Suze Orman’s Life Story, Condensed

Women’s Wear Daily has published a short biography of Suze Orman, 57-year-old CNBC personality, Oprah repeat-guester, and aggressive promoter of financial advice and self. Her father’s poultry shop burned down when she was a child (“Daddy was a failed man.”). At age 30, she lost $50,000 of borrowed money in oil futures, which led her to give up her dream of opening a restaurant and instead enter a training program at Merrill Lynch to pay back the money. Her second book agent—the one who helped shoot her to the top—told her she had to lose 30 pounds to be marketable. And so on: seeing how someone aggressively pursues media stardom is a sausage-making experience. (That same agent says, “I just thought, ‘Great. Finally an author who knows she can’t write.'”)

It also looks at the controversies that surround her business relationship with Fair Isaacs Corp (who create and own your FICO score) and TD Ameritrade. But what we love most about the piece is Orman herself, who always comes across as a weirdly enthusiastic self-help speaker who takes joy in dispensing borderline-malevolent sound bites.

To President Bush: “If I were you, I would feel so absolutely horrific that I would take every penny I had and distribute it to anybody and everybody to help them in whatever way I could. You owe the American people every penny of your fortune and your family’s fortune.”

To victims of Bernie Madoff: “You walked right into that financial concentration camp, my loves.” (We’d love to see Kristin Wiig try to top that one on SNL.)

To the people who criticized her own conservative investing strategy in 2007: “Well, guess who won? Guess. Who. Won.”

On not anticipating the meltdown, and ignoring those who warned about it: “How do you call a market when the people that are running the banks and the brokerage firms are lying to you through their teeth? How do you call anything? I was naïve enough that I just believed them all.”

Hmm. Maybe we’ll just take her advice on not spending money you don’t have, and look elsewhere for investing advice.

Update: I totally missed the best quote of the story. This is what she said to Eve Ensler, author of “The Vagina Monologues”: “I see my money the way you see your vagina. I need to know it, I need to touch it, I need to not be afraid of it. And I’m going to give [your foundation] $100,000.”

“Suze Orman: The Money Lady” [WWD via Towleroad]
(Money wreath: AMagill)


Edit Your Comment

  1. howie_in_az says:

    She was on CNN a few months ago saying to simply get a HELOC if you can’t pay your bills.

  2. pb5000 says:

    I’ve shared this here before, but I met Suzy back in the mid 90’s right as her fame was starting to take off. I had no idea who she was and I could tell it really got on her nerves. I was a hotel bellman who helped her take her stuff to the conference room where she was doing a book signing. She gave me a signed copy of her book and I brushed it off with a half hearted “gee thanks” and you could practically see the steam coming out of her ears, so filled with the ” why don’t you like me?” frustrations.

  3. BridgetSacratomato says:

    She did a booksigning at the Borders I used to work at many years ago (when her books were starting to sell but before the tv show). She seemed to have an air of entitlement about her even back then. I had to take a taxi to Whole Foods to get her some Pellegrino because regular bottle wasn’t good enough for her.

    Bruce Campbell was much cooler…

    so was Danny Bonaduce for that mater.

    • Chris Walters says:

      @BridgetSacratomato: I would think Bruce Campbell would be much cooler than the vast majority of authors at book signings. Although John Hodgman was pretty fun at my local B&N earlier this year.

  4. parkavery says:

    Is it “Sooz” or “Sooz-ee”? I’ve never actually heard someone pronouncing her name.

  5. Brett Tabor says:

    I remember her warning the housing market would collapse… and that warning was years ago.

    I think she’s one of the most honest, hard-working, and passionate self-help gurus out there, and I’ll trust her guidance in the months ahead.

  6. HogwartsAlum says:

    BridgetSacrotomato & Chris Walters:

    I HATE it when you go to see/hear someone speak or get a book signed or something and they act all entitled. The writers I’ve met haven’t been like that (so far). I PROMISE when I finally get there that I will NOT do that!

    pb5000: I didn’t know who this woman was either until recently reading about her on this site. Ha, Suze!

  7. bohemian says:

    There were a few people predicting both the housing bust and that the market would have a big hit. Those people were drown out by everyone else chanting the same incorrect information.

    • usern4me says:

      @bohemian: I’m a high school dropout, and I predicted the housing fall. I don’t understand how people who are paid to predict these kind of things couldn’t have seen it coming, it was simply unsustainable.

      • rorschachex says:

        @usern4me: It’s because people love to listen to ‘experts’ and heed their advice. These are the same people who read “there’s a chance this might not work” and when it does’t work complain that it should because they said it ‘might not’ work, which implies that it will work.
        Ugh… this whole fiasco is making me really hate people. I want to live on another planet…

  8. Jessica Schwartz says:

    My first thought: She’s 57?!?! Well… I know what she spent HER money on…

  9. SoCalGNX says:

    She started life as a waitress and made her own way in the world. She might not be everyone’s cup of tea but she is refreshing and honest.

  10. Plates says:

    She is on my evil list because she is/was fronting one of those annoying PBS pledge drive shows. You know the kind – you tune in for something like This Old House and it is some idiot who can’t afford an infomercial hawking books and DVDs as pledge gifts.

  11. ChuckECheese says:

    It’s easy for me to imagine Suze passing me a blue plate special across the counter in a diner somewhere. She was probably a really good cook before she became a lesbian.

  12. dorastandpipe says:

    Comments not working for me to reply so I am putting this here:

    I have seen her on MANY shows and every one calls her Sue-Z. Not Soooooz.

  13. redkamel says:

    my pot smoking neighbor told me everything was going to collapse and to buy gold. This was in 2006. I didnt realize until now he what he meant. I was thinking he meant like far in future. Now my stuffs gone to shit and hes sitting pretty on a stack of gold.

    He is a smart man (owned his own busnines, made his own hours, etc..)

  14. jp7570 says:

    Anyone that takes financial advice from someone on television – someone that does not know you and your specific needs – gets what they deserve.

    In the end, it is all about entertainment, ratings, and selling ad space and books.

    Steve Martin said it best 30 years ago – “Here’s how to make a million dolalrs and never pay taxes. First, get a million dollars. Then, when they ask why you didn’t pay your taxes, just remember two words – I Forgot.”

    For all the value that the Ormans and the Cramers bring to the public, Steve Martin’s advice is about as valuable.

  15. wcvarones says:

    I don’t care about her Fair Isaac or Ameritrade huckster deals, but why on earth is the FDIC paying her at the same time they are asking for a $500 billion taxpayer bailout?

  16. superj711 says:

    I like her jackets.

  17. godlyfrog says:

    I take offense at her comment, “How do you call a market when the people that are running the banks and the brokerage firms are lying to you through their teeth? How do you call anything? I was naïve enough that I just believed them all.”

    An engineer knows that if you put 12 volts at 1 amp into a black box with no other inputs and you get 24v at 1a on the other end, that something is up. If she’s really a financial guru, she should have at least had an inkling. Considering her personality, if she even had a clue, she would have been screaming it from the rooftops.

    On another note, blaming the president for the entire economy is giving him far more credit than anyone could possibly be given, and blaming the investors for Madoff’s crimes is equally stupid. This woman may be marketable, but a financial guru she is not.

    • I_am_Awesome says:

      She’s more of a personal finance guru. I would trust her to tell me the implications of putting $X in a 401k vs a traditional IRA vs a Roth IRA vs other options, but I wouldn’t trust her to tell me what to invest in or when.

  18. Anonymous says:

    Here’s a bit of unsolicited advise from a Financial Advisor about Suze Orman: Be wary of financial advise from someone who talks in terms of “always” and “never”. Suze gives general advise that can be extremely damaging to people who follow her based on her fame. She has zero accountability to the people who listen to her

    The advice I’ve given my clients has made them safe and secure in this troubled market because I work with them all individually and don’t take the “one size fits all approach”. Suze fosters the “you against the system” angle to great success.

  19. Jesse says:

    Orman and Ramsey, as much as I hate them, do serve a benefit to the public. Not everyone can pick up the WSJ, Kiplingers or Financial Times and understand what’s in it. Those people need a different type of middle man to translate all this finance speak to them. The shows have to be somewhat entertianing because nobody would watch them if they weren’t.

    In the end, if these bozos at least make people think about their finances, I say they are a necessary evil.

  20. Trencher93 says:

    Does her self-told biography withstand scrutiny? Many financial gurus take certain liberties with their life stories to make them more compelling. I know there are others whose life stories have been investigated and found wanting. I’m drawing a blank on the name, but one claims to have been a Marine, and he back-doored his way into the Corps through unusual Vietnam-era circumstances and never went through basic training or anything, and I don’t think he saw actual combat.

  21. Trencher93 says:

    “…Ramsey, as much as I hate them, do serve a benefit to the public”

    Ramsey does not – he is just an idiot. I tried to listen to his material, and he is in a la-la land where people get 8-12% return on their money, even in material revised in 2003. Sure, that would fix a lot of problems, wouldn’t it? With such rosy assumptions, his material is not useless, it’s harmful.

    (If you want to know how to get those returns, he won’t tell you … unless you buy something else…)

  22. ElizabethD says:

    I’m the same age as Suze and I crave her fabulous looks.

  23. feckingmorons says:

    I always confuse her with Ellen Degeneris. I wouldn’t take advice from either of them.

  24. kwsventures says:

    Only a financial novice would listen to her act.

  25. cowboyesfan says:

    She was really mad that she can’t leave her fortune to her younger girlfriend. If she can’t figure out to avoid inheritance taxes, how much of a financial genius can she be?

  26. Allen Harkleroad says:

    I prefer Dave Ramsey over Suze Orman. Dave lives what he preaches.

  27. bdgbill says:

    Ugh – I cannot stand this woman. She is one of the rare celebrities who’s on screen persona is almost indistinguishable from the parody of herself on SNL (Doctor Phil is another one).

    Her advice boils down to “Spend your youth working your fingers to the bone and spending nothing so you may have a chance of taking that trip to Paris when your 65”

    Screw that. If I’m lucky enough to live until old-age, I will have all the best stories to tell at the state-run old-folks home.

  28. oneandone says:

    I found her books (especially Young, Fabulous & Broke) to be extremely useful, particularly as an intelligent & relatively young person who didn’t have the healthiest relationship with money and whose financial situation (esp student loans) wasn’t addressed in traditional personal finance books or websites.

    This was a few years ago, and now facing the post-college world with a lot of different kinds of debts and obligations (like moving) is a pretty common topic, but for a while there was just a bunch of condescending (just don’t buy lattes!) or out-of-touch advice from older people who did not have the magnitude of student loan debt most people today have.

    Suze outlines things in a very no-nonsense way, lets the reader know they have options, and helps you think through long-term consequences. She also reaches a lot of audiences who don’t fall into the markets most personal finance books addressed AND who often have an emotional relationship with money and finance. She’s not for everyone, but that’s fine. And if she feels like acting like a diva, that’s fine too. I enjoy divas when their skills make it worth it.