STREETERVILLE — All Janice Goldman could do on Dec. 31, 1985, was crawl into her parents' bed and cry.
Her husband, Steve Skolnik, had died earlier that day from leukemia. That Thanksgiving, the couple had discovered Janice, then 35, was pregnant.
"I had just become widowed and I was pregnant, so I just crawled into bed with my mom and dad," the Streeterville resident said.
On Jan. 4, 1986, two days after burying her husband, Janice was told she'd be having twin boys. Skolnik was a CPA and Goldman a financial advisor, but Skolnik left his wife only $20,000 in his will. They had never talked about life insurance, even as he was dying from cancer.
Goldman was determined to make sure her children, Cory and Jason — who were born Aug. 12, 1986 — had the same opportunities as their friends.
"My kids weren't going to have anything less than others because their father died," Goldman said. "I never imagined I would have to raise children by myself and have to support myself, but that's what happened."
Now 62, Goldman built a successful financial advisory business — Goldman Picker and Associates — which recently expanded from Buffalo Grove to 980 N. Michigan Ave. on the Magnificent Mile. One of her employees is her son Cory.
"It's really a dream," said Goldman, a West Rogers Park native and Mather High School graduate. "You think my son would call me every day if I didn't work with him?"
She also shares her message to be prepared for anything and everything at several seminars each year.
The next one is scheduled for Jan. 28 in a Streeterville high-rise.
"She really believes in what she does, and you can't fake that," said Cory Goldman of Lakeview. "Her life's lesson is that she's actually learned the hard way and now our mission is to make sure others don't make the same mistake."
Goldman's business has about 200 clients, ranging in age from 22 to 95.
Sylvia Friedman, an author and motivational speaker who lives in Uptown, Goldman made her understand that while Friedman was helping others achieve their goals, she wasn't doing enough to "realize her own worthiness."
Another client, Chicago playwright Barrie Cole, sought Goldman's services in part because she was a woman.
"She functions incredibly well in a world that is known to be dominated by stodgy, conservative men," said Cole, of North Center. "She is funny, wears bright colors and is 100 percent real."
Teresa Kochanska, who was Cory and Jason's nanny and is now a client of Goldman, said her former boss "is like an angel."
Three years after starting to work for Goldman, Kochanska briefly visited her native Poland and returned with her husband and two children. The reunited family had six suitcases to their name. After they had found a quaint apartment, Goldman surprised them with a "welcome party," where she invited 40 people who brought them towels, plates and other homemaking supplies.
"Who does that?" said Kochanska, of Morton Grove. "Everyone always just looks out for themselves, but not her. The three words I have for her are: smart, kind and loyal."
Life now, Goldman said, is at an apex. In addition to the thriving business, she is happily married to Ralph Picker, a CPA who also is employed at Goldman Picker and Associates.
Goldman is convinced she wouldn't have been to help others had she not ridden such an emotional roller coaster.
"My journey wasn’t easy, and at times felt overwhelming," she said. "I could have easily given up, but I quickly learned that by becoming more confident and accountable to my financial life, my future became more optimistic, stable and added to my sense of comfort and confidence."
Janice Goldman Picker is hosting "The Power of Balance ... through Truth, Health & Wealth" at 6:45 p.m. Jan. 28 at 2 W. Delaware, Apt. 2402. For more information on that event and future ones, email her at email@example.com.