NHL Stenden launches financial helpdesk for and by students

'A sound financial condition starts with awareness,' says financial planner and lecturer Laura Sinnema of NHL Stenden. She is the brains behind Fix Your Finance: a helpdesk where students from the Finance, Tax and Advice study programme help fellow students to get their finances in order. 

A bit more financial guidance at a young age is badly needed, according to Sinnema. 'Only half of Dutch homes can pay their bills without any problems. And more than half of the Dutch say they are financially vulnerable, according to research by Deloitte.'

NHL Stenden student Lindsay has experienced financial difficulties herself. She sees the same thing happening to her fellow students. They have to make choices about what books to buy or not to buy and whether to join excursions at all - because they need to know first whether it costs any money, and how much. Students living on their own have to keep a lot of balls in the air, as studying basically requires them to put in a 40-hour week. At the same time they also have to provide for their own livelihood.'

Students feel they receive little acknowledgment for the problems they experience in this regard, says Lindsay. 'Not much consideration is given to what all this financial stress demands. Sometimes you have no choice but to be in debt, because otherwise it is not feasible to live a little alongside their studies – just hoping it will all work out later.'

As Laura Sinnema points out, this is why NHL Stenden has set up Fix Your Finance. 'We will launch the helpdesk during Money Week. This week is actually meant for MBO students and secondary school pupils. But it is also important that our students know there is help if they need it. This also applies to students who do not have money problems yet and would like to avoid them. 'Do you know exactly how much you have borrowed and what this means after you have graduated? Things like that, you name it.'

'I think it can be really valuable that you don't have to do it all by yourself just for a little while,' Lindsay points out. 'That you can go to someone who can lend a helping hand and help you see how you might do things differently or what you are entitled to. After all, the latter takes much time and effort if you also have to do it alongside your studies. The helpdesk can help prevent worse, perhaps provide relief in certain cases. But it mainly plays a role in recognising that these problems exist and that NHL Stenden plays an active part in addressing them and takes responsibility.'

'Financial awareness and planning brings freedom'

Financial awareness and planning can really pay off in the short term, and no, it doesn't always have to be a lot of money, according to Laura Sinnema. 'Sometimes I hear students say they would like to study abroad but don't have the money to do so. If you and someone else then take a closer look at your situation, you might find out that you spend a lot of money on, say, tasty coffee to go or subscriptions that aren't much use. Such things you can easily do away with in order to reach your goal. Financial planning gives you peace of mind and freedom.'

Contain the ‘bling’

Money Week (‘De week van het geld‘) is an initiative launched by the Dutch finance ministry. This year's theme is ‘control the bling’. According to Sinnema, the theme ties in well with current events. 'My own daughter who is a student was advised by a fellow student to increase her loan so she could go on holiday. And also things like buying a new phone, designer clothes - it's all equally important. Young people are tempted from all sides to spend their money, and research shows that they are particularly susceptible to it.'