How do you deal with work and money for now and in the future? Do you live from day to day or are you deliberately planning your financial future? And do you arrange ‘later’ yourself or are you a member of a pension fund?
Brenda Elgersma wants to stop working at the age of sixty.
Brenda Elgersma (49)
Profession: Operational expert at the police, municipal councilor and marriage officiant.
Weekly works: More than fulltime
Income: Between 3000 and 3200 euro net in paid employment and a fee of 750 euro net as municipal councilor.
Savings: 20,000 euro
Pension is arranged? Yes
What kind of work do you do exactly?
“I work at the police as a manager of the Regional Service Center since 2019, the control room of the Amsterdam police where all ‘not urgent, but police assistance required’ reports are processed. I have been working at the police for 22 years already and previously carried out my policing duties on the streets as a regular police officer. In addition, I started working as a municipal councilor seven years ago for a local political party in Uithoorn. This is my final year in that role though as I will call it quits. Being a municipal councilor takes up a lot of time which is at the expense of the time I am able to spend on my passion: marrying people. I became a marriage officiant three years ago and that to me truly is the thing I like to do most.”
It sounds as if your weeks consist of more than seven days…
“People sometimes ask me how I make the time to do all of this. I don’t sleep in and barely watch TV which means there’s plenty of time left. I work 36 hours per week at the police and that’s a fulltime position in this profession. I spend approximately one day a week on my work as a municipal councilor reading documents, work visits, meetings with the political group, committee meetings and council meetings. My work as a marriage officiant has come to a standstill for now, due to the corona pandemic. I usually spend between 10 and 15 hours on a marriage and I sometimes conduct no less than three marriages in one week, which is also my limit.”
How much do you earn?
“People don’t get rich working at the police. In the years working as a patrol officer I sometimes thought: Is this why I work all of those shifts in the weekends and nights? But now, being a manager, is the first time I am actually quite happy with my salary. I earn between 3000 and 3200 euro net. I also earn a fee working as a municipal councilor of 750 net per month, but the tax authorities consider that amount income so that only leaves me 600 euro. And money is definitely not a reason to become a marriage officiant either. I earn 90 euro gross for every marriage I conduct on behalf of the municipality. That leaves me with 60 euro net for each marriage following the deduction of taxes. It really doesn’t involve a lot of money. When people hire me outside of the municipality, I can charge more. I charge 250 euro, excluding travel expenses, for those marriages of which I donate 100 euro to the Diabetes Fund - my son suffers from diabetes type 1. It is not about the money, I just really enjoy doing it. If people can’t afford me, that’s fine by me as well. In that case I am happy with a slice of the wedding cake.”
Is it enough to make ends meet?
“Yes, it is. I am married to Peter who has been working at the police for all of this life and who is about to retire at the end of next year. Peter is 62 years old and only works 24 hours a week these days. His net income is 2800 euro. We spend about 4000 euro a month on fixed costs and groceries. So, you can do the math. We save quite a lot of money these days. We had to cancel our trip to the United States and we can’t go out for dinner. That’s why we moved the renovation of the bathroom forward.”
What else do you spend much money on?
“I visit the nail studio every three weeks, the beautician every six weeks and the hairdresser every eight weeks. Those are the luxury things I allow myself. I also buy a new car every three years. I am driving a Hyundai i30 fastback at the moment. The most expensive version, truly a beautiful car. I really enjoy all of that but I never forget where I came from. When my daughters and I were on our own for a few years after my divorce over twenty years ago, I really had to think about every dime I spent. I drove an old Atos back then and that too made me extremely happy.”
How much did you save?
“20,000 euro. We don’t want to save any more as the interest rate on savings is close to nothing. When we have money left, we rather spend it on additional mortgage payments or use it to maintain our house. We don’t spend our savings. Last year, the heat pump in our house broke down and had to be replaced at the amount of 10,000 euro. We took out a personal loan to pay that bill and we paid off the loan early. Why don’t we just use our savings for that type of costs? Well, it just feels right to have some money to fall back on in case something happens. You never know what the future holds.”
Do you invest?
“No, we don’t feel the urge. To us, that feels a bit like gambling away our money.”
What is your pension plan?
“I want to stop working at the age of 60. We are able to save hours at the police which can be used after saving an entire year worth of time. I want to have that year started at the age of 60 and then move my pension forward to the age of 61.”
What do you arrange to accomplish that goal?
“We take a look at our finances every year in December and make a plan based on those findings. Are we still able to succeed in what we want or do we have to start doing something else? Are we looking to have things done on the house or do we want to make additional payments to pay off our mortgage?”
How much would you like to receive per month following your retirement?
“I think about 3000 to 3500 euro would be enough to live our lives the way we want.”
And how much do you receive should you retire now?
“We both have a good pension at ABP. If I stop working at the age of 61, I receive approximately 1400 euro but that is enough. Our joined income would in that case be about 4000 euro per month.”
What are your dreams for the future?
“Once Peter is retired, we want to make a tour in Spain of five weeks. We also fantasize about renting a house in Spain for a major part of the year or even buy a house there. We want to explore a lot, go on great trips. The twenty years of us being together were mainly dominated by developing a career and raising children. We are now at the beginning of another stage in our lives. We really enjoy fantasizing about the future, but there’s always a risk of thinking about the future so much that you forget to live in the now. You know what it’s like? If your career has led a few times to having to tell people that their son, daughter, father or mother is not coming home, you don’t easily take things for granted anymore. Of course you can make plans for the future but as soon as I walk out the door, there’s no certainty I will also return. That’s the reason for us to try and enjoy every day of our lives.”
What else could you still improve in terms of pension?
“The great thing about working in the public sector, is the fact that pension has been arranged properly. That means there’s not a lot for us to improve ourselves. However, I would like to make my children - two daughters at the age of 27 and 26 from my first marriage and a son at the age of 15 with Peter – more aware about the importance of a good pension. When I was their age, I also didn’t think about pension that often but accruing pension through your employer is not as obvious anymore for their generation as it was for ours. I try to provide them with as much as possible healthy financial knowledge.”