DGL Calculation Aid

Sustainable Separate Living, yes or no?

What are the financial consequences of 'Sustainable Separate Living' (DGL)?

In many government schemes, a citizen has to deal with various government agencies. This is also the case when making a choice between the single AOW pension or the married AOW pension in the case of 'Sustainable Separated Living' (DGL). A person entitled to AOW who is married or has a registered partner, and whose partner moves permanently to a care institution, can opt for a single AOW pension. The gross single AOW pension is higher than the gross AOW pension for married people. According to the law, you do not have to dissolve the marriage with your partner in order to receive the single AOW pension in this situation. This is also known as 'Sustainable Separate Living'. The single AOW pension amounts to 70% of the statutory minimum wage and the AOW pension for married persons is 50% of the statutory minimum wage. Because the single AOW pension is higher than the AOW pension for married people, the total income increases if you opt for 'Sustainable Separated Living' in this situation. This increase in income can have financial consequences for both partners. Think of the cancellation of a certain allowance, for example a rent allowance or a health care allowance. In addition, an increase in income may result in having to pay a higher personal contribution for the Long-term Care Act (Wlz). A citizen entitled to AOW who finds himself in this situation will receive a letter from the SVB stating that they can choose whether or not to be classified as 'Sustainable Separated Living'. In order to make such a choice, it is therefore important to have insight into the financial consequences of a change in AOW pension. In the current situation, citizens can contact various authorities for more information, including the CAK and the Tax Authorities. However, this referral does not provide the certainty that it will provide insight into the financial consequences.

At Novum, we are investigating whether we can help citizens in this situation to gain insight into the financial consequences of 'Sustainable Separated Living' (DGL). We do this by designing, building and testing a DGL Calculation Tool with the citizen as the end user.

PLEASE NOTE: This is a Proof of Concept. No version of the DGL Calculation Tool is in production and is therefore only for testing.

Visuele uitleg van het process

How does the Proof of Concept of the DGL Calculation Aid work?

The DGL Calculation Tool is currently a Proof of Concept of a calculator built in Mendix (low-code). A series of complex calculation rules and configuration values is linked to a user interface within Mendix. The end user is asked via a wizard to enter values in the field of income, wealth, housing and care. The DGL Calculation Tool calculates the financial consequences of a single or married AOW pension on the basis of the values entered by the end user. Ultimately, the end user gains insight into the financial consequences based on a graph as well as a representation in numbers. A line graph shows the difference in disposable income between having a single AOW pension (DGL) or a married AOW pension (Non-DGL). What plays a part in this situation is that the possible consequences of a higher income can only be noticed two years later. This is because of the T-2 processing within the Tax Authorities. The DGL Calculation Tool takes this into account by also displaying the results for future years. For example, an end user can see how the financial situation changes over the years and can support a choice between the single AOW pension or the married AOW pension.

For privacy reasons, entered values are not stored anywhere, nor in the interim. An end user will have to enter all requested data during the user flow in one session. When validating the added value of the DGL Calculation Tool, data can be imported in due course. This relieves the end user's worries and no longer needs to enter your own data.

What is happening among this target group? Find out needs.

From Novum we started with a fairly broad research question: What obstacles do the elderly encounter when making a choice in 'Sustainable Separated Living'? This question turned out to be extremely suitable for launching a Design Thinking process from the start. Start by empathizing with your customer. In collaboration with the ANBO Ouderenbond, we conducted empathetic research among members entitled to state pension who are in a situation where their partner has moved or is going to move to a care institution. For example, in conversation we asked about:

  • how do they experience the situation/how did they experience the situation?
  • what is going well and what is not?
  • where are their needs? what do they need?

In collaboration with the Ouderenbond ANBO, we managed to speak to no fewer than N=7 respondents who belong to the target group. Thanks to candid conversations, we have gained insights into what they encountered when their partner unfortunately had to move to a care institution. The fact that these people are in a difficult situation has been emphasized during several conversations. In addition, they indicated that they had to arrange many things. From choosing a healthcare institution that is familiar to them to having to make a choice about a single or married AOW pension.

Learning objectives during the empathic inquiry:

  1. AOW beneficiaries (DGL) do not know what the Sustainable Separate Living option means
  2. AOW beneficiaries (DGL) in a heavy emotional period are less able to make a calculation
  3. AOW beneficiaries (DGL) find making the choice in DGL financially complex
  4. AOW pensioners (DGL) need a calculation tool
  5. AOW beneficiaries (DGL) do not know where to find information about the consequences of DGL

At the end of the interviews, we asked the respondents how they made a choice about 'Sustainable Separated Living' at the time. Then came the question of whether, and if so what help a digital calculation aid can offer. They were allowed to respond to a prototype of the DGL Calculation Tool and went through the user flow on the basis of an assignment. Testing the prototype gave hopeful insights.

  • A large part of the respondents indicated that they spend less time choosing DGL if they can use the calculation tool
  • 50% of the respondents indicated that they had little or no effort to use the calculation tool (CES score)
  • Respondents rated the use of the calculation tool with an average of 7.75 and would recommend it to family/friends.

The majority of the respondents responded positively to the concept of the digital calculation aid. Below you can read a number of quotes mentioned by respondents.

“If there had been that tool, I would have used it! Because I struggled with that calculation for a day and a half.”


“You have an immediate overview of the amounts we have listed and the calculation is done. It was all very clear.”


“I would reconsider DGL if it is more transparent. Make a quote just like with a mortgage application. In which the consequences are stated in the long and short term and whether no additional assessments are made.”

In addition to the above insights, we found that different characteristics can also be distinguished within the target group. For example, it depends on the situation but also on the employment history to what extent the respondent is able to calculate the financial consequences of the single AOW pension. The personas below represent the three subgroups from the research.

These are Personas. They are not individuals in themselves and they do not contain any actual personal data.

Persona Anton Jongbloed
Persona Anita Smit
Persona Mattie Dircks

From Prototype to Proof of Concept (PoC)

During the analysis of the conversations, it was noticeable that many respondents indicated that they had used the digital calculation tool if it was available at the time of making the choice in DGL. We have decided to further design the concept in order to be able to further validate it with the target group. In addition to the assumptions in the field of desirability, we test whether the complexity of calculation rules can be programmed in combination with a user-friendly user interface.
And whether all this is possible through a low-code platform, in our case Mendix. We have linked a Visual Basic developer and calculation rule specialist from the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport to a Mendix developer, and have started building the Proof of Concept. Our team has gradually expanded with a Technical Specialist from Novum, an Innovation Designer and a UX Researcher. In order to validate whether our calculation rules are equal to the calculation rules that are used within the chain, we sought out cooperation with chain partners. The CAK and the Tax and Customs Administration have provided extensive assistance in validating the calculation rules. Are the calculation rules that we program in Mendix correct? Do they correspond with the policy rules of the chain partners? After extensive validation, a first workable version of the Proof of Concept was delivered. Time to go back to the target group and test whether this Proof of Concept of the DGL Calculation Tool meets the needs of the end users.

Learning objectives during the PoC phase:

  1. The Calculation Tool helps people entitled to AOW (DGL) in gaining insight into the financial consequences of Sustainable Separate Living (viability)
  2. The Calculation Tool and its calculation rules provide a reliable result based on input of the data of the end user (feasibility)
  3. Without the Calculation Tool, people entitled to AOW (DGL) are unable to calculate the financial consequences of Sustainable Separate Living (desireability) for themselves.
  4. AOW pensioners (DGL) like to use the Calculation tool (desireability)
  5. AOW beneficiaries (DGL) are able to find the necessary information that is required for the Calculation tool

Results of the user research

Together with research agency Motivaction, we conducted a user study to test whether our assumptions are correct and to gain insights into the desirability of the DGL Calculation Tool. To find out whether the target group is able to find the necessary data to make a choice in DGL, we gave the respondents a homework assignment and the assignment to keep a diary. The homework assignment consisted of finding the necessary data needed to calculate the financial consequences of DGL. In the diary, the respondents recorded how they experienced finding the necessary data. We asked them where they found the necessary data, how much time it took them and what grade they gave it. After the homework assignment and keeping a diary, we invited the respondents for an interview. During the interview, there was room for the participants to share their experience of the homework and they were instructed to enter the necessary data found in the DGL Calculation Tool. When using the DGL Calculation Tool, we used the 'Think Aloud' method to ask them to share their thoughts about using the calculation tool.

Results and conclusion

In the end, N=10 AOW beneficiaries, who may in the future choose between an AOW for married couples or an AOW for people living alone, helped with the user research. The results are summarized below and the results are explained.

  • Collecting the necessary data is experienced as easy, but the data found is not always correct.
  • The calculation tool is perceived as reasonably user-friendly.
  • The calculation tool does not provide sufficient indication to make a choice due to a poor understanding of the results.
  • Users see that the calculation tool may be necessary to make a calculation for a choice regarding DGL because they do not expect to be able to do this themselves.

The results of the diary study indicate that the target group is able to find the necessary data itself. They often find financial data in administration that they keep themselves in a folder, as well as bank statements and annual overviews. They often get information about their rental home from rental documents, letters from the landlord or the website of their housing corporation. In the case of an owner-occupied home, they obtain data from annual overviews, their tax returns or their own administration. Knowledge about the current form of care is often available because they have often requested this themselves. They retrieve data from decision papers or consult the CAK. Information regarding a supplementary pension and/or other gross income and assets can be found in bank statements, tax returns or via My environments. What is striking is that gross amounts are not always entered correctly. Despite the homework assignment requesting certain amounts in gross format, as the calculation tool does, these gross amounts are not always entered correctly.

“I never calculate a supplementary pension with gross figures, but I just filled it in? I have taken over my account statement.”

“Oh gross…? I don't really know how to calculate that. Did I look up the wrong thing for homework?”

The time required to find the requested data is between 10 and 60 minutes, with less digitally literate and low-skilled people needing the most time.

The calculation tool itself scores reasonably well on user-friendliness. It is clear how the data must be filled in and how it can be changed if necessary. Results indicate that the substantive understanding of the calculation tool is quite low. It is not always clear why certain data is necessary and there is insufficient understanding of the graphs and comparative table as the outcome of the calculation tool. The respondents experience insufficient indication to make a choice in Sustainable Divorced Living because of a low understanding of the results of the calculation tool. Few people are aware of the choice in Sustainable Divorced Living in general.

Areas for improvement include making the calculation tool more responsive to the emotions surrounding Sustainable Divorced Living, providing more information about why certain data are necessary, and providing assistance in interpreting the results of the calculation tool.

The most important insight from the user survey is that the respondents expect that they themselves will not be able to make a calculation for the purpose of choosing Sustainable Separate Living. Users see that the calculation tool may be necessary to make a calculation for a choice between an AOW for married people or an AOW for people who live alone.

In the current situation, without the calculation tool, the target group is expected to know what the financial consequences are if they opt for an AOW pension for people who live alone.

All the insights we gained during this innovation project have been transferred to the clients from the SVB and discussions are ongoing about the further development of the calculation tool.


Find out more about the DGL Calculation Tool

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