Gail Vaz-Oxlade on han­dling newly sin­gle life in book ‘CEO of Ev­ery­thing’

The Hamilton Spectator - - LIVING - LAUREN LA ROSE

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 get 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 VazOxlade.

“In­stead say: ‘What’s hap­pen­ing?’ be­cause then that gives the other per­son con­trol over what the con­ver­sa­tion will be,” added Ryce.

CHRIS YOUNG, THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

Gail Vaz-Oxlade, right, and Vic­to­ria Ryce, co-au­thors of “The CEO of Ev­ery­thing”.

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