“Obviously, it’s been a tough year,” Katie, 31, told PEOPLE on Friday. “That’s a given. But if anything, I have to say, I always try and look for some sort of silver lining in situations like that — and I guess it’s nice that it really brought my family together.”
“Even though the loss of my father was hard, it really brought my uncles, myself and my brother back together,” added the Arrow star. “I think that’s the silver lining.”
The Partridge Family star died of organ failure on Nov. 21 at the age of 67. He had been in intensive care since he was hospitalized for liver and kidney failure the week prior. But according to Katie, his legacy lives in on in her day-to-day life.
“He left me with really great advice. He was like: ‘Don’t ever stop going to class. That’s where you should put your money,’ ” said Katie. “And that’s what I do, and I’ve been able to go from nothing to where I am today and it’s built confidence and self-esteem.”
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It was Katie’s “hard work pays off” attitude that led her to partner with Capital One to launch the company’s Financial Superpower Experience tied to National Superhero Day on Saturday. The experience — a four-paged comic of high-tech posters, developed by animation and superhero industry veterans — aims to delve into the strengths, weaknesses, struggles and goals of financial management in a fun, interactive way.
While discussing the partnership at the Capital One Flagship in Manhattan’s Union Square, Katie — who grew up estranged from her father and was raised by her mother, former model Sherry Williams, and her stepfather, Richard Benedon — pointed out that many fans might not realize that her success is self-made. (As previously reported, Cassidy left $150,000 worth of assets to his only son, Beau, 27, and granted his music memorabilia to his three half-siblings. Katie was left out of the will, though it’s important to note that it was drafted in 2004 and the father-daughter duo had an up-and-down relationship.)
“I feel like there’s this preconceived notion that I come from a family of wealth and celebrity, the Cassidys, so I think people have this misconception of myself when the reality is that I actually didn’t grow up with my biological father,” she said. “I didn’t know him until I was in fourth grade, and then he became a good friend of mine. But I grew up with my mom and my stepdad and my sisters.”
When she turned 17, Katie told her mom and stepfather that she wanted to pursue acting professionally.
“They basically said: ‘You’re on your own. We encourage you to do so, but just so you know, we’re not going to pay your way,’ ” she said. “So I saved up enough money — not much — but enough to move out at 18. I moved out of my parents’ house on my own to this teeny little apartment where I could barely afford rent. In fact, I had to call my mom once and had to ask for groceries because I couldn’t afford it.”
“The money I actually ended up earning, not immediately at first, but I put it towards acting classes, studying and just trying to further my career,” she explained. “[People] have this assumption that I come from something that I don’t. Biologically, yes, and I love my uncles and my dad. … But I had to ask my mom for groceries, learn how to balance a checkbook on my own, set financial goals and figure out a way to achieve them.”
Katie’s financial mentor growing up was her grandmother, whom she lovingly refers to as her “financial superhero.”
“She’s no longer with us, sadly, but she was my rock — everything,” she said. “She taught me at a really young age about being frugal and saving money. She was so big on saving up to buy a house. I loved how encouraging and positive she was, and in a way, this partnership kind of makes me feel like I’m honoring her.”
“At some point in our lives, we’re all struggling and trying to figure out how to make it,” she continued. “And that’s where this marriage with Capital One came in, because they found out I wasn’t served anything on a silver platter. I had to work for it. I had to struggle. My parents weren’t like: ‘Hi, here’s a trust fund.’ They were like: ‘Hi, go build some character and some strength.’ “
“At 17, I’m sure I was pissed, but now I’m grateful,” she added. “Hard work pays off. And that’s why every check I ever got I put towards acting class to better myself, because you can’t stop learning. You can always continuously learn and I always want to be evolving with my craft. If you have goals and dreams, you’ve got to work at them. And in time, things will come into fruition.”