A lifetime in war zones has changed how Rabia Siddique sees money


Rabia Siddique - international humanitarian lawyer, retired British Army officer, former war crimes and terrorism prosecutor and hostage survivor - has lived an extraordinary life.

Already this year she is newly married and her blended family now has seven children, including triplets aged 12.

Rabia runs her own consultancy and professional speaking business based on values-based leadership, resilience, diversity and inclusion. She also maintains a small legal practice in criminal and human rights where she works on international cases. Rabia speaks about her personal experience of child abuse and injustice in the military. 

rabbia siddique human rights lawyer hostage survivor

Has each of your roles provided a different perspective on the way you look at money?
Given my humanitarian background, I've spent large amounts of my career in war zones and around areas of conflict where poverty has been prevalent. One of the things that keeps coming up for me is that gratitude is strongest in people who have the least. In the western world we define wealth in a one-dimensional way, but wealth for me is about the quality of life you have, the relationships, family and the sort of human being you are, and where you find joy. What money does bring is more options and greater access to health, education, travel and experiences.

What was your first job?
Volunteering as a paralegal for the Aboriginal Legal Service in my first year of university. While unpaid, it changed my life because it sowed the seed for my passion for social justice and what later became my human rights career. My first paid job was working behind the bar at Commonwealth Hockey Stadium at Curtin. After that I had around six or seven part-time jobs through uni, which certainly taught me the value of money.

What's the best money advice you've received?
Live within your means. Simple, but it's stood me in good stead. And what I would add to that is, be genuinely satisfied and grateful for the life you've built yourself; don't fall into the trap of comparing yourself to others.

What's the best investment decision you've made?
I bought my first house on my own, which I was very proud of. I was in my mid-20s, it was in the UK. I'd been living in the UK for a couple of years, saved enough for a deposit, and bought a three-bedroom cottage between Bath and Bristol. I was so proud of that house because it was mine and the first major asset I had saved up for. It also helped with all the financial decisions that came after that. I only got to live in the house for a year because after that I was commissioned as a legal officer in the British Army.

What's the worst investment decision you've made?
An investment property that I bought to bolster my self-managed super fund. It was not a good decision. At the time a lot of people were getting advice to go into SMSFs and buy investment properties and that was all very well until the GFC hit. Unfortunately for me, a few years after buying the property the market tanked and I divorced, and there was a need to sell.

What is your favourite thing to splurge on?
Travel was and will be again. I will spend my last dollar on travel for me and my family because of the experience and education you get from travelling. To witness, taste and smell what different cultures have to offer is one of the richest things one can add to their life.

If you had $10,000 now where would you invest it?
It would go into the children's education because I believe education is the greatest gift we can give our children. We would involve the children and encourage them to make a decision where a small part might support a not-for-profit or charity doing important work. We also have a responsibility as parents to give our children the experience and commitment to serving others.

What would you do if you only had $50 left in the bank?
That's the reality for so many people and millions don't even have a bank account because they don't have any money. I would get another job because I have responsibilities and obligations, not least to support my children's education.

Do you intend to leave an inheritance?
The plan is that before my husband and I leave this earth, we will have set up our children with the best education and best life advice, and the strongest values we can give them, which is our legacy to them. If we can also help them with a bit of a start to life - climbing the property ladder and helping them purchase a car - that would be wonderful, but we are also committed to teaching our children the value of money by encouraging them to work when they can to earn their own money.

Finish this sentence: money makes ...
 ... a world for us where there are more options, but it can also turn us into our worst selves when it's the only driver.

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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.