Why OzHarvest founder Ronni Kahn once bought a unit sight unseen


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Ronni Kahn is best known as the founder of the food rescue charity OzHarvest. Born in South Africa, she lived in Israel for many years and came to Australia in 1998, starting an events management business.

Seeing large amounts of food go to waste, she decided to do something about it, eventually setting up OzHarvest, which became her life's passion.

She is an officer of the Order of Australia and an Australian Local Hero. She has just published her autobiography, A Repurposed Life

ronni kahn ozharvest founder

What was your first job?
When I was 14 I worked in the equivalent of a supermarket, like Big W, on Saturday mornings and I wasn't very good at it. I don't think I lasted very long. I wanted pocket money and I tried a few things. I think I would have stayed, but I wasn't offered a permanent job.

What's the best money advice you've ever received?
It was from my mother. She said whatever you earn, for each $1 put away 10c first and live on 90c and you will be amazed. I've shared that so many times and people have said years later it was the best thing you ever told me. But do you think I took my mother's advice? I'd be in a better position if I had.

What's the best investment decision you've ever made?
Purchasing my first house - there's no doubt. When my mother married my father she got a cheque book and she was writing cheques. One day the bank manager called her in and said, "Sylvia, we need a conversation because you are overdrawn on your account", and my mother said, "That's not a problem, I'll write you a cheque." I think the grounding I got in money was not exactly grounding. I had to fumble and bumble my own way through money. I think financial education and financial literacy are important. There is a need to learn how to manage money.

What's the worst investment decision you've made?
I bought an apartment that my children saw and thought was really brilliant. I was overseas and didn't see it and the auction was before I came back. I trusted them and bought it and it turned out to have many challenges. It had great bones but cost me much more than it would have had I seen it and done my homework.

What is your favourite thing to splurge on?
Food. Good food that has taken a lot of time to create and procure tastes so beautiful. And eating out where people have taken so much time and energy to turn that produce into beautiful food.

If you had $10,000 where would you invest it?
In an ethical fund - something that is good for the planet and good for people.

What would you do if you only had $50 in the bank?
I'd probably share some and use the rest to have a beautiful meal and invite some people to share it with me.

Do you intend to leave an inheritance?
I absolutely hope that I do, but I have shared meaningful things with my children, such as experiences, and I wish we had shared more, so I could enjoy their pleasure rather than knowing they would only get it after I die. I certainly believe in reaping the fruit of the work that I've done.

How fulfilling has your work been in OzHarvest?
Giving is so much more than getting. OzHarvest is precious to me as my legacy because it has a far-reaching effect. There's a beautiful expression in the Jewish religion: If you have saved one person you have saved the world because none of us knows what that one person multiplies into. I've got hundreds of stories that people have shared of the difficulties they experienced before they had food. I'm secure in the knowledge I've touched one person.

Would you like to see changes in the way people look at money post-COVID-19?
Money should be used and shared. If we realise that things can get taken away in a flash, that life can change so fundamentally out of our control, perhaps it would give us a different viewpoint on how to use our money. Nobody should live without the joys that money can bring, but there is a limit to how much we all need for our personal pleasure and survival.

Finish this sentence: money makes ... 
... the world of difference when it's shared as widely for good.

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Julia Newbould was editor-at-large and later managing editor of Money from November 2019 to February 2022. She was previously editor of Financial Planning and Super Review magazines; managing editor at InvestorInfo and at Morningstar Australia. Julia co-authored The Joy of Money, a book on women and personal finance. She holds a Bachelor of Economics from the University of Sydney where she serves on the alumni council.