"I'm Not Intimidated by Finances"

Angela Danz, widow of a N.Y. Police rescue worker, says considering all, taking charge of the family's money is the least of your problems

New York City Police Officer Vincent Danz had gone back to school to become a heavy-machine operator, a career he planned to pursue after he retired from the police force. Danz, 38, was scheduled to begin working at 4 p.m. on September 11, but he switched to a morning shift so he could attend an evening class. It cost him his life.

Danz's team -- a highly trained police rescue unit from Truck 3 in the Bronx -- was one of the first to respond after a hijacked plane crashed into the World Trade Center. "He was there specifically to go into the building and save people," says his widow, Angela Danz.

Angela, who lives on Long Island, is now a single mother to three girls, ages 8, 5, and 7 months. In an interview on Oct. 23 -- just a day after Officer Danz's body was recovered -- Angela spoke with BusinessWeek Online contributor Michele Turk about her she'll provide for her family and how her background in financial services will be of some help in making decisions.

Q: What are your main financial concerns?


My foremost concern is my children -- making sure their education is taken care of and providing for their needs going forward. I'm only 35, and I have a long road ahead of me with three children. They're very young, so there are going to be a lot of financial needs for them.

Q: What was your family's financial situation before your husband died?


My husband worked two jobs and was going to school, and I waited tables to try to keep it all together. He was a carpenter by trade, and he worked for a man who restored houses. He worked [on that] one to two days a week, and he went to school every Tuesday and Thursday and every other Saturday. He spent 14 years in the Police Dept. He was retiring in five years, so he was planning for the future.

Q: What is your work experience, and will you need to go back to work?


I was born and raised in Dublin. I came here when I was 20. I was an au pair in the Hamptons. I waited tables for a couple of years, and then I got a job at Neuberger & Berman. [After that] I was hired at Smith Barney in human resources. I worked at that one year, then [I moved to] the corporate-bond trading floor. I was at Smith Barney from 1991 until 1999, when I quit to stay home with the girls. I waited tables part-time. I hope not to have to go back to work. I'll try to find a way to be home with my children.

Q: Has it been easier to cope with financial matters because of your background?


I'm not intimidated by finances or trying to organize and run [a household] because I've been around [financial matters] for so long. I always paid the bills. Some women, their husbands took care of it, and now its falls on them, so it's another cause of stress.

My husband always said he wanted to go first because if anything happened to me, he wouldn't know what to do. It may seem overwhelming, but you get a system down, and it's a piece of cake after awhile. It's the least of your problems, trying to figure out how to run your household financially.

Q: How did you and your husband approach financial planning?


He contributed to his pension at the Police Dept. and his [pretax savings program]. Every month we put money in for [for the children's] college, so at least they have a head start. We just refinanced so we could reduce [our mortgage payments].

Q: Have charitable donations started to arrive, and how will they help?


The money has definitely been coming in. We've started to receive funds from the American Red Cross, the Riot Relief Fund, and the New York City Police Dept. Foundation. We've been very lucky, thank God.

People have said, "Oh, you're set financially," but it's really just a consolation prize. It's one less thing to worry about...but it doesn't alleviate any of the pain. It will be enough to support my family for the future, but it's a misconception that you get $1 million when an officer dies in the line of duty. That's not the case. I hope I live another 30 or 40 years, so if you put things into that perspective -- plus the cost-of-living and the needs and wants of children growing up...

Q: What do you plan to do with the donations?


Having worked in the market for almost 10 years, I understand what the risks are and how the market works. We're going to take whatever money I do get and invest it conservatively for the future. I would tend to put my investments in something secure [such as] tax-free bonds or taxable bonds, maybe blue-chip mutual funds.

My philosophy is that you only invest in the stock market if you can afford to lose. I'm concerned about the stock market and how it's going to do in a time of war and finding the safest place to put my money. I have a terrific broker at Smith Barney, and he'll be taking care of everything for me. I feel confident in my broker's ability to guide me in the right direction.

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