A lot can change in a year. Just ask Angela Danz. When BusinessWeek Online last spoke with the widow of New York City Police Officer Vincent Danz, who died on September 11 beneath the rubble of the World Trade Center, she was struggling with the emotional trauma of losing her spouse, her new role as a single mother of three girls, now 9, 6, and 15 months, and an uncertain financial future.
At the time, Angela had no idea how much money she would receive as a result of the tremendous outpouring of support from Americans touched by her loss or that she would decide to move back to her native Ireland before the first anniversary of her husband's death (see BW Online, "I'm Not Intimidated by Finances").
During their 12-year marriage, Vincent, who held a second job and went to school at night, was the family's primary breadwinner -- although Angela occasionally worked as a waitress to make ends meet. But unlike many widows, Angela had always felt comfortable handling the family's finances, since she had worked in financial services for Salomon Smith Barney a few years earlier.
BW Online contributor Michele Turk recently spoke with Angela about what she has been doing to secure her family's financial future.
Q: How are you coping financially?
A: I think I'm fine. I live off the pension I get from the Police Dept., and it's sufficient to live here and be comfortable. The market leaves a lot to be desired, but my investments are mostly in tax-free municipal bonds, so they're very secure, and they haven't really been affected by the market.
Most of my money is in New York. The cost of living is very high in Dublin, probably about as expensive as New York, or along the same lines. Thank God I have [my financial planner] at Salomon Smith Barney. We speak once or twice a month, and he's a great financial planner and a good friend. I used to work for him -- I've known him for 10 years. Generally, I go by what he says because he knows what he's doing.
Q: Has your financial-planning strategy changed at all?
A: We're keeping the same goals: conservative investments at the moment. But we're talking about investing some of the money in stocks down the road because those investments will pay off. It will be another six months to a year before we put money in the stock market. Once we get a budget down and decide where we'll stay, we'll do that.
The only thing that's altered is the amount of money I'm dealing with [compared to] before Vincent was gone. I may be a little more conservative with my money, because then you always knew there was a paycheck. Now, I'm responsible for my three girls and making sure their needs are met, so I tend to be a little more cautious with the money.
Q: What is the most difficult part of dealing with the financial consequences of your husband's death?
A: Maintaining two homes transatlantic and thinking about what to do with the house over there [New York]. Making that decision will happen over time. I have to figure out which of them is the best place to be. Moving back here and away from the publicity of it [September 11] has helped me to heal. But I'm not sure whether I'm staying. I'm settling quite well, but I'm very drawn to New York because I was there for 15 years. I still own a house and have a mortgage in New York. I'm having second thoughts.
Q: Is the decision more difficult because of your husband's death?
A: Without a doubt. All of our girls were born out of that house. We would have been there nine years in January. I don't want to let that go. That's part of the struggle I have with moving [to Dublin]. Part of me feels that if I stay here, I'm turning my back on Vincent, but he was a person, not a place.
Q: You had said that you didn't want to return to your job. Are you working?
A: No. I don't need to financially, and I don't feel the need emotionally now -- my daughters take up all of my time. I don't think it would be wise. It's a delicate and difficult time. The less I'm absent, the better.
Q: Did you receive more money than you initially expected?
A: If Vincent had been shot in the line of duty, in circumstances other than this, my finances would have been a lot different. I would have gotten his pension and any life insurance he had. The support from the Police Dept. is the same no matter what. There were some very generous amounts of money given. It's money in the bank for my children for their future.
I received money from the Twin Towers Fund, the American Red Cross, and various police departments all over the country. We received quite a bit of money from the Patrolman's Benevolent Assn. Widows' & Children's Fund. A friend of my husband's who managed a bar in California had a benefit. People's generosity has been astounding and overwhelming. All that has tapered off. Now, it's more emotional support than financial.
Q: How have you invested the money?
A: I have invested in tax-free bonds, and the children each have their own custodial account. They can't touch it until they're 18. There are also all kinds of scholarships available to them. Their college is taken care of. My aim is to invest it and have it there for them so, when they do go to school, they can have it there. I'd say it would be more than sufficient to take care of that [college tuition] for them. The money in my name is theirs also -- they're the beneficiaries of my account.
Q: The last time we spoke, you described the financial contributions as a "consolation prize." How did things change once the money started coming in?
A: Initially, people were so concerned, but when money comes into it, their attitude changed. I try to explain to people that dollar bills don't read to [the children] or keep me warm at night. It makes it easier to know you and your children are secure, but it doesn't take away the pain or the loss of them not having their father or me not having my husband.
There's some speculation that I have $5 million -- that's ridiculous. It's absurd. People overextend the amount -- it's an attitude: "Oh now, Angie you have plenty of money, and it makes it easier." And you look at them and think, "What planet are you on?"
Q: What other benefits did you receive?
A: I received [proceeds of] life insurance from the Police Dept. and outside the department, plus an accidental death-benefit policy since he was in the Carpenters' Union when he was 19 or 20. He also had a life insurance policy with the Coast Guard -- he was a reservist. Everyone is speculating about the federal fund with the Treasury Dept. [the Victims' Compensation Fund]. You have to agree not to sue the government or the airlines. I've agreed to that and filled out the initial paperwork. I haven't had the presence of mind to fill out the rest. They want tax information [about] every penny he [Vincent] ever earned.
Q: You and your husband had drafted a will, but you didn't notarize it. Have you changed it?
A: I haven't written a will yet. That's one of the things I plan to do. There have to be guidelines that are absolutely specific about what will happen to my kids and my money because money is the root of all evil. I don't judge myself differently, and I know those closest to me don't judge me differently, but I know there are those who would. But I didn't change -- I'm still Angela.