“The way I’m living my life makes me feel like I’m already retired”

Published on: 9 November 2021

How do you deal with work and money for now and for the future? Do you live hand to mouth or are you intentionally planning your financial future? And will you make arrangements for your future yourself, or are you part of a pension fund? 

Mariëlle Renckens (50), has been working with horses, as a volunteer, since she lost her job after a reorganization.



Mariëlle Renckens (50)

Profession: volunteer

Hours per week: nearly full-time

Income: zero

Savings: zero

Pension set up? Yes


What kind of work do you do?

“I work as a holistic trainer and coach, on a volunteer basis, for the foundation I started, Natuurlijk Kind en Paard (Natural Child and Horse). The foundation was gifted four discarded horses and we are using them to teach kids how to treat the animals. This has a calming effect on kids with ADHD, for example, and it helps fearful children to develop courage. It is also our mission to prevent accidents with horses. In the Netherlands, there are 68,000 accidents with horses every year, largely because people still don’t understand horses very well. These accidents are generally serious, because a horse is so big.  When you get a dog, you have to take a course before you can take care of it; this should also be the case for a horse. We are offering that training. I have also written a book about the basic tenets.”


Where does your interest come from?

“I was in a serious accident with a horse once. I had to get dug out of the arena. If the horse had rolled over me, I would not be sitting here right now. I was black and blue from head to toe; I didn’t know a body could be discolored in so many places. After that, I stopped horseback riding for a while. But when my daughter started to show an interest in horses when she was just three years old, and I was afraid to let her ride, I realized I had to deal with my fear. I learned the intricacies of classic and natural horsemanship at DressuurNatuurlijk. When my daughter was 8, she got her own horse and that is how it all got started. I created the foundation in 2010.”


How many hours a week do you work there?

“I think, altogether, including taking care of the horses and training them, it is about forty hours.”


What did you do before this?

“I worked in the business office of Algemeen Maatschappelijk Werk (General Social Work), taking on new clients. I did that for thirteen years, until a reorganization made me redundant. There was no place for me anymore. It was done in a very inhumane way. It didn’t make me feel dispondent,  but the way it was done obviously affected me. I felt overpowered, as did many others in the organization. I did receive a sum of money: gross EUR 10,000, which leaves you with EUR 5,500.”

What did you do with that money?

“I climbed Mount Kilimanjaro. To see if there was any oomph left in my body. Well, I made it to the top and that’s quite a feat. That was really great. After that, I decided to focus full-time on what I love most: helping other people with the horses.”


How do you survive without an income?

“I get 150 euros a month for my volunteer work, which is tax-free. I use that to pay for my health insurance. And I have the good fortune that my husband has his own company and he pays all the household bills. We also board other people’s horses, for which we charge 220 to 250 euros a month each. That money all goes to the care of our own horses. The income from the lessons I give and from the sale of my book, goes to the foundation and the horses. I use it to pay for hay, water, electricity, the vet and maggot cures. Keeping horses is not cheap, but it’s okay to have some expenses for a hobby.”


What are your regular expenses?

“We pay about 700 euros a month on our mortgage. Electricity is 200 euros a month, groceries around 500 euros. We are going straight to the farm more often now. You pay a bit more there, but you get valuable products, while helping the farmer.”


What else do you spend a lot of money on?

“The vet and the equine dentist are big expenses. A dental treatment is about 250 euros per horse, so that adds up to 1000 euros a year. We also have a holistic vet that comes every year on a preventive basis, in order to avoid the huge expense of injuries. For four horses, that also costs us 100 euros. And then there is all the tack you need. Sadles, reins, stirrups, maintenance of the equipment. Having a saddle adjusted, which has to be done when a horse gains weight, for example, also costs 250 euros. So, it all adds up. But we pay for everything out of the money raised by the foundation. It is a circular system.”


Do you have anything left for yourself?

“Not really, but when you’re happy with what you have, you don’t need that much. I’m not interested in luxury clothing, and I’m not someone who buys expensive make-up. I enjoy a nice scent, but I’ve been using the same one for years and ask for it for Christmas, when it’s on sale. There’s also this day cream I like and I ask my kids to buy it for me for my birthday. My husband and I love wine, but if you know a little bit about wine, you can do just fine with a tasting of wines from Lidl. My husband has a catering business and also works in restaurants. When food is nearing its expiry date and can no longer be sold, he sometimes brings it home with him. That’s how we bring a bit of luxury into our lives.”

“I think we are moving towards a world where value is expressed in other ways than just money”

How much do you have in savings?



What does money mean to you?

“When you’re young, you think money is the most important thing. But remaining authentic is much more important. If you know what your value is, you can trade it for something else anywhere. As long as you have the courage to express your creativity. I think we are moving much more towards a world where value is expressed in other ways than just money. What do you have to offer as a human being? How can you help each other without paying for it in money? For example, I can give lessons, and my neighbour has an apple tree in his garden. A lesson from me can be worth as much as the neighbour’s bag of apples that I get in exchange.”


Are you planning for your old age?

“My husband and I both have our pensions reasonably in order. When we were 25, we both worked in the catering industry in Amsterdam, where we were offered a nice savings plan. It was called the supplementary pension, not to be confused with the usurious policy that has been the subject of much debate. My husband has a pension through the hotel and catering industry and I accrued a pension through the hotel and catering industry as well as a healthcare pension for years. In addition, our house is mostly paid off. And we have life insurance. If one of us dies, that’s a pension for the other one.”


How do you picture you life in the future?

“I think I will have the same life as I have now. As long as I can go for an outdoor ride every day, I’m happy. I feel like I’m retired already. I’m very fit and I’d like to keep it that way and live to be 100. I am grateful that I can organize my life in this way. That doesn’t mean I’m not willing to roll up my sleeves when I need to. If I can’t manage financially, I can always go and pick fruit. There is enough work here in the Groningen area, I don’t mind. But if I don’t have to, I’m very happy spending my days doing what I’m doing now.”