What do you do next when the recession claims your job? Susan Matlow’s redundancy last December brought about an almost accidental career change.

After losing her job as a senior tax lawyer at American Express in New York, she sublet her own apartment and moved in with her 95-year-old grandmother, whom she had long been helping to understand her medical bills, investments and legal documents.


The job market for senior tax lawyers was tight, so she thought about offering this sort of help to seniors full-time. “When I told people, they thought it was great, because as they pointed out, who else is doing this?” she says.


So she set up The Matlow Group to help seniors and their families with all the legal, financial or health care needs that lawyers, accountants and financial advisers don’t typically handle, such as finding geriatric care managers, dealing with insurers, organizing and explaining financial information and keeping legal documents up to date. “I'm a sort of concierge of services for seniors,” explains Matlow.


In the last year, she has developed a small but growing client list, mostly through word-of-mouth referrals and has developed more contacts in the field by attending lots of professional networking events.

She manages her own time and can go ice skating during the day if she wants to, yet her lawyer friends don't understand why she doesn’t want a full-time legal career anymore.

But as she says, plenty of trained lawyers are doing other fun things and her redundancy gave her the chance to do just that.

“Being laid off was extremely difficult, but I said to myself, ‘you know, you feel passionately about this, go do it.’ I may never have done this had I kept my former job.”


I t's the holiday season, so we are all being bombarded with the standard snow scene and smooching couple commercials from retail jewelers. But instead of splashing hundred of dollars on a mass-produced diamond pendant, why not buy hand made pieces from a studio jeweler?

Contemporary art jewelry, which is all about the originality of the piece and the design aesthetic, rather the value of assembled precious metals and stones, is increasingly finding its way into important museum collections like the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. Now other buyers are realizing this is a valuable and appreciating collectable.

‘‘We’re definitely seeing more interest,” says Stefan Friedemann, owner of Ornamentum Gallery in Hudson, N.Y., which only exhibits contemporary art jewelry that shows a completely original concept or way of working with a material. For example, it sells gold rings by German artist Gert Rothmann that are made to order, imprinted with the finger prints of your family, and brooches by Dutch artist Ted Noten, cut from the body of a Mercedes Benz E-Class 210.

Both Rothmann’s and Noten’s work features in museums and some, though not all, museum quality pieces can cost thousands of dollars, but Noten’s brooches, for example, sell for around $400. First-time collectors should ask lots of questions about jewelry that they like before they buy it. “Is it the result of years of experimentation by an artist with a particular material?” says Friedemann. “Does it show that artist's mastery of a particular design?” Choose wisely and you could get a beautiful holiday gift and an heirloom.

– Kathryn Tully is a freelance journalist who has contributed to the Financial Times, Euromoney magazine and The Guardian newspaper