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Interview With Carol Ross Joynt on Reinventing a Life

Widow talks about recovery from financial ruin

Q. And now?

A. At 60, I'm just as perfectly suited for a job, however unlikely it might seem due to my age.

But yes, no question there is age and sex discrimination in the hiring of baby boomers. And intimidation, too, because we can spell without using spell-check and we have a knowledge of America and world history.

Q. Isn't there a special kind of hell about being in debt? Not just being in debt but knowing, for sure, that you can't pay what you owe?

A. I remember so well telling Spencer, "Don't answer the phone!" You never knew if it was one of the creditors. My life is changed. It's financially bereft. It's challenged. But I wouldn't take Nathans back for anything. If it was making money hand over fist, I still wouldn't take Nathans back. I had to give away half of every week's paycheck. I had to be the hard ass. I had to be the bad guy. I didn't like doing that.

Q. And it can't be argued that there is one set of behaviors if you have money, and one when you don't. And those who need it least …

A. …They have the most done for them. When Howard was alive, people said, "Yes, Mrs. Joynt, of course, Mrs. Joynt. We'll kick everyone else off the schedule and do it right now, Mrs. Joynt." After Howard was gone, if I'd call, they'd say, "You have to pay this bill first." That was because Howard walked on water.

Q. What allure was there for Howard to being one step in front of the law?

A. It's the lore, the romance. He had a very cushy upbringing, so to go into the saloon business was unexpected. For a lot of the guys, it was the Wild West. It's fun to make your own rules, run books out of your back pocket. Howard had a safety net. His father was there to pick up the shortfall. He never had to face the consequences until his father was gone. It breaks my heart that when he got caught, he couldn't talk to me about it. He told me there was trouble, but not to worry. If he had told me, I wouldn't have gotten the "innocent spouse" [status].

Q. You wouldn't want Nathans back. Would you want Howard back?

A. I would want my husband back. I would like to go out to dinner with him tonight. I have an awful lot to say to him. I think he'd find me a different person in a lot of ways. He'd like the life I've created for us. It wasn't the life we had. It isn't grand. But it's a solid life. We're not posh. Our address may be Georgetown, but it's a modest Georgetown. Our life now is much more planted in the real world.

Next: What every spouse should know about the major earner in the family. >>

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