FBP003: Jean Chatzky of JeanChatzky.com and NBC's Today Show ⋆ [FinCon]

FBP003: Jean Chatzky of JeanChatzky.com and NBC’s Today Show

Jean Chatzky FinCon Keynote

Welcome to the Financial Blogger Podcast, Episode 3. Today’s I’m honored to have Jean Chatzky on the podcast.

Jean is of course well known for her role as financial editor at NBC’s Today Show and her work with Oprah. She’s the author of several books including Money Rules, Money 911, and plenty of other titles.

In many ways, Jean has become the face of personal finance journalism and that’s why our community is so happy to have her as keynote speaker at #FinCon13.

Topics I Discuss with Jean

Jean Chatzky Money School

  • Jean’s background in journalism and media.
  • Money School, Jean’s new project.
  • “If you want to own your life, you have to own your money.”
  • How can bloggers help improve financial education?
  • J. Money wants to know if you think budgets are sexy?
  • How Jean uses her blog/website.
  • How Jean uses social media (i.e. Twitter and Facebook).
  • Jean’s staff and how she hires them and uses them to manage her brand empire.
  • Tips for bloggers, who might want to make a similar leap from behind the keyboard to in front of the camera.
  • The intersection of blogging and journalism. Are you a blogger? Are you a journalist? How do you define the two?
  • Jean’s partnerships with financial services/programs.
  • Lastly, I ask Jean what she will be sharing with us at #FinCon13?

My Hangout with Jean Chatzky

As always, our podcasts are recording using Google+ Hangouts, so you can view the podcast if you want below…

Big thanks to Jean for being on with me today. I enjoyed learning more about her and talking a little shop. Hopefully, you have some solid takeaways as well.

Philip Taylor: Alright, it looks like we’re live. Welcome to the Financial Blogger Podcast. My name is Philip Taylor with Fincon. All the episodes of the Financial Blogger Podcast can be found at finconexpo.com. Again, I’m Philip Taylor, founder of Fincon and PT Money, Personal Finance. I’m excited to have a special guest on with me today, Miss Jean Chatzky. Of course, you guys know Jean from her role as financial editor at NBC’s Today Show and her work with Oprah, many of the books she’s produced such as Money Rules, Money 911 and other titles. In some ways she’s become the face of what I think is personal finance journalism, so it’s a real honour for me to have her on today, especially since she’ll be a keynote speaker for us at Fincon this fall. Jean, welcome to the show.

 

Jean Chatzky: Thank you so much. I’m really excited to be here and I’m excited about Fincon coming up. I’ve been hearing from a number of the bloggers who are going to be attending and they’re all sounding so excited to get there. This is my first time at Fincon, but I’m really looking forward to it.

 

Philip Taylor: Awesome. Just in case someone may not be familiar with your background, maybe you can share a little bit about your background and what it is you have going on now?

 

Jean Chatzky: Sure. I am a long-time financial journalist. I’ve been in journalism since before I got out of college which is a very long time ago now. I’ve been covering personal finance for more than 20 years and I got into it essentially, through a back door. I knew I wanted business journalism when I got out of school. I started at Working Woman magazine and spent a little time on Wall Street when I had trouble finding my next job. But I eventually made it to Forbes. Then I was on the start-up team at Smart Money. That was where my interest in personal finance and I think my platform, essentially, really took off. Smart Money was a fantastic place to work. We were allowed to look at life through the window of money. And sometimes, when people ask me why I’ve been able to cover one subject for such a long time, this is what I tell them, because I’m covering life. I’m just doing it from this particular angle. I can write about anything— talk about anything, and to me that’s really, really fascinating.

 

Philip Taylor: Right.

 

Jean Chatzky: I got on the Today Show when I was at Smart Money. We had a very engaged PR person who essentially through a lot of people on TV. I was very, very fortunate in that I happened to stick and I’ve been doing this ever since.

 

Philip Taylor: That’s wonderful. That’s sounds interesting, the phases you’ve gone through there. We’re definitely going to get those topics, but one of the things I wanted to talk to you about was your new project which is Money School. Maybe you could share a little bit about what Money School is and what that might mean for people who are looking for some financial education from you.

 

Jean Chatzky: A lot of people over the years have stopped me on the street or written to me to say, “Can you come to my house and work with me for an hour? I think I could be fine if you could just sit down with me.” And, I would love to do that, but I’ve got two kids and, you know, the country’s hard to traverse, so I decided to start an online school where I’m teaching individual—not one-on-one in terms of the people, but individual subject classes. So, you don’t have to sign up for whole 6 or 8 weeks but I’m covering the topics that my audience has told me they need to learn more about like budgeting, getting out of debt and starting to get your credit on the road to recovery. Talking about retirement and the fact that, yes, you can indeed retire. Talking about spending a little bit less and saving a little bit more. Then I’ve got a jump-start class that touches on each of these areas for people who prefer to do it that way rather than with a deep dive. My dad was a college professor so I’m enamoured with office hours. I think office hours are really helpful and I know that whenever I leave a lecture, or whenever I leave the doctor’s office, inevitably a week later I have questions. So, each registration comes with an invitation to office hours. You get a 45 minute lecture plus 15 minutes of question and answer at the end, but there’s also the opportunity to come to the office hours later and ask any additional questions they may have. And there are work sheets, they are handouts, there are quizzes. It’s very interactive. We’re running them on Adobe platform, so we’ve got a chat room that is running throughout the class so people can talk to each other, they can talk to one of my associates who is there to answer questions. We’ve been in beta—we’ve just rolled them out. The first live class is coming up, but I’ve been hearing from the people who were in our beta classrooms, that they’re really enjoying budgeting. I mean, who enjoys budgeting? So, that’s fantastic. I’m very, very happy with the response so far.

 

Philip Taylor: That’s great. That sounds excellent. With a blog, I deal with a lot of questions daily and weekly and it’s hard to get to a lot of them, so this is great that you’ve been able to create a way for you to answer questions to a lot of people all at once. Would this be limited? Is there a limited number of seats in the classroom?

 

Jean Chatzky: There is a limited set of seats in the classroom and quite frankly that’s okay with me. I don’t want it to get so large that people feel like they don’t have the ability to get their questions answered. If we find that we’ve got overwhelming response, I’ll add more sections. That’s how we’ll deal with it so that people really feel that they get that ‘hand-holding’ that they were looking for. That’s sort of what they are telling me. You know, the people that have written to me after the classes say, “I feel like you were just talking to me,” which is exactly what I was hoping for. And, I teach them right here. I teach them in my home office… These are my kids’ paintings, at all ages, here behind me on the wall, so it’s a very friendly, not threatening environment which is exactly how it was planned. You’ve introduced me to some of the bloggers in your network already and we’re working to try to spread the word with guest posts and give-a-ways, so anything that anybody wants to do to try to get involved with this would be awesome!

 

Philip Taylor: Okay, excellent, excellent. You seem to enjoy the interaction with readers, listeners or viewers and really engaging with them about helping with their money. I mean, that’s sort of unusual—

 

Jean Chatzky: (Laughs) I’m from the mid-west.

 

Philip Taylor: Okay, that’s your excuse, right?

 

Jean Chatzky: Exactly!

 

Philip Taylor: Someone with a journalism background who has worked in media, being that close to the consumer doesn’t come natural, so it’s special that you have that desire and that you’re able to scale that in this way.

 

Jean Chatzky: I’m trying. It’s definitely a work in progress. I don’t know why you got into this to begin with, but I got into this to begin with because I was a mess with my money. I think one of the reasons that I like interacting with people is because I feel that if I can do this, really, anybody can do this.

 

Philip Taylor: Yeah, that’s good stuff. So were can people find out more about Money School?

 

Jean Chatzky: On my website which is jeanchatzky.com— and that’s Chatzky with a ‘z’.

 

Philip Taylor: Okay, very good. Speaking of your philosophy with money, one of the things I’ve heard you say before is, “If you want to own your life, you have to own your money.” Maybe you could talk a little bit about what that means to you and how that translates into action for readers or listeners?

 

Jean Chatzky: I’ve done enough research over the years to be truly convinced that more money doesn’t buy more happiness once you get to the point that you can actually afford to pay your rent afford to pay your mortgage and go on vacation every once in awhile. Once you are living more comfortably, more money doesn’t buy more happiness. What does bring you more happiness, not matter what level of earnings or wealth you’re at, is more control over your money. And, control is not rocket science. Control is about doing the same relatively simple things over and over and over again. Whether we’re talking about saving or automatic investing or getting out of debt, saving on a regular basis, it’s all about control. When you control something, you own it and that’s what I mean by owning your money. You can’t let somebody else drive and take your eyes off what’s happening in your financial picture, because that’s how it all goes to hell.

 

Philip Taylor: That makes sense. It’s about awareness. I mean, your awareness is half that battle of control, right?

 

Jean Chatzky: Yeah, and it’s not—you know, there are plenty of complicated instruments and complicated investments and complicated tools out there. If you don’t want to deal with the level of complication, you really don’t have to. At that point you’re really grasping for basis points. For most us, it’s not worth it. We want to do other things with our lives rather than try to eke out a little bit of extra return. So you focus on those things that are going to get you the biggest bang for the buck. And, they tend to be the relatively simple things. You money then becomes the tool that it was meant to be to get you the things that you really want out of life. Whether it’s more time with your kids or a bigger house, whatever it happens to be. You can get it if you’re the executor of this world.

 

Philip Taylor: I like it. So you’ve starting a money school, maybe you can talk a little about financial education and how we, as bloggers or new media creators, can help raise the awareness of financial education or financial literacy?

 

Jean Chatzky: I see the bloggers as the financial educators. I mean, financial education, unfortunately, has been kind of a flop in our schools. The states are so stressed and so strapped with having to deal with all of the mandated tests that their students have to take that there hasn’t been room in the curriculum, in most cases, for financial literacy and education. That means it’s up to the lay people to choose to take it on and some of those people are within corporations. But others are people like you and me. Parents who care about the welfare of their kids who want their kids to come out and be able to deal with their money in the world. So, I think it’s great when bloggers and content creators can encourage financial education, but I also think we have to just accept the fact that we provide it.

 

Philip Taylor: So there’s a certain level of— well, for me, I had an accounting background. My dad was a CPA. I graduated college with a degree. I got my CPA and I still had some personal financial issues in my life, so I think that’s a testament. There’s a certain level of experience that people have to go through to sort of get to a better place. You, yourself, went through the same experience so I think there’s got to be a good mixture of education. But to a certain degree we just have to let everyone live their own life and get to that point where they’re ready to make that choice to control it, like you said.

 

Jean Chatzky: Well that’s it. What we know now, is that education in and of itself is not enough to drive behaviour change. There has to be education, plus. It can be education plus a tool—education plus what gets you to do something which for many people, is a life event. It could be the birth of a child. It could be getting married. It could be getting divorced. It could be a new job. Education teaches you. But then you need that little push to get you where you need to go. And that comes in different parts of peoples’ lives. There’s not one all-encompassing thing.

 

Philip Taylor: Right. So for some people there may be a life event that says, “Hey, I’ve got to start a budget now, so what is a budget and how do I get going with that?” That’s a question coming from J Money. You know, J Money from Budgets are Sexy?

 

Jean Chatzky: I do. I was emailing with him earlier today.

 

Philip Taylor: He wants to know if you think budgets are sexy?

 

Jean Chatzky: I think budgets are sexy, but I think a lot of people don’t. A lot of people think budgets are one of those things that you… You know, it’s kind of an unpleasant word for a lot of people. Like a ‘diet’. But, once you know where your money is going which is what a budget is all about— you know where it’s going and you direct it to where you want it to go so that you can get the things that you want to get and also save something. That’s a really empowering feeling. Once you can say, “Wow, I can actually save! Look how fast my savings are growing. Look at what I’ve done in my 529,” all of which are made possible by a budget, that makes you feel powerful and independent. And those things are really sexy!

 

Philip Taylor: Yeah. I agree. Do you personally use a budget? Do you see a budget as more of a way to get someone back on track and bring awareness to their situation? Or, are you the type who says, “You need it every month, every month, every month?”

 

Jean Chatzky: I am not an every month, every month, every month. I think you need it when you’re trying to get back on track. For me, the purpose of the budget is to get yourself to save. Once you’re saving, as long as you’re not going into debt, you’re pretty free with everything else. You get the money into savings and you can decide what else is happening with the rest of the assets. The last time I used a really, really strict budget… I mean, I’ll give you two examples actually. When I got divorced I went very, very hardcore into budgeting. I knew where every cent was going. I was tracking really carefully. I knew exactly what I was doing on a regular basis because I had these savings goals set for myself and I wanted to make sure I met them. And the only way to actually do that was with a budget. The same thing happened when I got remarried. At that point my husband and I, we did it together. First with pencil and paper and then on the computer. Right now my online bank accounts keep me honest. And I have to say, I’m one of those people who— I don’t balance my check book. I haven’t for years, because I look at my money so often that when a bill comes in, I just pay it. So, I’m always in touch with what’s going on.

 

Philip Taylor: You said something that I have to ask about. Do you automate bill payment?

 

Jean Chatzky: Sometimes I do. Some bills are automated and some bills are not automated. The mortgage is automated. I do automate some things by putting them on a credit card because if I’m going to pay it off I really want to get the miles. I’ve gone on some really nice trips with those miles so I do that as much as I possibly can. With some bills I don’t, but I do try to pay as much as possible through the online account because I find that rather than writing a check by hand, it gives me a much better record.

 

Philip Taylor: I could talk to you about this stuff for days, but I do want to get into some of the things that I know some viewers might be interested in which is the blogging aspect and your approach to new media. Could you talk about your blog at jeanchatzky.com and some of the things you’re doing there, how you’re using the blog? Maybe that’s a good place to start. What’s on your blog? What can people find on your blog and what are you trying to do with it?

 

Jean Chatzky: We’ve recently gone through a bit of a re-tooling at jeanchatzky.com. I redesigned the website. It needed to be refreshed. And we’ve got an editorial calendar of sorts. So, on Monday we do the mailbag and answer some questions. On Tuesdays it’s ‘Try it out Tuesday’ which is about what’s new going on in the world of money. On Wednesdays we’ve got guest bloggers, where we’re spreading the love a little bit. And if anybody wants to be a guest blogger for me, by all means, let me know what you’ve got to say and we’ll talk about it. Thursdays is ‘Thought provoking Thursday’. I love everything that’s happening in the world of behavioural finance. I think there is a slew of interesting research being done so we can figure out what’s going on and report about it. On Fridays we’ve got, ‘Frugal Fridays’ where we do deals, and that dove tails nicely with the Frugal Friday segment I do on the Today Show. I’ve added some tools, some calculators and things like that. Some of the blog posts are designed to reach out and bring people back to the site. You know, “Check out what we’ve got going on. Check out money School.” And, they’re designed to kind of keep the content fresh and keep people essentially coming back.

 

Philip Taylor: I like it. I like the approach of having a calendar, having a theme for each day. That’s a great model for any blogger out there who’s trying to produce something on a consistent basis and give yourself a template for creating content on a weekly basis.

 

Jean Chatzky: Yeah. You know, I’m not afraid to… If we find, for example, that Tuesdays are the day that we are seeing less traffic, we’ll switch it up a little bit. And this is just a lesson I learned from print. When I was at Smart Money and we were in the stages of developing the magazine, it was very much a case of throwing spaghetti up against the wall and seeing what sticks. I remember one particular feature that I pitched called, “Who buys this stuff?” The idea was that there is so much stuff out there that it’s just ridiculous, let’s do something every month called, “Who buys this stuff?” We very quickly ran through a few different things and found out it just wasn’t working, so we killed it. You go through that— you figure out what works, what sticks, what resonates with people.

 

Philip Taylor: Right. You obviously have a lot of outposts out there. You’re out there more than you probably are on your blog. Do you get a lot of search engine traffic on your blog? I’m assuming your direct traffic or referral traffic is a lot higher than your search traffic.

 

Jean Chatzky: Yeah, I think it is. I’m not the best one to talk to about my own numbers I’m sorry to say. But, yeah, we see bumps. If I’m on Morning Joe, if I’m on the Today Show, I see a bump. I see a bump despite the fact that you’re not really supposed to say, “Hey, go to my website.” We direct everybody to the Today Show website and then you get a referral from that.

 

Philip Taylor: So when they hit your site, what’s your goal for having them there?

 

Jean Chatzky: My goal is that they participate, that they see something that they like enough to come back. Right now my goal is that they push on the ‘Money School’ button and join us for a class or two. Or, send their kids or send their spouse or whomever in their life they think would be benefited by that. We’re lucky that people actually spend a lot of time when they get there. They find different things that they like, different resources. Maybe they’ll check out the books. And, that’s the goal. It wasn’t developed to be sales, sales, sales. That never felt good to me. It’s a place to come and learn and to see what we’ve got and hopefully spread it around a little bit.

 

Philip Taylor: Right. And it’s jeanchatzky.com, so obviously, since you’re known for this brand, people are coming there to find out more about you as well, and to see what you’re up to.

 

Jean Chatzky: Well, yeah. I do use it for that too. I do get a lot of inquiries about speeches. Or from the media, “Can you talk to me for five minutes about credit cards.” So it’s very effective and efficient for that.

 

Philip Taylor: I didn’t have this question, but how often do you speak?

 

Jean Chatzky: I speak more often in the Spring and in the Fall. I probably go out once a month, maybe a little bit— there are not a lot of things where people want speakers necessarily in the summer. And winter travel is always an issue. So, twice a month maybe in the Spring and Fall. But I really like it. And for the same reason I like doing this. I always end up with more story ideas from going out and doing a speech than when I got there, because people ask me questions and that’s the best way to know what’s on the minds of people who don’t live where I live. As a journalist, that’s really important.

 

Philip Taylor: Awesome. We talked about the blog a little bit. What about social media? What avenues are you using social media-wise?

 

Jean Chatzky: Twitter and Facebook.

 

Philip Taylor: Is that you doing it?

 

Jean Chatzky: It’s me and my assistants, reporters. I do Tweet a lot. I really like Twitter. I find it fun and immediate. And when I’m looking for news, it’s fantastic to— you know, if you want to know what’s going on with the Pope you just follow the Twitter feed and you’ve got it in real time. Facebook, I do. I’m not as enamoured with Facebook as I am with Twitter, but yeah, I’m on there.

 

Philip Taylor: I would imagine though, that much of your user base is more on Facebook.

 

Jean Chatzky: They definitely are. I try to make sure that whatever I’m doing, we tell people about it on Facebook. Facebook is nice when you’re trying to take the pulse of your user base. So, if I’ve got something to say and I put it on Facebook or I change my status— I just put it up there? I get immediate responses so that lets me know if I’m on the right track with something much more than… Twitter’s a bit more scatter-shot.

 

Philip Taylor: Yeah. I see Twitter as a way to interact with peers. Of course, you’re a celebrity so you really have people who come to Twitter to follow you because they know you and they want to know what’s going on with you. So Twitter can be used that way. But, for me, Twitter is a good means to meet other bloggers and to meet people like yourself. That’s what I think it’s great for. Well, that’s good. So the next question was about… Oh, you sort of mentioned this earlier. Can you talk about the staff that you have, or journalists that you have? How many do you have and what do they do for you?

 

Jean Chatzky: I’ve got two people who work with me fulltime and then a couple of other people who work with me on a part-time basis. They are journalists. My fulltime people are journalists. They came out of school as journalists, they had journalism internships, I hired them because they are journalists. Although, with my reporting assistants, there is some administrative work that needs to be done which was part of the deal. If you come on, you’ve got to do the admin stuff but you get to do real journalism as well. So they help with everything, with reporting, with developing power points. When I was in production with Money Matters, which is my television show on RLTV— we’ve done two seasons and we’re waiting to hear if we can get picked up for a third, Maggie, who is my reporting assistant, was producing. She was booking for production, for lack of a better word, but she was doing what a Today Show producer does. She was booking guests and doing research. Arielle, who’s been with me now for five, maybe six years now, started as my assistant when I had just one person. She doesn’t do the admin stuff anymore but she reports, she does pre-interviews, she writes. I mean, you know, they’re… I really shouldn’t talk about them too much because somebody’s going to steal them.

 

Philip Taylor: (Laughs). Maybe you can share with everyone how you found these people, because my site’s growing every day, so hiring a journalist has a big appeal to me. Someone that can also help out with production like that. How did you find these people?

 

Jean Chatzky: No, absolutely. I found them different ways. I found Arielle because she had been the intern for a friend of mine. And I just put out feelers to the people I knew— to other journalists, that I was hiring. And he sent her to me saying, “You’re going to love her because she’s from the same state you’re from.” So, you know, I gave her a test. I think it’s really important. I tell anybody that’s looking for a job in journalism that you’d better come prepared with some story ideas and she totally did that. Maggie I found through a network through my university. I am involved in mentoring student journalists from Penn, where I went to school. And, she came in through that program and she’s just awesome.

 

Philip Taylor: That’s great.

 

Jean Chatzky: Yeah, and I think there’s so many qualified student journalists coming out these days, and they not only know—like, you and I were talking technology as I was trying to get on this Hangout, thank goodness I have people around who are younger than me because they know this stuff like the back of their hand. They can shoot mostly, in terms of operating a camera. They have much more of… You know, my reporting background, my reporting training was on the phone. When prodigy came along and we could actually find people for stories on the internet, that was a revelation! It’s so different, so having young people, well, I’m not that old, but having young people around is just awesome. This summer we had an intern working on the television show which was great. And then the other people—I have a woman who works with me on PR and marketing part-time.

 

Philip Taylor: Okay. So I think this is probably a good time to talk about the intersection of journalism and blogging, or new media. It seems to me that the two worlds are coming together, so much so that I even changed the name of Financial Blogger Conference to Fincon in an effort to not scare away journalists or columnists who were interested in new media from a financial prospective. Maybe you can give me your thoughts on that. Where do you see things going and maybe even touch on how bloggers can act more like journalists? Things that we can learn for the classically trained journalists?

 

Jean Chatzky: I agree with you. I think it’s that the world is really coming together and if you just look at Andrew Sullivan and what he did recently to sort of give up the world of regular media and just do his blog on his own and get subscribers, he’s been wildly successful. You see how the world may progress. I think that journalists can learn from bloggers, that we don’t always have to be long-winded and that you really can say it in very few words sometimes. Actually, people appreciate that. I think bloggers can learn from journalists that just because it’s on the internet doesn’t necessarily mean it’s true. You really do have to make sure that what you’re writing about, what you’re reporting about is based in fact and it’s not just an opinion piece. Sometimes the best way to do that is on the phone.

 

Philip Taylor: Nice. That’s something that scares me. It scares most bloggers actually, doing it that way. But that’s something I’m pushing myself towards, is more true journalism. A lot of the writers that work for me are pushing towards more original, creative, unique ideas and stories. So I see our community moving in that direction.

 

Jean Chatzky: Yeah. I’m friends with a woman named Melinda Emerson who is on Twitter as Small Biz Lady. She went right from the blogging world to having a column on the New York Times website. You know, I think that media is taking the blogging world much more seriously and giving it much more respect than it used to. I mean, if you look at the Today Show, half the style segments these days are done by bloggers. Half the cooking segments seem to be done by bloggers. We are booking people who are coming out of the blogging world. And so, I think the respect is there. You just have to make the connections. And, I wouldn’t be surprised if at Fincon this year, more representatives of the traditional media show up.

 

Philip Taylor: As a blogger and a site owner, I put on a lot of hats. One is monetization, one is journalism, one is marketing, and you’ve traditionally just been a journalist and not had to worry about those sorts of things, but that’s probably— with Money School and some different things kind of becoming a reality for you, is that the antifascism of journalists? Or, do you see them as being able to work hand-in-hand?

 

Jean Chatzky: I think they’re going to work hand-in-hand. I think they’re going to have to work hand-in-hand. I haven’t worked fulltime at a magazine since I left Money Magazine about 4 1/2 years ago. And believe me, they had to drag me, kicking and screaming, out of there because I liked the comfort of being someone’s employee. Now I live a largely freelance life, so essentially that monetization is becoming more important and has become more important. At Fincon, I actually hope to learn some things about this part of the process because I don’t take ads on my site at this point. I’ve thought about it, but I’m not exactly sure what the reaction would be.

 

Philip Taylor: Well, you’ll definitely learn that. We talk a lot about that at Fincon so you’ll definitely hear lots of angles and stories in terms of that. One of things I have seen you do, is you’ve partnered with companies that have programs. You just rolled out Money School, but in the past you’ve partnered with financial tools or services. Maybe you could talk about how you got those relationships and is that something that’s provided a substantial portion of your revenue?

 

Jean Chatzky: It’s provided some. What I’ve decided to do is to— I work in the form of educational partnerships with companies so I don’t do spokesperson endorsement type things, but I will develop a content for them to distribute to their user bases. Video content, written content, different sorts of tools. In that way it allows me to control the message because I’m not going to… Whether I’m working with the educational side of a financial services company, you know, they’re not going to be able to say, “You have to say this about our products,” because that’s not a relationship that would work for me. But the companies that I’ve worked with seem to find the value in me being able to educate their members or their customers, users, or whatever. We’re talking about their finances in general and about their financial needs and how to get to a better place. The response from the customers of these companies has been overwhelmingly positive. They—you know, they feel the love, for lack of a better word. They feel like the company is trying to do something beneficial for them without really asking for anything in return and that is really a nice umbrella to be under.

 

Philip Taylor: Because you’ve been able to get to certain point with your career, your brand, your personality, your exposure and celebrity that you’re able to offer that service to companies, maybe you can talk about some tips for bloggers like me who want to expand their brand, their online personality, their awareness in traditional media such as TV or whatever it is.

 

Jean Chatzky: Tips, you want tips. Okay, ideas. The best ideas are my capital. You can’t have too many good ideas. When you’re looking to deal with the mainstream media, if you come up with a good idea and they can use that idea, then they’ll use you essentially. And that is how I’ve stayed on television and in magazines is because I never go into a meeting without 20 ideas. Never. Because it’s really, really that important. You have to give the person on the other side of the table the feeling of respect and that’s how I think that you do it. I think it’s really important to be low-maintenance. I mean, sometimes I’m told I should be more of a diva and I just don’t buy. I think you should be a pleasure to work with. And even if it means a lot of work to get to be that, you have to be willing to do the work and make your producers look good. So that’s important. I have used PR and I’ve hired people to help me do PR for the last 10 years essentially and it’s been really, really helpful. You can have the ideas but not be able to get on TV because you don’t know the producer, but if you hire someone who can open that door for you and you can deliver, that’s one way to do it. So, if you’re looking to hire someone to help you spread the word about your brands, I think those sorts of connections are really important. You’ve got to make sure you hire a publicist that the magazine editors, newspaper editors or whomever you’re trying to reach actually likes.

 

Philip Taylor: You’ve had the privilege of working at Smart Money and doing the start-up with them. That must have been a wonderful experience. But up to that point you were behind the pen, behind the keyboard and then you got to NBC’s Today Show—

 

Jean Chatzky: Not directly. I did local TV. And what happened was, this PR guy at Smart Money, this guy named Drew Kerr— who was a really terrific publicist, started putting people on TV. It was something that had always appealed to me. My father was in TV. I didn’t go into college looking to do that because I thought that was his thing, but I was interested. I had done some theatre and kind of liked the stage. Drew had put other people on TV so I kept asking, “When are you going to put me on TV?” When he actually got me something to do, when I had a story that was worth talking about, I really, really prepared. I studied the heck out of it. That way I’d be good. And it was on local morning TV, and they asked me to come back. And while I was doing that, Matt Lauer was the anchor on the local station. Three years later I got the tryout at Today, thanks to him and it’s been my home now for 18 years. Other things around have changed, so I’ve been really, really lucky. When a door presents itself, go through it. You know, I didn’t know I wanted to write a book until somebody called me and said, “Have you ever thought about writing a book?” And I didn’t know I would ever give a speech until one of the other contributors from Today said, “You know, I was talking to these people at the Speakers Bureau and they asked about you.” I mean, sometimes the opportunities present themselves and you go through and you talk to people and you listen to their ideas. You work with people that you never thought you’d end up working with, and it turns out to be terrific.

 

Philip Taylor: Awesome, that’s great advice. Jean, it’s been wonderful talking with you. You have a fabulous story and I’m excited to see you Fincon this Fall. What do you think you’ll be sharing with us on stage at Fincon?

 

Jean Chatzky: Well, I think some of the stuff that you and I have talked about here. I’ll talk about my approach to journalism and blogging and the two of them together. I’ll talk about how I see personal finance these days, how it’s changed. I feel so fortunate to have had a seat for this revolution and what people really need these days in terms of what they are looking for in content. I’ll happily answer questions. I’ve been looking forward to actually being at Fincon for a little while and, you know, meeting people and learning things myself.

 

Philip Taylor: Right. Well, we’re lucky to have you there and we’re glad you’ll be onboard with us. Thanks so much for being on the podcast with me today. Where can folks connect with you or find out more about what you’ve got going on?

 

Jean Chatzky: My website is the best place. It’s jeanchatzky.com. And if you want to follow me on Twitter, that’d be awesome.

 

Philip Taylor: Okay. Thanks so much Jean. Best of luck this weekend and in future endeavours.

Jean Chatzky: Thanks.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Philip Taylor

Philip Taylor

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