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The Author Speaks

Interview With Carol Ross Joynt on Reinventing a Life

Widow talks about recovery from financial ruin

Q. You describe yourself as close, loving, as mated for life as a pair of geese. But there was abuse, early in the marriage. Can you ever really forget a black eye?

A. You have to forgive to move on. Do you forget? No. Does it make you wiser going forward? Absolutely. After it happened it wasn't so much an issue of his being different but that I was different. Either I had to change or walk out, and I didn't want to walk out. If he wanted me to stay he had to do something about himself, be the man I fell in love with and not the asshole with demons inside.

Q. What happened?

A. My anger about him hitting me lessened substantially once he got help and learned to talk about it, and the Prozac. With his death the anger went away altogether. That particular anger. [Also] I think many more smart, accomplished and strong women are hit than would ever own up.

Q. Let's talk about what people should know, men or women, about the major earner in the family, and the family money.

A. If you are married to someone who is in a small business, you do need to educate yourself. If you're in the will, if you're the heir, however unctuous it might be to stick your nose in, you need to ask to see the audits. It's true particularly if you're not involved. I had nothing to do with Howard's business, and here I was the heir to it, not knowing anything about it at all. In a sense, I had enabled what happened to happen.

Q. What else?

A. Read what you're signing, even if it has been prepared by an accountant. There is nothing wrong with handing the financial affairs over to your spouse. But get educated about it. Find time to talk with your spouse about money, to check in every month, or three or six months. I did ask, what will happen to me if you die? And he said, "Sell Nathans immediately." In theory, that was great advice. But he left me in a situation where I couldn't sell Nathans immediately, in fact not for 12 years.

Q.What about your son?

A. Spencer. He had the parachute, emotionally. I made sure of that. Howard did too. He's got some demons, as we all do. I'm very proud of him. Every decision started with him.

Next: The need to survive. >>

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