The outspoken Emmy award winning financial advisor, author, and TV show host Suze Orman has become a highly recognized personal financial expert for millions. She has been a brazen media personality that people watch on her CNBC program “The Suze Orman Show.” She is a frequent writer for Oprah Winfrey’s magazine “O,” and will have her own show on the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) in 2011 called “Money Class. She is frequently listed on the New York Times Bestsellers List for her books—most recently entitled “Suze Orman’s 2010 Action Plan: New Rules for New Times.” In 2008 she was on Time magazine’s top 100 list of the most influential people, and was a recipient that same year of the National Equality Award, and Amelia Earhart Award, for financial empowerment of women. While often satirized on Saturday Night Live, she is a frequent media darling on news and talk show programs. In 2009 the University of Illinois presented her an honorary doctoral degree.
Much of what we understand of her early career focuses on her experience as a waitress in Berkley California, where she moved after dropping out from the University of Illinois (and being roommates with John Belushi). As a waitress she raised $50,000 to start her own restaurant, which her stockbroker at Merrill Lynch then lost by making bad financial deals. After this experience, Orman entered a training program as an account executive at Merrill Lynch—and was hired by the firm. Once at Merrill Lynch, she discovered that the stockbroker that lost her $50,000 did so by committing an illegal financial act. She sued and won the money back from Merrill Lynch, which she repaid back to her former investors.
Based on this story, it is easy to see where her pragmatic, straightforward financial advice and persona originated. Part financial advisor and part motivational speaker, Orman helps others take control and accountability for their investment decisions. While coming off as both contentious and supportive, she emphasizes taking responsibility for your own financial issues. Much of her advice hinges on how you alone are responsible for your finances. As such, her practical advice advocates things like having 8 months worth of savings readily available before you begin investing or committing to a large purchase. She is a believer of increasing your income and savings by seeking out investments with lower fees and costs by using discount brokers, getting rid of unnecessary debt, and cutting unnecessary spending.
For Orman, this advice boils down to empowering and “saving” you from painful debt and stress—which is all too evident during the recent recession. In fact, her last few books specifically examine getting through and setting an action plan for the post-recession period. Orman’s focus on saving, cutting unnecessary fees and costs, and general financial literacy is what has made her such a respected and followed financial guru. While a bit eccentric, her honest approach that there are no free lunches in life, reaches and resonates with millions who depend on her practical and direct advice.