Caitlin pursues her philanthropic dreams in Vietnam
May 25th 2018
Caitlin Wyndham’s relationship with managing money is nonchalant, at best.
It’s a genuine disinterest that she admits constantly amazes her financial adviser, Armidale’s Steve Sewell.
“I have no interest in being rich – I never have and I never will.”
“I think Steve is often shocked that I have so little interest in being heavily involved in looking after my finances, which is why, of course, I have him!” she laughs.
Living in Hanoi, Vietnam, Caitlin enjoys a very basic lifestyle, with a low cost of living and few expenses.
Philanthropic to the core, she works for The Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation, a charitably funded non-government organization supporting children and families in crisis, and rescuing women and children who have been trafficked.
“I moved to Vietnam in 2001 to try a year working abroad, and I’m still here!”
Having been with Blue Dragon for the past two years, she said the organisation’s grassroots, practical approach to children and families in need was inspiring, and that she relished the work and lifestyle.
In her 40’s with “no mortgage, no kids and no interest in being wealthy”, Caitlin said her financial needs were very basic.
However, living internationally, and with little desire to have a hands-on role in her finances, trust is a priority.
“I say to Steve, don’t try to check in every month with a financial update – I don’t want to know.”
“Text me once a year, that’s all I need!”
“I couldn’t do that if I didn’t have Steve, an adviser I have total trust in – I know I don’t have to worry about what’s going on with my money, in fact I rarely even give it a second thought – I know Steve has everything organised and that he’ll get in touch if there’s a need.”
And while she may have no interest expanding her own personal wealth, she is extremely passionate about raising funds for other worthy causes.
With her parents having both passed and having received an inheritance, she is adamant she has more than she will ever need.
“My priority is to now work out with Steve how to best ensure this money makes a difference beyond just sitting in a bank account – I don’t see any point in that,” Caitlin explains.
Together, she and Steve are currently exploring opportunities to create a scholarship fund through monthly instalments or to increase the financial sustainability of Blue Dragon by investing the funds.
“Working in fundraising for Blue Dragon I know first-hand that government grant money is not always assured in the long term, so it would be very beneficial to invest in a business that provides a reliable income to our cause.”
“Steve is encouraging me to take an impact investment approach, so I have a personal return also, but I’m not convinced, I’d prefer all the money to go into charity.”
While comfortably living off her Blue Dragon income, albeit frugal, Caitlin also has an investment from her days working as a freelance consultant in Vietnam and the region.
“Some months I would have three huge projects and some months I would have none, so this investment was set up about 10 years ago to take some of the financial vulnerability out of my situation.”
And while Caitlin’s needs may be simple, she said her one stipulation is that money can be pulled out of her investment and transferred into her bank account if she needs to fund a trip home unexpectedly.
“Steve has set up my investment so it works perfectly for my lifestyle, and apparently, I am in a very good financial position.”
This investment has also afforded her the opportunity to pursue her other great love, education.
Caitlin has an undergraduate degree, a certificate in leadership, two master’s degrees and is currently studying a PhD through the Central European University in Hungary.
As such, her investment has funded one of those master’s degrees and its required twelve months living in Manchester, plus several long stints living in Budapest for her current project.
Now in her 40’s, she admits she is often surprised that she has such healthy finances from very little effort, and that Steve assures her she will enjoy a very comfortable retirement when the time comes.
“I’ve never tried to make money – and with my current earnings I’m not regularly contributing to my investment – but it is very reassuring to know that I have security if I need it.”
And if Caitlin, originally from Guyra, ever does decide to move back to Australia, she is acutely aware that the cost of living will be no match for Vietnam.
“It could be a very expensive move – a home, health insurance, transport – I am grateful that if the need arises, I will be ready.”
While she laughs that no one gets rich working in the NGO sector, perhaps it’s just a case that they are yet to find the right financial adviser.
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