Laetitia (41) is married to Gerben and mother of Demi (12) and Max (8).
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“I always knew my father wouldn’t live to be very old. After my mother died, she died of cancer when I was eleven, he never fully recovered. We were warm at home, no lack of love. In a practical sense, my two-year-older brother and I looked after ourselves for the most part.
We were among the first ‘key children’; children whose parents work full-time and who go home independently after school. At that time, out-of-school care was something that only toddlers and very young children attended. Not that we suffered below; shopping a few times a week and occasionally cooking are not harmful when you are a teenager.
That cooking was sorely needed. My father could do it, but after the death of my mother he simply didn’t have the energy for it anymore. I had learned to make macaroni at friends’ birthday cooking parties. You learn by doing, and soon my brother and I got the most basic dishes on the table.
My father smoked. Drank more than was healthy. So when he was diagnosed with colon cancer three years ago – he was now 64 – my brother and I were, apart from inconsolably, at most surprised that the diagnosis had only come now.
We had always been good financially. My mother’s estate coupled with a widower’s and orphan’s pension ensured that my brother and I lacked for nothing and were able to study without any problems. Our childhood part was fixed on separate accounts, intended for our first owner-occupied houses.
My husband Gerben also had some money of his own that he had saved up since he was eighteen. As a result, we were able to take out a relatively low mortgage on my 26th when we bought our first home immediately after our marriage: 220,000 euros for a three-ton house that we also had renovated for 40,000 euros. As terrible as my mother’s death was at the time, it helped us shape our lives comfortably from an early age.
My father deteriorated rapidly after the diagnosis. For three months I cared for him every day in his own home, until he was admitted because it was no longer possible. He died four days later. Losing a parent at 11 is terrible, but this blow may have been harder, even if I’d seen it coming for so long. I was 38 and orphaned. That’s too young. Though I don’t think anyone is ever ready to lose their parents. It was better this way for my father. My brother and I were the reason he continued, but he never became as happy as with my mother.
With the financial space after my mother’s death, my father had clearly had the opportunity to save. His inheritance was four hundred thousand, including our childhood home where he still lived and which my brother and I sold for a good one and a half tons in profit. I used my share to pay off the remainder of our own mortgage – something where I had it notarized that it was my money. You never know how the future will turn out; many of my girlfriends are divorced and struggling to find new homes. I want to prevent something like this from ever happening to the children and to me, no matter how happy Gerben and I are. The remainder, about 60,000 euros, I put in a savings account.
‘My husband had rushed through my mother’s entire inheritance without my knowledge’ >
Gerben and I earn well. He is a partner in a consultancy company, I have a management position in human resources. Together we earn about two tons a year. Our environment thinks we’re crazy that we haven’t exchanged our simple terraced house for at least a semi-detached house for a long time, but we have found it comfortable so far. We live tax-free and can save more than half of our income.
We have already fully covered any studies of the children, and otherwise a lot of money is normally spent on travel. Demi and Max have seen more countries than cities in the Netherlands, I sometimes laugh. Fortunately, they realize that this is not standard. When Demi was three, we traveled through Thailand and Vietnam for a month. The four of us have been to Florida, Kenya, the Maldives and New York. I’d rather invest in experiences than in stuff.
Thinking differently about money
I recently updated that image. On an ordinary Monday I got a call: my grandmother’s sister had passed away. I’d seen her at birthdays as a kid, but I preferred to stay away from her. She had no husband or children and found my brother and me especially uncomfortable, I think. With the death of my father, only child, there were no other next of kin but my brother and I. Now it was our turn to feel uncomfortable when we heard that her inheritance, about 50,000 euros per person, went entirely to us.
I didn’t tell anyone around us except two close friends. People think our money comes purely from our successful jobs, and I’ll leave it that way. The rest is a private matter. This ability made Gerben and I suddenly think differently about our money. Saving currently only costs money and travel is not possible.
That is why we recently bought a second home in Utrecht. Not completely mortgage-free, we financed part of it. A holiday home on the Côte d’Azur sounds more exciting, but we see it as an investment. My niece was looking for a student house and is now renting it with two friends. She pays a symbolic amount, 150 euros per month, her friends pay 300. A pittance, if you look at the current market, but it more than covers our costs. By the time she graduates, our kids can go in if they want. And if not, we’ll just resell it.
It feels nice that we have a nest egg – also for the children. By the way, they know that Gerben and I earn well, but they never whine about expensive things. They have no reason for it either: they both take two sports and take piano lessons. They get the latest sneakers twice a year and their clothes are from brands they like to wear, but with a sweater of 150 euros I draw the line. I do have an agreement with Demi that if she doesn’t start smoking – and that includes smoking weed – we’ll pay for her driver’s license. We will of course make the same appointment with Max, when he is old enough.
As fortunate as we feel to be able to raise our children in relative wealth, I still feel like I’m reaping the benefits of the deaths of loved ones. That is why we donate monthly to a number of charities, for both people and the environment. Because financially, our children may later end up in a bed spread, without a green world that is also worth nothing.”
This article appears in Kek Mama 08-2021.
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