Her motto is ‘just do it.’ Even when Catey Hill was unsure of her ability to deliver interesting and valuable information about a topic she says she knew nothing about, she still stepped up to the challenge –and it changed her life. When she was asked by Forbes magazine to be the financial marketing manager Catey says at the time she knew nothing about personal finance, and her own finances were a mess. But staying true to her motto, she just did it, and it didn’t take long for Catey to figure it out. Along the way, she realized that this wasn’t just her job it was her calling: educationg young women, who think they can live like Carrie Bradshaw with a high-end wardrobe and a lifestyle beyond their means.
Whether online, in print, or on TV, Catey Hill’s mission is to help women spend less, save more and be realistic about personal finances. Writing about finance in a way that’s fun and accessible is something she does across platforms and publications including Smartmoney.com, Forbes, Seventeen magazine, and the New York Daily News. And sometime in between she penned the book “SHOO, Jimmy Choo! The Modern Girl’s Guide to Spending Less and Saving More.” Read on for a peek inside the agenda of author, and reporter Catey Hill.
What is a typical day like for you?
I’m a freelance writer right now, so it kind of varies depending on what assignments I have. Usually I wake up and do a bunch of interviews with sources and I spend the afternoon writing. It’s a pretty nice schedule. I’m writing for smart money and bunch of other places. I spend most of my day just interviewing people and writing. It’s a nice gig.
Are you in the corporate office or at home?
Right now I’m working from home. I used to work out of the Dow Jones office in Midtown Manhattan but they recently just let me do all my work from home. So it’s really nice. I have a home office set up. So I’m excited to be able to do that so I can work in my pajamas when I want to.
What’s a not so typical day like for you?
Well, this whole working from home is kind of crazy for me because it’s new. It’s fun but I’m very used to going into the office and having coworkers so it’s kind crazy to me to just wake up, put on pajamas, drink a cup of coffee, and interview a couple of people.
As a writer, especially a freelance writer, you have a lot on your plate. So how do you prioritize things and what’s first on your agenda?
I mostly write about personal finance, I think it’s an area where there’s not enough information that’s easy to understand and isn’t insanely boring. I just feel like that’s kind of my calling–to write about these topics in a way that’s a little more fun and accessible. So people can get into them and really start saving for retirement and build a kind of emergency fund and do all those things you know people have heard about and they’re like ‘I don’t really know if I’m doing that right.’ So I just hope that that’s what I get to do all day, it’s really what I focus on almost all of the time.
You’ve been a reporter for a long time but you’re also an author. When working on your book, how did you prioritize things between writing the book and writing articles?
The book came about because I was working at Forbes magazine. They used to own a History magazine called American Heritage, and I was working there. Then they promoted me to be the financial marketing manager of Forbes magazine. And I was like ‘oh my gosh I’m going to get fired because I know nothing about personal finance.’ I had just moved to New York and I had this really nice apartment that I couldn’t really afford. I was in credit card debt. I did not know about personal finance. So I get this job and I had to really learn on my feet. This job really forced me to learn.
Once I started learning it, I started getting really into it and I started thinking ‘oh my gosh if I could learn all this stuff in my early twenties so could everybody else.’ So I was doing this job and I started to look into books for women about finance and what was out there. There’s a ton of books out there but there was no book really written for someone like me which is what I tried to do with Shoo Jimmy Choo – something for [the girls who say] you know what I’m not going to give up shoes or clothes, I love that stuff.
I really wanted to create a book where you can balance the things you want with a secure financial future. So that’s what I tried to write for Shoo Jimmy Choo. I actually wrote the book on the side while I was working full time. I worked like 24/7 to get this book done. And I also had to pay my bills. So I was still working full time while I was doing that. It was the most intense period of my entire life. I loved doing the book, but I was glad when it was finished.
Do you have a personal motto?
This is going to sound cheesy but ‘just do it.’ I didn’t ever think I could get a book published. It just never occurred to me. I never knew anyone who had done that but I said you know what I’m going to just try and do it and I did it.
I think a lot of times we get hung up and we don’t even try. ‘Oh it will never happen, I’ll never be the president of a company or I’ll never…’ whatever it is you want to do and so you don’t try, so that’s really what I try to live by. If I feel scared about something or think there’s no way I’m going to get this, I just try. And I think that motto just kind of stuck in my head.
Yes, a lot of people don’t even take the first step and that’s the hardest. When did you discover what you wanted to be in life? what age?
I went though a lot of career ideas before I figured this out. In college I majored in psychology. I always liked to write but for some reason it didn’t stick in my head that that’s what I was going to do.
But in college I really started to write a lot more. I went to grad school for journalism. So some time during college it didn’t hit me like ‘oh I’m going to be a writer.’ I don’t really know why. But it was sort of right toward the end of college I was like you know what I really love doing this. This is what I’m going to do. I don’t remember the moment it hit but I remember, I went through a lot of questions about what I wanted to do with my life and I got lucky to find something that I really loved to do. I’m really grateful for that. it took a lot of back and forth on all these things. I wanted to be everything from a vet to a astronaut when I was a kid…to a psychologist and toward the end of college, entering grad school I said you know what now I really want to be a writer.
Of course there’s always a little sense of doubt you had to overcome. How do you overcome doubt whenever you experience a challenge? How do you overcome doubt?
Oh yea, you’re so right, I have doubt every day. I usually try to think you know –if the worse that happens is I don’t get this job, or the book doesn’t get published, you know what that’s not that bad. I’m going to be more angry at myself for not trying than I would be if it didn’t happen for me. I’ll spend some time writing up this book proposal and if something happens I’m going to be glad I tried. so I try to take that attitude. Whenever I have doubt I’m like its better to try and not get what you want than to never have tried. Because you’re always going to look back and kick yourself like I didn’t even go for that. That feeling, I hate that feeling, like I didn’t even try, I didn’t even go for that.
Do you remember a moment when you had to prove yourself? not just to other people but also to yourself.
Yea, my first journalism job. I always really liked to write and thought I was a good writer, but I had never called sources and reported a story under time limit and gotten everything right. It was right in the middle of the financial crises and i was working at the daily news. And I remember my first story and it was on why aren’t banks lending— I remember really being like this is my first big story, really getting into a meaty issue with sources back and forth and thinking okay I have to weigh one side versus the other side vs another side I had to do all that under time limit.
And my bosses were watching because everybody wanted to know the answer to that question. And I wanted to make sure I was really cut out for this sort of deadline driven journalism job.
It really worked out, but that was a moment of serious doubt. But its like I said before I just did it. I just thought the worse the happens is i don’t turn in the product they like and I go back and do it again but im going to try my best and do everything I can. It worked out and the story turned out to be really interesting and i answered a question people were kind of curious about. And it was a moment where it was like uh oh this is where I prove my clout as a reporter who can do things on deadline and to get quality sources to comment on an issue.
So my site is heragenda.com and the purspose is inspriation and empowerement. As a woman in your industry, writing about personal finance–its not a realm where women are immediately thought of and when people think of personal finance they don’t immediately think of women. So, how do you feel your work is perceived as a woman in our society?
You know this is interesting to me because theres a lot of debate around do women need there own personal finance books– there’s a lot of talk where people think you know its all the same, the advice for men and women are the same, it doesnt matter if you’re a man or a woman. I dont think my byline being a woman is received any differently but I do think I come at it from a different perspective.
I think woman come at a lot of personal finance issues differently than men I sort of hope to address some of those things. For instance women live longer than men and we actually have to save a lot. We have to save more for retirement. A lot of women are single mothers and so they are responsible for child care, so what are the costs for that. Its issues that really weren’t covered like ten years ago. I really hope a big part of my role is really just talking about the issues and getting women interested in this.
There are way more financial writers that are women now than there used to be. I dont feel like when im in the news room its neccessarily like oh theres all men talking about these topics. And thats my goal to get women interested in this and talking about these issues.
Who is someone who inspires you?
Her name is Manisha Thakor. She’s actually written two personal finance books for women. She’s created this entire women’s financial literacy edition. She’s amazing. I wrote her a letter when i first started my book. I thought she’d be too busy to help me. I was like hey I’m writing a book I’ve bever done this and id love some advice from women who have done something similar. and she wrote me back and she really helped me every step of the way. I had never done any tv appearances and she guided me through that. She’s been the greatest mentor to me, shes just a genuinely good person and she cares about empowering women. She’s just one of the coolest women I know.
What is something you feel is a myth of success?
Part of success is often tied with making a lot of money which is funny because that a lot of time isn’t. A lot of time success much more has to do with do I get to do what I love every single day than whether or not I’m a millionaire. I think that’s a big thing that success equal money. I think success is doing what you love all day. If you can do that and it pays your bills then thats great. If you have to do something else to pay your bills and you spend an hour or two doing what you love that’s great too. That’s what success means. I think that’s number one maybe because I live in New York.
What is on your agenda for 2012?
Two things- one I think I want to write another book. I’m doing this freelance thing so I can have a lot of time to think about what I want to say and the kind of angle i want to take. I know there are a lot of personal finance books out there so I want to read as much as i can and see where the holes are and see what I want to add. and id love to learn a lot work life balance– I tend to be a bit of a workaholic, so my other goal is to learn to chill a little bit more.
Final thoughts and advice?
Just go for what you want. That sounds really simple and cheesy but I feel really lucky for how my life has turned out and a lot of it has come from being like you know what’s the worse that can happen? Some body laughs at me or somebody says no? I can deal with that.
*Bonus- Win a free copy of Catey Hill’s “Shoo Jimmy Choo” book. Leave a comment with one of your personal finance “aha” moments. The best anicdote will win a book.