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Sunday, June 19, 2005

Don McNay's Column, How do I live without you?

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How do I live without you? I want to know
How do I breathe without you?
If you ever go. How do I ever, ever survive?
O how do I live?”

-Trisha Yearwood

Kathy Trant attracted worldwide attention by saying she has spent most of the $4.7 million she received for the death of her husband who was killed in the September 11, 2001 World Trade Center attack.

I’m not surprised about Trant’s story. I’ve seen the same story played out hundreds of times with larger and smaller sums of money.

I’ve spent nearly 24 years giving financial advice to the families of people who were killed.

Trant called the money, “blood money.” Her spending sprees are a sub-conscious or conscious effort to run through the money.

It is a common feeling amongst widows and widowers.

Shopping and spending can be an escape and people will keep spending money to find relief from their pain.

Some people use drugs and alcohol. These people use “blood money”.

Many people think that if they get rid of the money their lives will go back to normal.

Often, I see a grief-ridden person influenced by family and friends. The person will turn over their money to a third party and let that person make all financial decisions.

I’ve had a number of widowers and widows remarry quickly and then turn all financial decisions over to the new spouse. Usually, the new spouse and the money run out at about the same time.

20 years ago, I had a client whose wife was killed in a car wreck. He agreed to a structured settlement for his children’s money but wanted his $500,000 “liquid.” Within three months of his first wife’s death, he had re-married.

He was a roofer who lived simply. His new wife handled the finances.

I invested his money, but every month, the new wife would come to my office wanting to withdraw more. Each time, she was sporting new jewelry, a mink coat and other expensive items. I finally went to their house and told them they were going to run out of money. She got mad and he tuned me out. They moved their money to another broker.

Six months later, his lawyer told me that she had spent the entire $500,000 and left town.

I heard from the roofer last year. His children, who were infants when we met, had both graduated from college and he thanked me for putting their money away where his ex-wife could not touch it.

Putting money in a structured settlement and paying it out monthly is the only real solution I have. I don’t know if Kathy Trant was offered a structured settlement but doubt she was. Most of the families of September 11 victims were offered cash only. That was a really dumb decision. You will be hearing more stories like Kathy Trant’s soon.

I started out using structured settlements as a financial planning tool and became a true believer. About 10 years ago, I quit offering investments like stocks, bonds and mutual funds. Hurting people need the stability and regular payments that a structured settlement offers.

It is hard for someone who has gone through hell to think clearly about their money. Someone who has just lost their spouse has no chance.

There is a small window of time before people actually receive money to set things up right. After that, pressures and people get in the way.

I feel sorry for everyone involved. I feel sorry for the widows and widowers. Not only have they lost their spouses, after they run through the money they are worse off financially than ever.

Also, I feel bad about the spouses who died thinking that their families were taken care of. People buy life insurance because they want their loved ones to achieve life goals. They don’t pay for life insurance so that someone can take 30 “friends” to the Super Bowl, or so a new spouse can buy a Rolex.

I set up the finances for a woman who knew she was dying. We assured that her husband, daughter, grandson and church would receive regular, lifetime, payments. We left a large sum available for her while she was alive. She did not live to spend it and her husband spent it wisely in the first years after her death. Now he has a new wife and they are taking the money in huge chunks. When the lump sum is gone, he will still have the monthly payments.

A lot of widow and widowers wake up every day asking “how can I live without you?” I’m not sure how, but they eventually start to cope with their situation.

Kathy Trant has been through hell. If her attorneys, advisors or friends had insisted that she needed to put her money in a structured settlement or a trust, she would be able to live a comfortable life.

Now she won’t. She can’t get the money back from the 30 leaches that she took to the Super Bowl (people who prey on grieving widows don’t have the money or conscience to help her) and she still thinks that getting rid of the money will somehow bring back her husband and her old life.

Her husband is not coming back. She and others like her need to answer the question, “How Do I Live Without You,” by answering, “with great memories and the money you left to help me through this.”

Don McNay is President of McNay Settlement Group where we would like to hurt people who leach off widows, widowers and injured people. You can write to him at or read other things he has written at

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