Lost in the glee over Bernie Madoff's prison sentence is this: What will become of poor Ruth Madoff? She's stalked by paparazzi; rejected by landlords; and left with a mere $2.5 million. Here, Dear Ruth, is your road to redemption.
- Wise Money Management: Your settlement with the Justice Department left you with only $2.5 million to live on—a mighty blow for a 68 year-old woman with little earning power left. Have no fear! With a little skill, you should be able to survive your remaining days without going hungry. Even at a modest 4% rate of return, this principal invested wisely would earn you $100,000 per year. You'll find that a human being can survive on this modest stipend. You're being forced to sell your posh penthouse; that's actually good! Check out Craigslist for cheaper rentals. You can find a roommate there, too. Your hair salon doesn't want your business any more, which will help you save on grooming costs. Try Head & Shoulders. Above all, be sure to invest your money under a different name. Lest something "happen" to it.
- Resurrecting Your Reputation: You should just forget this one. There's no point stressing yourself about it. You'll be despised by a large portion of the public for years. But you can slowly develop enough distance from the fraud to, at least, allow yourself to walk the streets without immediate fear of maiming.
You haven't started off on the right foot, though. Your post-sentencing statement about being "betrayed and confused" by Bernie's fraud: come on. Betrayed and confused by math, maybe! Didn't you work at his firm? Ha. This tactic will probably fail. Better to downplay the part about you not having any idea what was going on, and play up the meager restitution to the fraud's victims that you plan to make your life's work! You won't be able to make a speck of a dent in the total amount owed, of course. But by making it clear that you will pay back the token amount that you can, it will also make it easier for you to...
- Get a Job: A real job, lady. MTA conductor. Shoe salesperson. Wal-Mart greeter. Well, maybe not a job that necessitates direct contact with the public; could be dangerous. But a job, nonetheless, where you can be photographed—preferably dirty, and sweating—to show the world that you are paying some penance for this colossal crime. You only have to work a few days a week. Then you tithe a percentage of your earning into a fund for victims. A large percentage. 100%, for example! And really, what else do you have to do with your time? It's a winning idea all around. You could even sell paintings, like some serial killers do. Kitsch appeal and all that.
- Move: Don't just move out of your luxury apartment. Don't just move out Manhattan. Don't just move out of New York. Don't just move out of America. Move out of the Western world. Move somewhere like Botswana, or Nepal, or Suriname, where the Madoff scam is not likely to be a topic of discussion for a long period of time. For at least a decade. Get forgotten. Get a haircut. By the time you come back to America (isolated Western or Southern states only) your face won't be branded into the memories of millions of haters quite so distinctly. And then, finally, you can...
- Do Something Good: Habitat for Humanity. Look what it did for Jimmy Carter. Or feeding the homeless in a soup kitchen, while wearing a hairnet. Great photo-op. Do this for the remainder of your years. And do it well. And when you die, give the rest of your money to the victims of the fraud. And maybe, just maybe, your soul will have a chance.
[But who are we to judge? Pic: AP]