"Money doesn't make you happy, but worries about money do make you unhappy"

Published on: 31 May 2022

In the Netherlands, too, the current inflation rate means that a growing number of people are rapidly getting into financial difficulty. And that doesn't just affect their finances; it also affects their peace of mind. Making people financially resilient is important, according to Experts. Especially now and employers have a role to play here too. That's why Heleen Kuiten, managing director of HR at APG, took part in a roundtable discussion on this topic. "We can help employees to set up their financial picture in the best possible way.”

Geldvinder, APG's very own startup, is holding a roundtable discussion on Tuesday, June 7, focusing on financial fitness among employees. The current economic climate is a current reason for this, says Richard Coonen, CCO & Business Developer of the online platform. "Just when we can spend our money anywhere again after the corona crisis, many families are struggling financially. 62% of employers have employees with money worries and 46% are experiencing wage garnishments." But working on financial fitness is not just about solving problems, Coonen explains. "It's about making and keeping people financially resilient. So that they can deal well with financial setbacks and windfalls.”


On June 7, Richard Coonen and Heleen Kuijten, managing director of HR at APG, will discuss why financial fitness is so important during an online webinar with other HR directors, scientists, and experts. Two questions will be central: why is financial fitness just as important as physical and mental fitness? And: how do you pay attention to this as an employer? With, as an extension, an equally important question: what happens if you do nothing?

To start with the answer to that last question: according to Kuijten, doing nothing is actually not an option for an employer. “Employees are responsible for what they do in their private lives. And therefore also responsible for their finances. What we can do is help to get the finances in order as well as possible. To prevent people from dropping out.” According to Kuijten, this attitude fits well with being a good employer, but also with the social role that APG wants to fulfill.

Despite this personal responsibility, Kuijten knows that money problems cannot always be foreseen. She mentions inflation, student debt, or divorce as possible causes. "In the Netherlands people with an average and higher income currently end up in debt counseling and people with a job increasingly knock on the door of the Voedselbank. In the newspaper, I read about a woman who lives with three children in a caravan. She thought she had it all together: marriage, house with excess value. But after her husband's divorce, it turned out that they couldn't buy two houses from that excess value after all. And there she was.”

Beyond the front door
In her immediate surroundings, Kuijten "fortunately" sees no distressing cases. But she is concerned about friends who work as self-employed workers. "They earn well, but what about when they retire? If you are employed, you are obliged to save. But a self-employed person might have to sell his house to make ends meet later on." Kuijten also sees those cases come up when she looks at APG. "The general, but generalist, image is of course that you earn a great living at a company like APG. But we also know that these kinds of problems take place right behind the front door. And in the cases where we do know, employees are struggling with wage arrears or have a partner who, as a self-employed worker, saw their income disappear due to corona.”

Three Pillars
Often you only find out what is going on in someone's life when that employee drops out, says Kuijten. And where physical symptoms are initially thought of, she says mental and financial health definitely plays a role as well. "You don't drop out on one piece; it's a combination of those three pillars that gets pulled out from under you." The managing director of HR illustrates this with a personal experience. "When my father went bankrupt, I saw as a child what that entailed. The grief, the worry... Money doesn't make you happy, but worries about money do make you unhappy. And you take that with you all day long. Especially if you are a breadwinner and have children, it is constantly in your head, and in your body.”

As far as Kuijten is concerned, it is quite simple to give an employee a helping hand. "Of course, as an employer you can say, 'you earn enough, how can this happen?' But we have to take this issue seriously." Kuijten then thinks for example of a periodic financial examination. "Just like you have the periodic medical examination. Have you graduated and do you have student debt? Are you getting divorced? Is your retirement in sight, and do you want to stop working earlier? As an employer, you can offer the employee to start the conversation at those moments. You can also offer a financial planning course or a session with a money coach. At APG, employees receive a vitality budget with which they can go to the gym. And we also offer employees the opportunity to use Geldvinder in our current collective agreement.”

"This online platform was developed by APG in co-creation with 20 employers, 3 employers' umbrella organizations, and trade union representation," adds Coonen. "It shows employees how they stand financially now and in the future, what the financial consequences of certain (career) choices are, what they can improve and how they can do so. And this by providing insight into matters such as income and expenditure, buffers and risks, assets and debts." And also pensions stresses Coonen: "The pension system is subject to major changes in the coming years and a more active role is required from people. Geldvinder helps to find a way through this tricky matter.”

Taking the step to actually use such options can be big, Kuijten realizes. " Embarrassment can play a role. By naming it as an employer and opening the door for a conversation, you show that it can happen to anyone."
There are limits to offering help, though, adds the managing director of HR. "Of course, it's someone's right not to report financial concerns. But as an executive, you do hope that the bond of trust with your team is so good that people raise the alarm in time.”

Roundtable event Financial Fitness - Tuesday, June 7 at 15:00

The conversation will be recorded in a studio and can be attended via live stream. Sign up via this link: Webinar - Financieel fit zijn, net zo belangrijk als fysiek en mentaal (geldvinder.nl)

Seated at the table are Heleen Kuijten (CHRO APG), Richard Coonen

(CCO & Business Developer Geldvinder), Paul-Peter Feld (Chief HR Officer Enexis), Renée-Andrée Koornstra (Director HRM Occupational Health & Environment VU Amsterdam), Tinka van Vuuren (Professor in Strategic Human Resources Management and Vitality Management), Clairette van der Lans

(Project leader financially fit employees at Wijzer in Geldzaken), Dr. Darya Moghimi

(Senior Human Resources Business Consultant  Work & Organizational Psychologist), Anouschka Laheij (Conversation leader).