I was brought up in The Bronx, in New York City, in a Sicilian Roman-Catholic family.
I had lots of aunts and uncles and cousins and there were five of us living in a small two-bedroom apartment.
In my house, the only way to be heard was to yell. And, believe me - I come from a family of world class yellers.
It was the baby boomer years but our home was no “Donna Reid” fantasy. And it was my two sisters and I who often bore the brunt of our parent’s unhappiness.
So it’s not surprising that it I chose a man who yelled and screamed too. After all, it was what I knew.
The day we came home from our honeymoon the abuse began. When he was done that day I was laying on the bathroom floor, naked and bleeding . I had been beaten and sodomized and he was telling me that “women like anal sex”, “what was the matter with me”?
I was 19 and this was just
the beginning of my marriage. The abuse
- physical, sexual, emotional and economic, would continue for twenty
As a kid, money was never discussed in our house and for the twenty years of my marriage my husband completely dominated control of our finances.
Although I was the household's major wage earner, every payday I turned over my entire paycheck to my husband.
My corporate career included twenty plus years at major New York City insurance and financial services companies. I rose to the rank of Vice President of Marketing and managed multi-million dollar corporate budgets.
Yet whenever I had to balance my own checkbook, or pay my bills, or save money - I froze.
Although I regularly advised large corporations about how, why, and when to spend their money, I could not manage my own.
I thought that my life and my finances were separated when in fact, as I learned, they are one and the same.
I lived two lives. My public persona was that of a competent business executive and the other – a private, behind closed doors, abused wife.
My co-workers and my family never knew anyone other than “competent business Nancy”. I never complained or told anyone - because I was ashamed. I kept up the façade for 20 years.
I left him on December 28, 1991. To this day I do not know who the Nancy was that left. I felt like I was in a movie. He was not there. I saw someone packing a bag. I saw that person closing the door behind her, suitcase in hand. I went to my mother’s house.
When I arrived unannounced that Sunday evening, Mom opened the door and before she could say a word, I said, “Have I got a story for you”.
My husband and I had no children or any real money to speak of but it still took 2 years to finalize a divorce.
The week I left him I did two things. First, I found myself an attorney. And next….I found a therapist. Or maybe I found my therapist first and then the lawyer. I really don’t remember, but thank goodness I hired them both.
For the first time in my life I was on my own and scared witless of him.
Staying in an abusive marriage was difficult enough but leaving was even more frightening.
Once I left, the reign of terror began. He did no not just target me, but my mother and my co-workers too. He harassed me at work constantly.
At the time I was the only female executive officer at the company and he began to call my male counterparts and threaten to kill them - and me.
I was so frightened that I hired a bodyguard to protect my mother and me.
Thankfully I could afford protection. Many women in similar situations don’t have the financial means to protect themselves adequately. We hear about them all the time.
He had moved out of the apartment we were living in and told my attorney that he was living out of state.
I had not heard from him for a few weeks and I finally felt comfortable enough to go back to the apartment we had shared. That was a bad decision. About 2 nights later I heard the door opening. He was in a rage.
He quickly came across the room and threw me against a closet door. I landed on my back. The next day I noticed the door had been cracked. My back was badly bruised and black and blue for weeks.
Then he picked me up and threw me on the couch and got on top of me - he started to choke me. His hands continued to choke me and I closed my eyes and thought “this is it, I am going to die”. I don’t know why, but finally it stopped and he left the house.
I sat on the corner of the couch not moving for a long while. Then, like a robot, I began to clean up the mess created by his rage.
He had thrown wine bottles against the walls, so I cleaned the walls and swept up the glass and when I was finished I went to bed with a carving knife in my hand. I left all of the houselights on.
Not long after, I was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome.
During this time our attorneys were working on a divorce settlement. It came to pass that what my husband wanted was - surprise, surprise…..money!
After two years of battling, one afternoon my attorney called me at work and said that she had heard from his lawyer. He offered to settle for a fixed sum of money, in cash - no check, cash only. I paid him and it was finally over.
So now you are probably thinking, “OK good, Nancy got her divorce and off she goes to live happily ever after….. Nope!
When I was finally comfortable that he was gone my new overarching fear became money.
During one intense corporate budget meeting it dawned on me that the decisions I made in business are just that, business decisions. I knew that I made decisions every day that would help further the goals of the corporation and I realized that I could bring that way of thinking into my personal life.
As soon as the meeting was over I went back to my office and labeled a folder.
I realized that I needed more than just a way to handle my money. I needed a way to use money to attain the life that I wanted. I labeled that file “The Business of Me”.
The first entry in the new file was a list of the things I wanted in my life. It included an idea of what kind of home I wanted and my ideas about where I saw my career going. I wrote down what kind of relationships I wanted, how many vacations I would take each year, the type of friends I wanted and even the clothes and jewelry I fancied in my life.
What I had done was to outline a vision for my life. Once I had my vision clear I went about developing a plan to attain my new goals.
By now, I guess you are saying to yourself “great, Nancy made her list and off she went into her perfect life”. Wrong.
I made my list and went right into panic mode. My old friend fear came back around and I froze and I went into a deep depression.
But I realized that the fear I felt came from what I was thinking and that if I wanted to change my life, I needed to change my thinking.
While I was a competent corporate officer, in my personal life I was always told that I wasn’t good enough or competent enough and so, I never thought that I was capable of taking charge of the management of my own life choices and my personal finances.
Fortunately after a few weeks I calmed down and realized that the thing I had to conquer was my own fear. I asked myself “How was I going to go about moving away from fear?”.
Competent business Nancy” is the person I was at work, the person who could dazzle her co-workers with her “can do” attitude.
“Fearful Nancy” was the person inside of me who would freeze with fear and was unable to move forward.
“Competent business Nancy” had already been able to create a successful business career and always knew what to do. So whenever “fearful Nancy” showed up I asked her to leave so that “competent business Nancy” could take charge
I then called on “competent business Nancy”, and, as I did with every business issue I dealt with - I did research. My first stop was the dictionary to find out what fear really is.
The dictionary said that fear “is a feeling of disquiet or apprehension, a distressing emotion aroused by impending danger, evil, or pain - whether the threat is real or imagined”. Whether real or imagined…..
Fear, I learned, is also a basic survival mechanism occurring in response to a specific stimulus, such as pain or the threat of pain or violence.
Now I knew what fear felt like, and what fear is, and how it can be real or imagined.
Every time I was fearful it felt like I’d been punched in the stomach. I felt fear to the point I could not eat and every time I did eat the food wouldn’t stay in my stomach. Fear was a great weight loss program for me!....but that’s it.
Now I knew what fear was, but I asked myself “where was it coming from?”.
As I walked around each day asking myself that question I finally realized that the fear I felt was because of what I was imagining – I was scaring myself.
I realized that it was my own fearful thoughts that kept me in a state of fear. And I set out to do something about it.
Thank goodness for “competent business Nancy”. She got up and went off to a stationary store and bought a small notebook.
At work I always carried a notebook to record notes or thoughts I had about how to further the goals of the company I worked for.
My good friend and one of my best teachers, Marty Smith, told me once that “whatever you are thinking the opposite is probably true”
I thought about what Marty had taught me and I began writing down all the things that made me afraid and next to it I wrote a positive thought (a positive affirmation) to counter the negative one.
I did this for many weeks and to my amazement I found that my depression was lifting. I had more energy, I felt better about myself and was finally ready to move on to tackling the real work of attaining my vision.
What I had begun was a process of kicking “negative self-talk” out of my life and replacing it with “positive self-talk”.
Since my file was titled “The Business of Me” I decided to make “me” a company and I gave my company a name. The name I chose was “Nancy’s Perfect Life, Inc.” which allowed me to use “competent business Nancy’s” skills and kick “fearful Nancy” out of the conversation.
“Competent business Nancy” knew that for a company to be successful it needed a capable CEO at its helm. So I signed a contract with “Nancy’s Perfect Life, Inc.” and became its CEO.
I placed the signed contract on my refrigerator door so I could see it and refer to it. That contract became my motivator and helped me to do the work that was necessary for “Nancy’s Perfect Life, Inc.” to be successful. I also agreed to pay the bills of the company on a timely basis and not ignore them.
You see, “Fearful Nancy” was a master of sticking her head in the sand when it came to paying bills so she needed to stay out of the bill paying process.
Because I was a corporate executive I knew that, as CEO, I was responsible for the financial health of my company.
As a business person I knew that the next step was to develop a workable budget. “Fearful Nancy” thought budgets were like diets – “you have been bad so now you have to deprive yourself”. But “Competent business Nancy” knew a budget was a tool which could move a company forward toward its goals.
The first step was to research the components of a personal budget and to then develop the budget based on the income and expenses of my company.
“Competent business Nancy” also knew that a corporate budget was designed to meet current monthly needs and to project future needs.
For example, “Nancy’s Perfect Life, Inc.” wanted to purchase a home so the budgeting would need to include setting aside money for that purpose.
I did a lot of research about what format to use in creating my budget. As a matter of fact the budget form used today in “The Business of Me” is very similar to the budget form “Competent business Nancy” used to manage “Nancy’s Perfect Life, Inc.” more than 15 years ago.
The research that I found gave me some great tips like, “keep the budget simple”. This means that you should not clutter it up with too many categories. For example, while I needed to know how to estimate my variable weekly expenses I did not need to keep track of every pack of gum I might purchase, I only needed to keep track of “total miscellaneous” items which might include the gum I would buy.
“Fearful Nancy” liked that approach because she knew that if things became too complicated…. she would abandon the process!
It took over a month for me to perfect the budget for “Nancy’s Perfect Life, Inc.” but once it was done I had a roadmap to follow for my company, for me – for my life!
The next step in my process was to learn about money and personal money management. I could manage large sums of corporate money but I needed to learn how to manage my own money.
“Competent business Nancy” decided to tap into her resources. Fortunately I was able to find women who were experts in personal finance and I set up meetings with them. I learned a lot from them about handling and investing money.
Besides learning about concepts like “variable” and “fixed” expenses I learned about setting up an emergency fund and where the money comes from to do that.
I implemented the suggestions these women gave me. With their help I was on the road to achieving what I had envisioned for my life.
One of the most important lessons I learned from them was about the power of networking so I found a group of women that I could meet with to talk about personal finances and investing.
There were six of us in the group including me. We met monthly to discuss our money issues and learn from one another about various personal financial management strategies. The group acted as the Board of Directors for “Nancy’s Perfect Life, Inc.” giving me sound advice and providing the support that I needed.
One of the unique features of “The Business of Me” is the Board of Director’s Meeting. These groups, made up of women who start the program together, meet monthly to support one another.
There was another message I was getting from my group and that was how important it is to take time for yourself. Where I came from it was unheard of to take time for me. Now I know that it is not only OK, but vitally necessary to take time to do things just for yourself.
This was a tough concept for “Fearful Nancy” to accept. I always thought that I had to take care of others, not me!
After some thought I decided to give it a whirl! I decided that I would take some time for me and get a facial at a little local spa.
But, you know what? Spending $35 on a facial and doing something for myself gave me a migraine!
Never having taken time for myself my old negative self-talk came back to tell me that I wasn’t worthy and did not deserve to take care of myself. Hence, the migraine!
I thought that perhaps the facial might have been too much to start with. So, I scaled back to manicures! And, low and behold….. I was able to handle manicures without getting a headache!
As time went on I learned how to schedule time for myself and enjoy it. I began to understand that I was the most important resource in “Nancy’s Perfect Life, Inc.” and that it was essential that first and foremost, I take care of me.
One day the company I worked for called a meeting of all the senior officers of the company. The meeting was held at an offsite location.
Senior management believed that the topic was so important to the future of the company that they wanted us to be away from our usual daily routine so we could concentrate on just one topic. The topic was the corporation’s “Wants” versus its “Needs”.
They requested that we participate in an in-depth discussion of what the company needed to do not only to compete but to overtake the competition.
We discussed every department from service areas to operational departments to find out if what each department did every day and if what it did was really necessary.
We questioned everything. “Were we doing things that were really required or were we doing them because someone simply “wanted” them done”?
The executive vice president who moderated the discussion wrote two words on the flip chart that he was using that day. Those two words were,” wants” and “needs”.
He wrote them side by side and then drew a line between them. Next he asked all of us about what we felt were the “wants” versus the “needs” of every operating unit in the company.
A lively discussion ensued with each of us stating our case for why each routine that our departments did was necessary or why a new routine was needed too!
The moderator diligently wrote each comment under the “want” or the “need” side of the flip chart.
By the end of the day, after a very robust discussion, we had a complete list of the company’s new “wants and needs”.
The point of relating that story is that “competent business Nancy” realized that if large corporations felt it was vital to understand their company’s wants versus its needs to move it forward, then “Nancy’s Perfect Life, Inc.” needed to know what her wants vs. needs were so that she could move forward to meet her goals.
I wrote on a legal pad the words “wants” and “needs” and drew a line down the middle. I listed each of the things I thought I wanted and needed under its appropriate heading and then I began to analyze each of them.
For example, in the want column I wrote that I would like to take certain courses to earn additional accreditations which would help advance my career.
After my divorce I began hoarding money. The flaw in a hoarding mentality, or a “save, save, save” belief was that it doesn’t provide for the idea that additional accreditations would actually lead to me earning more money so that I could have the things I wanted in my life.
I did the same exercise that we did at the meeting and ended with my new list of my “wants” versus my “needs”.
As I was working my plan I continued with my networking meetings each month.
One month one of the women in the group, a life coach, suggested that we do an exercise that would help us better understand our values. She told us that if we understood what our values are we could better understand what we wanted from life.
The exercise began with each of us writing down the names of people we admire and then the traits we admired in them. We were told that the people we admire did not have to be famous or wealthy. The names I choose were only recognizable to me, they were Zelda, Roberta and Harriett.
Zelda and Roberta were partners in an insurance and securities brokerage firm they founded and called “Financial Women”.
“Financial Women” described Zelda and Roberta perfectly. They were financial experts in all aspects of insurance, stocks and bonds, wealth management, estate planning and IRS rules and regulations. Their clients were both men and women who were well off and needed experienced qualified advice and money management.
On the surface when you met Zelda and Roberta you would think they were entirely different from one another.
Zelda was outspoken and direct while Roberta was diplomatic and soft spoken. Yet both had qualities that were quite similar, both were generous, courageous, bold, inquisitive, analytical, curious, fashionable, outgoing, and social. All qualities that I admire.
I was fortunate that both ladies took me under their wing and became my mentors.
Harriett has the most loving heart and generous soul in a person that I have ever met. She has an unlimited capacity to care of other people, yet she is the most street smart and savvy woman I have ever known.
In addition to the other traits that I’ve mentioned I want to add “tough”.
Now, I know tough is not a word many people like to use to describe a woman, but they were all involved in complex businesses and they needed to be tough.
When I say tough in this sense I mean standing by your convictions - a trait that I admired in all three of them. I learned from them that it is acceptable to speak my mind provided I have the facts to back up my statements.
Once we completed the exercise the life coach told us that the qualities we admired in those people were in fact qualities that we each had, already, within ourselves. It shocked me to realize that those were qualities that I possessed and that all I had to do was choose to recognize them in myself.
After all, I was a corporate officer. I could not have achieved that if I didn’t possess the qualities of strength that I admired in others. Having been constantly told I was worthless by my husband it never occurred to me that I was a competent, intelligent and compassionate woman like Zelda, Roberta and Harriett.
Today I would add 2 other women to that list who have had a great influence on my life, Dede Bartlett and Carole Hyatt. Both women have opened their networks to me and allowed me to be part of their lives. Both are successful business women and they both have always assisted other women in achieving their potential.
Some years had gone by and I was in a place where I wanted to give back. I have been and I am today, very fortunate.
By then The Business Of Me was operative in my life. I had bought my own home, I had survived breast cancer, bought myself a Mink Coat and a Rolex Watch and I had traveled to The Caribbean, Italy, Mexico, France, Spain, Sicily, Hawaii and The Czech Republic.
And, I knew how devastating it was to not only live in a domestic violent relationship but also how difficult it is to leave the relationship and create a life for oneself.
There are millions of women like me who have to learn good money management skills, especially women who have left or who are in the process of leaving an abusive relationship. For them, these skills are essential in breaking free of the recurring cycle of domestic violence.
Carole Hyatt is an accomplished author, speaker and business woman. Carole leads seminars for women executives and I was fortunate enough to be invited to attend one of her seminars.
After the seminar I told Carole that I wanted to help women who, like me, had left violent relationships. Carole didn’t hesitate and immediately told me to call Dede Bartlett.
At that time Dede was corporate secretary of a Fortune 100 company and was also the chair of the NYC Domestic Violence Council.
I called Dede and told her what I wanted to do and she immediately invited me to attend the next meeting of the council.
The council included members of the corporate community, executives from women’s organizations and members of the legal and judicial communities.
All of these people had a common goal and that was to help women get out of domestic violent relationships.
After one meeting I spoke to Dede and told her my goal of developing a program for women survivors of domestic violence to help them achieve financial self-sufficiency. Dede wasted no time and called over a woman named Mary Baughman who is the Executive Director of Jersey Battered Women’s Services.
Mary just happened to be looking for a financial self-sufficiency program for the women in her shelter in Morristown, New Jersey.
Mary and I met several times and I explained to her that unless we address the fears these women have about managing their own finances they may not be able to use the personal financial management skills they needed in order to break the cycle. Mary agreed and I wrote the program called “The Business of Me”. I have moderated groups in organizations all over the north-eastern part of the United States.
So that The Business Of Me can be brought to women all over the country we’ve now written the program so that it can be presented by shelter staff. This makes it possible to present The Business Of Me in any shelter or organization anywhere in the U.S.
The program, presented over six weeks followed by the monthly Board of Directors meetings, includes what I have learned about how to break fears surrounding money and money management through what the program calls “Self-Ability”.
During the first Weekly session the participants are asked to open a page in the binder of materials that is provided to each of them. They are asked to draw a line down the middle of the page and on one side to write down their negative self-talk and put the corresponding positive affirmation that negates it next to it. The group tears the negative self talk out of their binders, leaving only the positive affirmations. The pages of negative self-talk are then burned as a symbol of releasing the negative thoughts.
This is repeated before each session of The Business Of Me.
The program then teaches participants real-world financial skills including the budget process that I mentioned above.
This includes identifying fixed, variable and discretionary spending with detailed information about each item and tips about how to save on each expense.
We teach the importance of acquiring, reading and understanding a credit report and how to understand a personal credit score.
The program explains various types of insurance and more budget stretching ideas are offered about saving on insurance purchases.
Bankruptcy as a last resort, the ramifications of filing one, and how to recover from bankruptcy are discussed as well.
Many of our participants are mothers. The program teaches them the importance of teaching their children good financial management and “giving back” skills early in and how to give them more and more responsibility for their own financial lives as they mature.
During the program, the participants actually make a collage depicting their vision of their life. Somewhere in the collage lies a talent or an aspiration which they are guided to find.
Finally, participants are taught the process of creating a personal “SWOT” analysis to help them analyze their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and the threats that they might face in attaining their aspirations. We teach them to use this tool to continually plan for their futures
The first three Board of Director’s support group meeting is “chaired” by the same moderator who presented the program at the shelter. At the close of the third meeting the group elects a permanent chair person who then leads the group for its first year. Thereafter, the group continues on electing a new Chairperson yearly, and the group continues on to support its members.
We’ve created a Facebook group page (Facebook “The Business Of Me” and create individual Facebook group pages for each group of participants.
This is meant to continue the work of the Board of Directors meetings and offer participants, and the moderators, additional support and services online.
And, finally we provide many resources on our Website for our participants and friends to use that includes all kinds of ways to save money and a great list of places to get coupons and rebates online. It’s all at www.thebusinessofme.com.
I’m Nancy Salamone on Facebook and LinkedIn. Let’s become friends on both.
And, I’ll soon be on some more social networking sites, including Twitter, and YouTube too.
Acclaimed Yale University anthropologist, David Levinson, in a study he conducted of family violence that focused on battered women, found that in the 90 societies that he studied incidents of battering were practically non-existent when women have economic independence and support from other women.
And that is what “The Business of Me” strives to accomplish.Thank you for allowing me to tell you my story.
Nancy's Story by Nancy Salamone is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
Based on a work at www.nancysstory.com.
Nancy is available to speak to groups and organizations. You can read more about Nancy's speaking here: Speaking.
We need tax-deducible donations from corporate sponsors to help fund the presentation to individual shelter groups through our “Corporate Coalition” giving program.
We are looking for other corporate sponsors as well, one of which, we hope will donate computers to women in the program.
These computers are needed for three reasons:
The Business Of Me extends far beyond the confines of the meeting room to wonderful online resources that help us extend our program, provide an enhanced environment for participants and moderators to learn and communicate, and our ability to follow-up with, and support our groups.
In order to bring these women to the next level of personal financial management and teach them how to use the various free tools available to them online that will help them manage their money.
The other issue is their security online. They must know that their computers are not accessible by their abuser or anyone else. They need to know that they have computers that have been under their control at all times.Thank You!