MoneyTalk With Arleen Senior Manager and Risk and Compliance Officer

Arleen van Vijfeijken

In this Interview series, we want to feature amazing and inspiring women who are willing to talk about money. Our goal is to break the taboo around money, share experiences and learn from the community. Please see exemples here.

Hello Arleen! Glad to have you on board!


Could you please tell us a little bit about yourself.

I’m an American who’s lived abroad in Europe for over 20 years now.  I’m married to a Dutch man and we have three children.


What are you passionate about?

I’m passionate about my family and spending time together. I love to cook and entertain friends- I try to enjoy life.


What was the biggest lessons you learnt in your career?

I’m still learning every day- that’s what’s exciting. I think the biggest lesson, though, that I’ve learned is to trust my instincts and gut feelings when making decisions.


What’s your relationship like with money and personal finance?

In general, I suppose I work hard so that I can also enjoy the fruits of my labor.

Money buys freedom. Freedom to make decisions about how to spend your time. For instance, you can choose your work (or not!), or under your own terms (part-time, out of your house, following your passion) and to make trade-offs in your time (e.g., spend time cleaning or pay someone else to help with that).

I find that in Europe, there’s more of a safety net in terms of healthcare and other basic needs, so that gives a certain level of comfort when I think about a worse case scenario or retirement.


What does financial independence mean to you?

My mother always told me and my sisters to make sure that we were always independent (financially and otherwise). So, to me that means that I am able to not only stand on my own two feet financially, but also have the flexibility and resilience to pick myself up or re-invent myself if need be.  


What’s the one thing you indulge in?

I indulge in shopping a lot- but I very often just look and actually don’t buy anything. I used to spend a lot on clothes and such, but now I really think twice about whether I really need yet another pair of black shoes.


What is the best financial decision you have ever made? And what is the greatest long term investment?

The best financial decision was buying our first home together in the UK at a time when there was a dip in the market and some people were experiencing negative equity. We got a great deal on a property, and moved on. Bought another property with a lot of potential in a great neighborhood. We were really fortunate to be at the right place at the right time. Bricks and mortar seem to be the best long-term investments to me, while bearing in mind the location.


Have you ever experienced a financial epiphany? A sort of wake-up call, where you suddenly think - “I must start doing things differently”?

No, I can’t say that I have really, except after my first year of college, when some credit card companies were really giving away cards. I was happy at the time to get one until I got the bills- with interest. After a short time, I realized that it wasn’t really smart to ‘buy’ things on a plastic card that I really couldn’t afford. To this day, we rarely use credit cards, but rather cash or debit cards.


Own up. Have you made any major financial faux-pas?

None that have come back to haunt me - yet!


What do you wish you have done earlier in terms of financial planning?

I wish I had started thinking about saving for my kids earlier and really being a bit smarter about that. I think we could have also taken greater advantage of the rules that allow you to give up to a certain amount each year tax free.


What would you recommend to younger women?

I would recommend to younger women, like my mother did to me, that they are always independent. I have two daughters of my own, going out into the world and I want them to be empowered.


Favourite book & podcast?

I recently read ‘Just Mercy’ by Bryan Stevenson and was really moved by his passionate fight for people who have been wrongly incarcerated, but I was deeply disturbed by the criminal justice system which allows that. Similarly, the documentary called ‘13th’, explores the impact and use of the 13th Amendment on African Americans; chilling.


Where can we find you?

I’m happy if I can find the time to keep in contact with my small circle of friends and family in person, so I don’t reach out a lot using social networks.


Thanks a lot!

-- Emilie & Christina


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