Women Who Rock: Catherine Grace O’Connell
Meet Catherine Grace O’Connell. I am sure it seems, at times, that I corner the market in befriending driven, inspiring, fashionable, ladies. And if that’s the charge, then I’ll take it. My passion for these extraordinary ladies means that I get to know and learn from some of the very best – among them – Catherine Grace O’Connell.
You’re going to love her.
Catherine is this month’s Woman Who Rocks. Within the past two years, she has conquered a life-threatening bout with Lyme Disease. What’s more than that – she has taken the challenges she has faced and turned them into something positive and inspiring. Her blog, CatherineGraceO.com, is one part fashion inspiration, one part life revelation.
True to form, Catherine answered the same 5 questions that I always ask my Women That Rock – and she did so with openness and searing honesty. It’s exactly what I hope for all women. Opening up about one’s fears and challenges with money is the first step to growing and changing the pattern. There is no shame in the journey – as long as you’re actually on the path to growing and conquering your fears. In this blog, Catherine owns her feelings and fears about money and shares her goals for the future. I think we can all learn a lot from her candor coupled with her appetite for life.
What makes you feel confident in your closet?
What makes me feel most confident is honestly the way that I feel on the INSIDE. The older I get and the more inner work that I do, the more connected I am to my inner world. When I feel peaceful, grounded and happy, I feel my most confident. It’s so interesting because I went through the majority of my life with very little confidence and a low sense of self. It wasn’t until recently, recovering from a life threatening illness and starting my own business in the process, that I truly tapped into my self-confidence. I feel more beautiful and more confident at 55 than I did in my twenties. I wouldn’t have been caught dead in a bikini photo shoot in my twenties and now it’s one of my favorite things to shoot.
In my closet, you will find basically the two sides of my personality, which I refer to as Boho Chic, or more accurately, Boho Meets Chic. Most days, you’re likely to find me at the beach, with messy hair and a baseball cap, meditating on the beach or swimming in the ocean…practicing yoga with no makeup outside of my usual lip gloss. Barefoot in destroyed denim, a tank top and a cozy sweater, is one of my favorite looks. In my new life as a Fashion/Lifestyle Blogger, I’ve been experimenting with some fun new looks like gladiator sandals and chokers, which are the epitome of my Boho side. On the other hand, I absolutely love getting dressed up to the nines. Wearing a dress by one of my favorite designers, Self Portrait or Rachel Zoe, with a pair of statement pumps, topped off with a cherry red lip, hair done up in waves, and I’m ready for a night on the town. You would find some fun fringe maxi dresses, a bevy of floral Boho minis, a collection of leather and suede jackets and purses and hats galore. Hats save me on windy days at the beach!
What makes you feel confident in your financial portfolio?
Where do we begin? I’m far more confident in the fashion arena than I am in the financial arena. It’s interesting as I double-majored in college in Economics and French in order to study International Finance at Vanderbilt. I went on to work for Swiss Bank, yet was never really comfortable around money. I was greatly impacted during my childhood by a recurring theme of “never enough”. My Mom has told me that I would go into the kitchen when I was a little girl and take whatever food I could find and hide it in my crib.
My Father was an orphan. He grew up at Mercy Home for Boys. After he passed away, my brother told me that my Dad’s greatest fear was to be poor again. He spent a lifetime holding on to his money for dear life. This had an enormous impact on me on both a conscious and subconscious level. He was extremely tight with money and I learned at an early age to work for what I needed. I went through a divorce and sold my home. I gave the money to an investment advisor who lost a lot quickly and that brought up a lot of fear. I was honestly afraid to trust again.
At what age did you start to plan for your financial independence?
I remember having an old-fashioned passbook when I was a child. I started working at a very young age and would go to the bank and deposit my money. I loved looking at my balance growing. I can’t say that I began planning for my financial independence. I feel that children need positive role models to teach them about financial independence. I grew up in an atmosphere of fear and didn’t learn this until much later.
What was good about starting to save when you did?
I’m assuming this is human nature, I would have loved to have started much earlier. In my childhood as well as my marriage, I didn’t have control over finances. In hindsight, I would have done things very differently. The truth is we all learn lessons throughout our lives. I tend to be very creative. I never learned how to budget or handle finances. I’m working on it now and it would have been amazing to have had those skills early on.
What was bad about it?
The older we get, the more difficult it is to save, particularly with the rule of compounding. It’s also much harder in our current environment of negative interest rates, which would have been unheard of in my childhood days. I feel it’s imperative to teach these skills to our children so they have a comfort level managing money early on. It’s critical to have a vision and to plan for that vision. Again, in hindsight, I would have started earlier and spent less on certain things that were unnecessary but felt necessary at the time. We live and we learn.
How would you define your saving style?
Well, the honest truth right now is that with a life threatening illness, most things have to go by the wayside, including saving and investing. I had to spend quite a lot of money to stay alive and wasn’t focused on anything else. Budgets went out the window. And, my current life with starting my own business is quite expensive. Any time you begin a business, there are a lot of costs involved, many of which you can’t plan for ahead of time. I’m working on developing a budget and containing costs.
What financial goals are you currently working on?
I’m working on monetizing my life as a Fashion/Lifestyle Blogger. I’ve been overwhelmed by the response and how well it’s going. It takes some time to build a following and attract the brands, but I’m well on my way at the moment. It’s been an amazing experience. I’m working with a number of brands through various collaborations. I have two stores on my blog where people can shop directly. I also work for a nutrition company so I have several avenues for revenue. I’m a contributing writer for The Huffington Post and write for my blog. I’m working on a book about Lyme Disease as well. Writing is one of my favorite things! Most of my focus at the moment is on building my business and creating multiple revenue streams.
What makes you feel rich? (It might not be money!)
What makes me feel the richest is helping people. I have become a Lyme Disease advocate and work to serve a lot of people in the Lyme community. The feedback I receive has truly been overwhelming. There’s nothing like getting a message from a Lyme warrior telling me that I’ve changed their life, given them hope for the first time. I can’t begin to tell you how that inspires me and lights my fire. There are many nights that I don’t sleep due to the Lyme and I can feel pretty miserable yet when I hear those messages, nothing can stop me! There was a wonderful children’s book when my kids were growing up called “The Quiltmaker’s Gift.” It’s a beautiful story about a King who finally found happiness by giving away all of his belongings. It’s one of the most amazing stories for children of any age as well as adults. It made a profound impact on me. I absolutely love helping others. I would honestly give you the shirt off my back if it would help you. I’m learning a lot about myself through the work that I’m doing, including the difference between helping and enabling. It’s a fine line and one I’m working to perfect. I tend to be very sensitive and empathic and my heart tugs when I see someone in need. I’m learning to be more discerning.
The interviewee and their respective companies are not affiliated with LPL Financial and Stonebridge Wealth Advisors LLC