I never could have imagined the amount of chaos and upheaval my husband’s death would cause.
Steve was simply the most brilliant, outgoing, charismatic man I had ever met. He was filled with life and always walked in the door with most amazing smile on his face. We did everything together, we were inseparable.
He was the owner of a successful business that employed over 140 people and I worked closely with Steve handling payroll, miscellaneous items and my own smaller-scaled company.
Our lives were filled with friends, associates and family. We entertained constantly, but made it a habit to have dinner at home on Mondays and Wednesdays to spend those nights focused on our family without distraction. We truly had an amazing life and I feel so blessed for those years together.
Without warning, Steve was diagnosed with Stage 4 Cancer. We spent the last nine months of his life in hospitals and trying to save his life.
During this time, Steve was trying to make sure that our finances were in order. Prior to his diagnosis, I had tried to have him meet a dynamic financial wealth adviser named Regina Beatty, but unfortunately for me, that never happened. Steve believed that businessmen knew best and he worked with his attorneys to create a plan that he believed was solid.
Steve and I had different philosophies on money. He enjoyed spending it and I wanted to save it. Steve had what I often referred to in jest as “Magic Money.” He always had a significant amount of cash; he simply pulled out cash to pay for evenings out, shopping etc.
At 49, he never planned to leave the world so soon. Maybe he thought we would do a better job of organizing our finances as we aged.
I remember one afternoon that those attorneys came to the house, Steve wanted me to meet them. I couldn’t. I didn’t want any part of it. I wanted them to leave because I didn’t want to believe that Steve was going to die. I didn’t want to hear anything they had to say.
Looking back, I wish I had met them. I wish I could have had the chance to tell Steve that I didn’t like them or that I didn’t feel like they would look out for my best interests.
When Steve died, I went from having everything to having nothing. All of our money was tied up in the company, our checking account balance would cover household bills and expenses and the only savings account we had was the small one I had started years before.
I had nothing. I didn’t know what I would do to take care of my son and I.
Steve left me with an incredible amount of debt. He had been purchasing vintage cars that I knew nothing about, including one that he still owed $69,000 on!
Then the attorney bills started coming in.
I became dependent on the money that people had sent me in the sympathy cards. I honestly didn’t know what I was going to do; I was at a complete loss. Three months after Steve’s death, one of the first life insurance installments arrived. I used that money to start paying off the massive debt. And over time, realized that the life insurance would provide a significant amount of money (thank God for the life insurance!!) and I still had the company that I could sell if I wanted. You would think that would start making everything easy.
I scheduled a meeting with the attorneys that Steve entrusted with my future. It was awful, they were terrible. Steve had created trusts to hold the insurance money and the company. His attorneys made it feel like he did that because he didn’t trust me to be responsible with money. And, they had no respect for the fact that this money had to last me the rest of my life – which could be 50 more years! One attorney looked at me while reviewing my financial status and said, “If you lose one million dollars, it won’t kill you.” I couldn’t believe it. Who says that to a client? I knew I needed help and I needed someone to be on my side and look out for my best interests.
I fired those attorneys. And changed trustees – for they had set it up for the person Steve wanted to buy the company was the same person named as trustee to manage my money the rest of my life. Even in my grief, I knew that this would be a huge conflict of interest.
That’s when I got Regina involved. I am so grateful for her. She always had my best interests at heart. Looking back, I honestly don’t know what I would have done without her. I don’t know how I would have moved forward in rebuilding my life. And she was by my side in all of it as a second set of eyes. She used her expertise to review all of the complicated new emotional and financial elements of my life and helped me to create a plan. It was the first time that I had a plan and that helped put me at ease.
Throughout all of this turmoil, I was still working at the company. The day that Steve died, I had to step into his shoes. I had to take on all of his responsibilities and it made me hard. I was trying to run a company and people, especially men, thought they could take advantage of me. I felt like I couldn’t trust anyone. It really changed me.
In all of the stress and chaos, I never grieved Steve. I didn’t have time. I was drowning in debt and trying to keep my son and I afloat until things we set where they needed. When I finally sold the company, it’s then that it hit me. I started to grieve Steve and our life together. Regina was there for me then as well, she helped me grieve. She understood my loss and the time I needed to spend finally saying “goodbye” to Steve.
The restructuring of my life has taken years. Once everything was settled and with the guidance and plan that Regina helped me to build, I am very financially stable. I surround myself with my family and girlfriends, I travel, I enjoy life and I have the luxury of taking my time to decide what’s next for my life.
When I talk to my girlfriends, I encourage them to learn from my mistakes. I learned the hard way how important it is to talk to your husband about finances. You need to know what your financial plan looks like, how your money is designated and how financially stable you are as a family. I encourage people to save as much money as you possibly can, have that saving account ready for a rainy day. In my situation, it not only rained … it poured.
But, my most important piece of advice is to have a financial wealth advisor who is dedicated to your well-being, your best interests and who communicates with you regularly. Without a doubt, Regina’s guidance and expertise helped me rebuild a life that was in pieces and I will be forever grateful to her.