Let me ask you a question: What would you do if you came home from school at 15 years of age only to be told by your family that you just got married and you were going to move to Canada with your new husband within a few months, without your family?
That is precisely what happened to Tahani Aburaneh. I’ve interviewed a number of women with exceptional stories but Tahani’s life story ranks right up there as one of the most challenging and thought-provoking.
From refugee camp to Canada
Tahani was born in a refugee camp in Jordan. While life in the camp was hardly lavish, she and her family managed to survive reasonably well despite all the challenges. If we consider her early life by Canadian standards, we would be shocked. Even her own children were taken aback the very first time they went over for a visit and yet Tahani never felt poor or diminished during her childhood.
Her life took a sharp turn in February of 1981 when she learned of her fate. By August of that year, she was in Canada with a new husband whom she barely knew. Suddenly she was a married woman in a new country, learning a new language, having to attend to her house and her husband while going to school like other kids her age.
As Tahani explains, she was very naive and she felt that she had to do what was expected of her culturally. It was not an easy situation. Twenty-two years later Tahani knew that the marriage had to end, not for her sake but for that of her kids. She packed up her children and left with very little money.
On her own
Now Tahani was faced with a new and pressing problem: They needed a roof over their heads and money to live on. Some time earlier she had become a realtor and had experienced the ups and downs of the business, but every time she started to see some success, she would sabotage it. That, in part, is what kept her in the marriage so long; she didn’t believe that she could make it on her own.
This time however she had to succeed. Her first act was the purchase of a semi-detached house with the help of a banker who believed in her. Tahani says she was terrified. Two kids, no financial support, no real income and now a house to pay for – who wouldn’t be scared!
The banker’s act of faith and kindness pushed her into feeling more courageous. A few months later, after sinking to a low point financially and emotionally, she finally decided that it was time to make a change. She simply had to succeed, in part to show her husband that she could do it because there was no way that she was going back.
She started knocking on doors and going to builders to ask for their business. “I wasn’t shy about telling people I needed the work to feed my kids and that I was willing to work very hard to do whatever it took to sell or buy homes for my clients. People are amazing, people want to help. They also respond to your desire to go the extra mile for them and get the job done. Clients believed me and they gave me a chance. I started getting great results.”
Four and a half years later, Tahani had purchased nine other houses plus her semi-detached which was paid for in full! When I asked how she did it, she replied, “I would take my kids to sports, to school and work, work, work. I slept very little and worked like a mad woman non-stop. There was no dating or fun time. I was focused and committed to do whatever it took to take care of my kids. I got very creative and I didn’t spend money on anything! I just put money in the bank. For the first year and a half I wouldn’t even buy a $1.10 cup of coffee! I had a plan and I stuck to it.”
Tahani has since developed a multimillion dollar real estate portfolio and she has branched out into large real estate development projects as a developer and investor. She has become a best-selling author and an international speaker who helps and encourages others to just believe in themselves and accomplish their dreams. It really is inspiring to see what she has accomplished in light of her beginnings.
Needless to say, she has a lot of advice for women:
- You have to face your money situation; you need to know what’s happening with your money. Don’t be naive. Whether you want to or not, you will have to face it at some point.
- You don’t need to know everything before acting. Action is a great way to learn
- You must manage your own money. You need to understand money and how it works. When women give away their money power to their spouses or anyone else, they set themselves up to become victims when bad things happen. Women need to understand what is happening and be responsible for their decisions and their wealth.
- Believe you can do it and that you have something important to bring to the table. Develop self-confidence by taking small, consistent steps. Every single step forward builds your wins.
- Don’t look for excuses. If you want it badly enough, you’ll do it. For Tahani, it was about her kids. Now it’s about contribution. Understand what is driving you, what your “why” is.
- You must understand your relationship to money – are you a saver, spender, avoider, etc? What do you think of when you see money? What are your feelings about money? Write down your answers and understand what is behind those emotions.
- Focus on who you can help. Life is about adding value to others. Money is a by-product; it comes to you because you seek to help.
- Focusing on building your future is as important as reducing debt. Think future and think investments. Come up with wealth creation ideas, then save and invest .
- Life has ups and down but you’ll be OK. Any woman is capable of doing whatever she wants. Even if you cannot see it, do the actions and have faith. It takes work to be successful. You must be committed, be courageous and step out of your comfort zone.
If this story doesn’t inspire you to action, I don’t know what will! Whatever your situation, have the courage and the confidence to go for the life you want. You can do it.
PS Tahani will be the featured speaker at the next Ottawa Real Estate Investors Organization meeting on Monday, May 13th. For more details visit the OREIO website: www.oreio.org.