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My money… James Reed

What was your first job?

Working in a cemetery when I left school when I was 17. I was paid £2.50 an hour, which was quite good for the time. I had to level the graves so they could mow over them and it was winter so the ground was freezing cold and hard. I saved the money and went on a student exchange trip to Russia on the Trans-Siberian railway, which was an amazing experience.

What is your money-no-object purchase?

A house by the sea. Maybe somewhere in the Mediterranean — something with a good view where you can watch the waves all day.

What luxury wouldn’t you give up?

I go to the Maltese island of Gozo every August and I wouldn’t give that up because it’s sunshine guaranteed, the people are really nice and my favourite pub is there. It’s called the Gleneagles Bar. It has a nautical theme and a view of the harbour. Going to Gozo is a good way of getting prepared to deal with winter.

What’s been your biggest financial regret?

I have six children. I love them to bits but financially it’s been a calamity as it’s very expensive. Sometimes, I ask myself, ‘Financially, what was I thinking?’ but I don’t regret it. There have been various things we’ve tried with the business that haven’t succeeded, but you need to try new things and be prepared to fail. We tried to expand into the Middle East, which didn’t work. If the timing isn’t right it can really go against you.

Has the way you work changed over time?

I was in Turkey recently. They’ve just changed the law so it is now possible for companies there to hire temporary workers. It wasn’t allowed before. We had a conference there about flexible work. People there don’t have a concept of temporary work as they’ve never had it before. It will take time for that concept to become entrenched so you have to be an advocate for it in a way you don’t in a place where it already exists and you just compete with other companies.

Spender or saver?

I’d like to be better at saving but I’m a spender. I like to travel, I like to go out with my friends, I live in a nice part of London and I try to be a good host. I’ve got a large family and they have a lot of friends.

Do you consider yourself savvy with your personal finances?

To an extent, yes. My best personal investment is the house I live in, but that was my wife’s decision. That was 20 years ago and it needed substantial repair. At the time, it was a bit of a risk but it’s paid off.

What was your last impulse purchase?

I bought some Turkish Delight on my way back from the business meeting in Turkey. A more expensive purchase would be a new Canali suit I bought in the summer to go to a wedding. It was an impulse purchase as I was near Bond Street and decided to get a new suit.

Cash or card?

I prefer card as I don’t like having coins in my pockets. Contactless is much easier if you’re buying coffee or going on the Tube.

The 7 Second CV by James Reed is out now, published by Penguin. For info visit