. Especially if I feel like I deserve more, if I’ve been there longer. So I’m always trying to find ways to figure out, let's have some beers, and let's talk about salaries, something like that. But winning this is definitely really unique and interesting, because as soon as I finish and everyone knows that I've won, everyone's like oh my God, drinks are on you.

And I’m like no guys, like I still need to work for the money. They didn't give me a pot of money like here's your gold, I still need to earn it. So in that sense, people make jokes about it.

I don't think that there's been a lot of changes until the Venezuelan newspaper posted an article about me, that said, massive picture of me in the newspaper saying she went from selling ice cream and now she makes $250,000. That's the headline against my face. (38:00)

Philipp: That's a nice clickbait, right?

Jessica: Literally. Overnight, I received thousands, like thousands of messages and direct messages of people asking me for money, and like pictures of them starving, pictures like begging, saying my family is dying, like messages and messages and messages of people in Venezuela that are really unfortunately starving, and just reaching out asking for money.

And that was a really unique and very weird situation to be in. Because of course I feel for my country, and I see what they're going through. And it's just such a devastating, and also like a weird place to be. And also you feel a bit like a target, you feel exposed like you said. 

So I don't know, I think it's something quite interesting in my life. I’m a little bit shy about it, I try to not mention it. So like for example, someone asked me like, oh, so like what do you get if we win the apprentice. I say like oh, you become Chief of Staff for Chatri, but like I don't mention the salary.

And it's because I guess I just don't want to brag. I’m not embarrassed, like I don't care. If I want to talk about it, it's fine, it's just I never want to come across like I’m bragging or I’m putting myself above someone else I guess.

Philipp: You do mention that a friend of ours introduced you to a financial planner, he kind of set up a plan for you. So now having that money coming in through from your new job, and going through the competition, right? How has that changed your financial plan? Or what's kind of in your financial plan? What do you kind of think about investing and life goals in general? 

Jessica: When I come out of the show, like I finished, and I know I’ve won. I booked a meeting with him, and I was like it has to be a meeting in person, and he's like oh, but we're during COVID. I was just like, it has to be in person, he's like OK. So we went into this room, and I was like, is everything that we discussed confidential, like I need to know this is kind of like almost like lawyer-client (40:00) confidentiality. He's like absolutely, he explained to me that he couldn't say anything. 

And I told him OK I’m about to tell you something that I’m pretty sure no one in your career has ever told you. And then he was like OK, and I was like do you know the show The Apprentice? So I essentially told him about what happened and what I’ve won, and how that has now changed, I mean this is a guaranteed amount of money I will receive by the end of a certain time, right? So that made us really, like for me of course prioritise my finances, and pay for his services and actually take it seriously. 

Right now I have 3 portfolios, one which is my retirement portfolio, where sort of like money goes there for the long run and it stays there. And every month, I just put in an amount that constantly is piling on. 

Then the other portfolio is kind of like buying a house portfolio. I would really like to buy a property at some point. I think I already had the cash to buy the property, but I never really did it, because I didn't want to leave myself at zero. And I also didn't know how to do it properly, or if it was the right investment. 

So like I think in that regard, it's good that I waited. I had this dream of buying a property before I turned 30, I had the money before 30, like I feel like that was good enough, but I never bought it. 

And then the third portfolio is sort of like a mum emergency portfolio. My mum is incredibly healthy, she is well, there's nothing to worry about. But I do worry if something does happen to her, and I need to, let's say, buy a really expensive medical treatment. My mum is my number one priority, so if I need to literally go back to paying £3 a day for my meal, just so I can buy her whatever she needs to like I will. And I want to prepare so that doesn't happen. So hopefully, I’ll never have to use it and that will go into my retirement and it's perfect. But if I do, then it's there.

Philipp: (42:00) I think super cool how you did the three different pots, and you know saving for them. I always encourage people to do the same. So you can see progress towards them as well, right?

Because you don't see them as one big thing, and you just keep saving. Because that's when a lot of people actually don't take any money out because it has no purpose. So I think adding a purpose to any of your financial goals is super important, and it gets you motivated as well, right? 

So you have those three pots of money, you said for example retirement is there for the long term, it's invested. Do you take an active interest in actually seeing what the investments in the portfolio are? Or are you more like, hey no, you know I know they're now invested; you know they get their average return over long periods of time; I don't really need to look at it? Or is that something you're interested in a little bit?

Jessica: Every time that I do sort of like my 3-month review with my advisor, I do take an interest because he's there to explain. But what happens is because my knowledge is so limited, a lot of times I’m just looking at it and I’m like, OK, it's just a graph that kind of goes up and down up and down up and down. And I also feel like the less I focus or think about money, the easier it is for me to save it. Because the moment I rationalise the amount of money that is going into a portfolio that I now don't have, and it's being locked in, like I can get a bit of anxiety around it. So I have it automatically that on the first, everything goes, I don't see it, I don't touch it. e 

Philipp: Well, I think that it shows that you know yourself, right? I think it's important. So whatever gets you to the goal the best way possible, and if that's taking a step back seat in it and trusting the process, I think that's a good way to know yourself. So Jessica, thank you so much for spending the last hour with us, I really appreciate having you on.

Jessica: Absolutely, pleasure is all mine, I had a blast, thank you so much, Philipp.

Episode notes

In this episode, Jessica Ramella shares why she left Venezuela at the age of 18 and how she went from living on £3 meal deals to winning The Apprentice.

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Episode contributors

  • Jessica Ramella (Winner of The Apprentice: ONE Championship Edition)
  • Philipp Muedder (Head of Financial Planning at StashAway)