TORONTO — After years devoted to dispensing financial know-how, Gail Vaz-Oxlade is delving into more personal territory to help a sizable demographic: individuals feeling adrift after the abrupt end of their marriages.
The longtime financial writer, bestselling author and former TV host teamed with friend and collaborator Victoria Ryce on the book “CEO of Everything” (Collins), drawing on their own experiences navigating the unexpected hardships of newly single life.
“I think part of this whole thing is there is a group of people out there that are suddenly single — which we are both members of — and whether you come to it from divorce or you come to it through widowhood, that … sense of having the rug dragged out from under you,” said Vaz-Oxlade, a three-time divorcee.
Ryce said she was the first among her social group to be widowed. At age 50, she lost her husband after a 13-month battle with cancer.
“I think that people don’t realize that people that look happy and are successful and seem to have it all together they have those grey days, those black days,” said Ryce, a former stockbroker.
“So it’s important that they know that when they look at someone and they think to themselves: ‘That person seems to have it all together.’ No, they have their time pulling the covers up over their head and hiding too.”
Given the financial pedigrees of Vaz-Oxlade and Ryce, “CEO of Everything” offers plenty of guidance for individuals on how to take stock of and manage their assets and liabilities in the wake of a sudden split.
“People end up with a whack of cash that they’re not used to having — and they’re lost,” said Vaz-Oxlade of individuals who are beneficiaries of insurance payouts or settlements.
“It’s really important that you stop and you breathe and that you recognize that there are people out there who may be predatory, so you have to be careful of who you choose to help you, or who you choose to tell that you have money. Because all of a sudden, you have money, and every Tom, Dick and Harry wants a piece of what you’ve got.”
But Vaz-Oxlade said “money is only a small part of people’s lives,” which accounts for why the duo devotes time to exploring the changes faced by the suddenly single in social interactions.
“For a lot of people they’re used to ark mentality: two-by-two,” Ryce said. “You may have done things as couples and (now) you’re a single person. For some reason, those numbers like three, five, seven, you don’t get invited to things.”
In the book, Ryce recalls a couple she had been friends with for 20 years who visited her after her husband’s death. The wife later sent her a letter saying their paths had parted and she would no longer be Ryce’s friend.
“It was a 1-2 punch, because I’d lost my mate who held lots of my memories, I could no longer turn to him and say: ‘Remember when?”’ she said.
“I really did feel like my ground was really falling out from under me.”
The co-authors emphasize the importance of becoming proactive by developing new social circles. Both also downsized homes to have less money tied up in real estate and more in the bank for their own interests, such as travel.
Loved ones who remain in the picture have a role to play in lending a base level of support, they noted.
“Don’t ask the question, ‘How are you?’ Assume I’m rotten,” said Vaz-Oxlade.
“Instead say: ‘What’s happening?’ because then that gives the other person control over what the conversation will be,” added Ryce.