Jan. 10, 2022
minutes reading time
Irene Kuiper is a clearance and budget coach, she helps people get a better grip on their financial administration. She works as a freelancer and also supports the municipality of Amsterdam as a volunteer.
Why did you decide to do this work?
I come from the creative sector and was employed there for 38 years. I had to deal with very fluctuating income there. Even as a producer I regularly had to shift income and expenses and it always gave me peace of mind to have all my finances transparent. Unfortunately I also know that many people have a lot of trouble with this, but I feel that this is precisely why I can help them and I have always found this interesting.
How do you make sure you can help these people?
By really sitting down at a table with people and looking at where things are going well and unfortunately also at where things are going wrong. I really see the financial household as a set table, your dishes then symbolize your budget. If you throw something off on one side, you have to make sure that something is added back on the other side so that the same number of people can always eat from the set table. If that eventually works out, then it can even become really fun. That it can become really fun is really unimaginable to many people. But if you really get control of your budget, it can become really fun to pay a bill, because then you saw that bill coming and are in a position to actually pay it.
What kind of people do you help in your work?
This is very diverse, having worked in the creative sector, sometimes it's colleagues and or friends. In addition to being a budget coach, I also work as a cleaning coach, but that often goes together. Sometimes you come in to someone as a budget coach, but there turns out to be a tidying problem and vice versa. There's not really a particular type that needs a budget or cleanup coach, it's really very diverse.
People you don't expect at all sometimes have a basket of blue envelopes that they are afraid to open. But also people who are digital illiterate or people with a language problem. Authorities sometimes use complicated language. It would be so much better if the language were much simpler, agencies really need to become transparent in their use of language. Sometimes it takes up to five paragraphs to say that people need a bank statement. It sounds a little teasing that it has to be Jip and Janneke language, but sometimes it really could be simpler. So it's generally very variable types that I have to deal with.
Where do these people go wrong?
These are also very different causes. For example, there are people who have to deal with adjustment debts, which are debts where there is a new life situation that people have to get used to. Perhaps a somewhat traditional example of a couple from 't Gooi where the husband always worked and the wife only had to wave the credit card. Then when they get divorced, the wife suddenly has to get used to the fact that such a credit card suddenly doesn't work anymore. This woman may then suddenly go into debt because she suddenly has to adjust her spending habits. But of course you also have survivor's debts, in which the expenses and income simply do not match. These are often people who have very little income because they have benefits or are on welfare, for example.
However, there are also people who suffer from overspending, these people have ample income but suddenly spend way too much money during Black Friday, for example, because they think they are doing good with the discount they grab. Then you also have people who have compensatory debt, these are people who feel guilty about things and start compensating with large expenditures. For example, someone who is going through a divorce and gets their children over and then gives them expensive gifts just to please them. But this kind of compensation can also be as padding for one's own unhappiness. People who think my boss did stupid today, so I'm just going to make myself happy with some new clothes, because I've earned that. And then, of course, people can also be dealing with a combination of these kinds of debts.
Is it easy to change someone's spending habits?
No, that's really very difficult. If someone has a certain spending behavior, then it can be really very difficult to adjust it. People have so to speak certain elephant paths, these are the same thinking steps that people make, without really thinking much about it. Changing such an elephant path sometimes takes up to forty times and only after forty times can you change someone's behavior. So it just really takes a lot of time to unlearn such a habit.
How can outsiders help people recognize money worries?
Of course, it depends on whether that is on a business or personal level. Employers often get it when employees start calling in sick, start complaining about stress and complaining about their home situation, for example. If people call in sick more than average, that's often a sign that someone is not doing well anyway, that's always a very interesting indicator. On a personal level, you could look at why a certain friend always comes to your house and you never come to theirs. Is someone ashamed of their own home, for example. You could also think about someone who never comes to a birthday. Maybe because that person is ashamed of not having money for a present? And sometimes also just follow your instinct. Why may I never cross someone's threshold? What does that person have to hide? What is wrong?
Do you think Salarise can help people with their financial housekeeping?
If they say they are an organization where you can get tips from, just like NIBUD. Then they can certainly help a lot of people a lot. For example, if you give simple saving tips that allow people on a limited budget to save money every time they do their shopping. With that you can help people with their financial housekeeping Saving can then also become a kind of sport, it can become fun. You obviously can't see that fun when you're up to your ears in debt, but it can be fun when you find out at the end of the month that you're actually going to have money left over.
Together with an employer, how can Salarise help the employee?
An employer obviously benefits from a healthy and happy employee, and if Salarise can contribute to this, it is of course fantastic. Talking about finances is obviously still a taboo subject. But just by talking about it, even with your employer, would solve a lot of things. People sometimes choose to bury their heads in the sand when it comes to finances and let it get way too far. Whereas, of course, it would be much better to look the "beast" in the eye and address the problem. If Salarise can be the connecting factor between employee and employer, I think they can prevent and solve a lot of problems. In addition, I think it is just fine for an employer if his employee is financially fit. An employee then just has a lot more brain space left to do his job well and that is a win-win situation for everyone.
How can an employer, help an employee?
It is also in the little things, some people just have telephone anxiety who find it difficult to call someone. Sitting down next to someone to help them can make a big difference. It is often the case that people let a situation linger for a long time and only intervene when the situation is untenable. You always see that with neighborly quarrels, for example, people only start complaining when it gets to their place. It's the same with money; if you can't pay your rent once, you better call right away. You will be surprised how many agencies are willing to come to a solution together, if you start the conversation in time.
Do you have another handy tip that everyone can use?
If you are going to call an authority, always make sure you make a small script of the questions you plan to ask. This will ensure that you won't be caught off guard and that you won't regret afterwards the things you didn't ask. If you think writing it all out is too much work, at least write down your opening line and your first question. Also, always ask for the name of the person you had the conversation with. That way you make it concrete and have something to fall back on.