I’ll admit it; I picked up Shoo, Jimmy Choo!, a financial self-help book, because of the pretty cover and the catchy title. And yet, as I read chapter after chapter, I realized I had just made one of the best purchases of my life. I’m 21 and graduating this spring, and honestly could not have picked a better time to read this book.
I want the glamorous New York City lifestyle, and yet I also want to be able to afford food, rent and of course the occasional designer splurge, but I realized (as I read the book) that I’d never be able to do any of these things without changing up the way I relate to money and what my financial goals are.
Let’s face it ladies, there are no princes on white horses coming to save the day with bags of money– or at least there aren’t enough to go around– we need to be financially savvy on our own, and this book puts the concepts into terms even we can understand. Most women are not financially savvy at this point in their lives and you know what, that’s okay. Hill uses this book to explain all the terms in a way that banks and money sites rarely do– clear, concise and in terms of a “diet.” And what 20 year old woman doesn’t understand that!!
Hill is currently the money editor for the New York Daily News online, and also worked with Plum TV and Forbes magazine. All of these jobs helped her realize her potential and she’s shared some essential tips and tricks with us.
UChic: What prompted you to write the book? Any specific experiences, or examples given by friends?
Hill: Maybe I’d watched one too many episodes of Sex & the City, but when I moved to New York City, I lived it up. I got an apartment in swanky Chelsea, and had no savings to speak of (other than the $20 emergency bill I stashed in the lining of my purse in case a date turned psycho and I had to hop a cab on the fly). Then I landed a job as the Financial Marketing Manger for Forbes, and it scared me. At first, we’d be in a meeting and I’d hear terms like Roth IRA, nod and pretend that of course I knew what they were talking about, and then race to my computer to look it all up. But slowly but surely, I started learning more and more about money management, realizing that unless I got my finances in order, I’d never get out of debt, save for retirement (hello no more boss ever!), or buy a home. When I started talking to other women about their finances, I realized I wasn’t alone when I’d felt confused and a little intimidated by money management. And the more I looked into it, the more I realized there wasn’t a personal finance book for women like us written in a voice we relate to–not a mother-figure tsk tsking us, but a woman who gets that it’s not an option to never buy an amazing pair of shoes or go cold-turkey on nights out. So I decided to write it. And Shoo, Jimmy Choo! was born.
UChic: How did you get to your current career? Any hints for recent and future grads? Anything you wish you had known when you graduated?
Hill: I started at the bottom – as an assistant in a media company – despite having a master’s in journalism (no, I didn’t like it, but I knew that it was a solid way to get to where I wanted to go). On day one of that job, I told myself that I was going to get promoted quickly. So I made sure I came in before my boss, left after her, edited everything I sent to her to perfection and always had an upbeat, can-do attitude (and no, this is not that easy, especially after one too many cocktails the night before, but you gotta do it!). But I did it, and about 2 months later, I was promoted.
UChic: Anything you wish you had known when you graduated?
Hill: The #1 thing I wish I’d known is that just because someone is senior to me, it by no means means they’re better at making decisions than me. For the longest time, I’d trust the opinions of more senior staffers just because they had more experience than me – even when I doubted their ideas. I wish I had been more wiling to challenge the ideas and work of those above me.
UChic: Should college students fear the stock market?
Hill: You should not “fear” the stock market, but you shouldn’t blindly trust it either. Sure, the stock market can be volatile, which can be scary, but over the long term, it is likely to give you the best return on your investment, despite all its ups and downs. But that doesn’t mean you should put all your eggs in one basket! Because the stock market is risky, you need to diversify your investments between stocks, bonds and other investments. I’d recommend choosing index funds with low expense ratios and no loads, and making sure you have both stocks and bonds in your portfolio.
UChic: Also should students be particularly worried about student loans while in college?
Hill: You should be thinking about how you are going to pay off your student loans even if they won’t come due for a while. Here’s why: Student loans are not going away unless you pay them off or get them forgiven, so pretending like they don’t exist – not the best idea. Look at it like this: pretending your student loans don’t exist is like pretending that extra 10 pounds doesn’t exist – sooner or later, there’s no running from it anymore (hello bikini season!).
UChic: What, if any, investment should College women start with? The emergency fund? And what area should it be invested in, in your opinion?
Hill: If your employer matches contributions to your 401(k), you should participate up to what they match. (For many college students, this isn’t applicable, so move on to building an emergency fund. ) I’d recommend choosing index funds with low expense ratios and no loads, and making sure you have both stocks and bonds in your portfolio.
Build up an emergency savings fund that contains 3 months pay.
Put the money in a relatively safe savings account that allows you easy access to the money (you don’t want it tied up when you need it for an emergency) and earns interest. A high-interest savings account, MMA or MMF work well for the emergency fund.
Once you have built up three months of savings, open a Roth IRA (the Roth IRA is right for many young women who think they’ll be in a much higher tax bracket later in life). Max it out.
Finally, once you have done all of the above, max out your 401(k) and build up an emergency savings cushion of 6 months pay.
UChic: Do you think these practices can be started in college? If not entirely, at least on a small scale? What advice would you give to college women (freshman-seniors) to help them use some tips from the book in their lives?
Hill: Yes, I think you can start saving and investing in college. The easiest way to do it: make it automatic. I set up automatic transfers from my bank account to my high-interest savings account so the money automatically flows into my emergency fund without me even having to think about it. You can fund retirement accounts and other savings accounts in the same way. Look, I get it – when you see the money, you’re probably gonna spend it. So, get it automatically transferred out of your checking account and into your emergency fund, retirement account, etc. on the day you get paid.
As you can see, Hill has a down-to-earth style which appears to reach out directly to us– the 20-somethings of the world. According to Hill, the must read chapter is chapter 3 which focuses on spending habits and gives tips on how to change yours. Additionally you can connect with Hill on Twitter @CateyHill, and via the Shoo! Jimmy Choo Facebook fan page. Check out Hill’s Web site, ShooJimmyChoo.com and enter to win a $500 H & M Shopping Spree, because even a financially savvy girl loves to shop.