WINTERSWIJK – During the meeting in connection with the 15th anniversary of the Foundation’s Social Support Center Winterswijk, one of the speakers was Jos Bolder (67), an expert in the field of how a life of reasonable wealth can change into a life of poverty.
By Lineke Voltman
Bolder was born in Didam, studied architecture at Delft University of Technology, where he also met his wife. “After the birth of our son, we moved to my parents’ home in Terborg. There I tried to continue my architecture firm, in addition to many teaching positions and an automation consulting business. In short, an exciting life with a nice family with three small children, own house, a Volvo on the doorstep, many social contacts and joint care for household and children. But it turned out to be too much for me, there was not enough room for myself. On the advice of my general practitioner, I had to stop working in 2000 and ended up with burnout at home.”
Bolder: “Five years later, a divorce followed, where the judge awarded me the three children. The financial settlement became a year-long conflict with many lawsuits. This meant that I did not have the opportunity to work on myself, so the burnout continued. Financially it was also less, but I was lucky that I had taken out disability insurance. However, it stopped when I turned 60, after which I fell back on a WAZ benefit, 70% of the minimum wage. This meant a significant financial loss. When the last child left home, my ex wanted the house sold, leaving me with a large balance of debt, and the debt increased even more. Burnout, divorce and taking care of the kids took all the space to go back to work, which I really intended. But it could have been even worse: In 2016 I was diagnosed with cancer: first colon cancer and later also lymph node cancer. Fortunately, after four operations, I am now tumor-free.”
During those years, Bolder received a lot of support from his children, friends, his psychotherapist and a social worker. He is currently still being helped by social work and is entering a debt settlement process. If he is approved, he will be debt-free in 2026. In addition, he uses the Food Bank weekly for a bag of groceries.
Turn on mental toughness
“In our society, there is a direct connection between work and ordinary income, but benefits are not seen as ordinary income, so you cannot get a loan from the bank,” Bolder continues his story. “There are also many prejudices about people who do not work, you are socially excluded, and this puts a heavy strain on your mental resilience. If I had had income for household duties and raising children, I could have taken out a mortgage and continued to live in my house.”
Bolder: “‘Money doesn’t make you happy’ they say, but not having money can make you unhappy. Money plays a big role in society, if you don’t have it or worse, you have debt, you don’t participate. Insecurity can play a paralyzing role up there: Fear of bailiffs, eviction and judgments, what is hanging over your head?”
According to Bolder, you ultimately have to do it yourself, but it’s important to allow and accept help. “Believe in solutions, you have to work hard for that, but it helps you to remain human and above all not to feel like a victim, because it can happen to anyone. I know I did everything I could to avoid this and it helped me keep my self-esteem up. My appeal to people dealing with poverty is: always remain impartial and trust to see the person and not a case. My urgent advice to people experiencing something similar is: don’t be ashamed, ask for help, have faith, be open and tell the care staff your story.”