Karen Weinreb was once the epitome of a Wall Street wife. She received degrees from Yale and Oxford before marrying a successful hedge fund manager. When times were good, Karen says it wasn't unusual for her to spend $100,000 a month or more on credit cards.
"I had no part in any of the finances ever in our marriage, so it was enough for me to be told by my husband that he was working on deals," Karen says. "I didn't ask any further questions."
Fancy cars, trips to exotic locations, children in private schools and Madison Avenue shopping sprees quickly became the norm. "I became very seduced by the lifestyle," she says.
Karen says she even overlooked signs that her husband was unfaithful and other marital issues because she didn't want to give up her Park Avenue lifestyle.
Then, while Karen was pregnant with her third child, her husband came home from work one day and dropped a bombshell. He revealed that he'd swindled investors out of nearly $12 million over the past five years. After getting caught, he'd pled guilty to the charges without Karen knowing, and he was headed to prison.
Soon after, Karen and her husband got into their gold BMW and made the 2 1/2-hour drive to prison. After her husband was taken away by guards, Karen says she sat in her car and sobbed.
"Tears were pouring down my face, and eventually somebody tapped the window, and I looked over and it was the guard from the gate. He said to me, 'You all right, ma'am?' And I nodded yes. And he said, 'Good, because if you are, you need to move your car for another,'" she says. "It was my wake-up call that there wasn't going to be any sympathy for me. ... That day began for me an absolute nightmare. I came home, and I was suddenly a single mother of three very small children."
Karen says her husband taught her an important lesson about relationships—there's never just one secret. Now, she says she realizes she played a part in her husband's scheme.
"I had some culpability in expecting this lifestyle—in wanting this big lifestyle—and expecting that the bills would be paid," she says. "In giving up my financial independence ... I did that without thinking about it."