BY NELSON A GARCIA
Suze Orman grew up in the inner city on the South side of Chicago. Believe it or not, at 30 years of age, she was a waitress making $400 a month. Through a great deal of hard work and dedication, she became America’s Personal Finance Expert. You know her best from her weekly television show, “The Suze Orman Show” as well as from her seven PBS specials. 55+ had the pleasure of speaking with Suze about her life, her success and her advice and recommendations for our readers.
55+ The Suze Orman Show has been one of the highest rated shows on CNBC.... tell us why you think it has been such a great success?
SO I am somebody who does not hold back and speaks the truth, not just words. When people speak about money, they speak in terms, words and phrases that most people do not understand and they ask themselves, “what are they talking about?” When people see somebody being real about money and they do not hold back and are willing to say “ARE YOU KIDDING ME? ARE YOU STUPID?” they can relate to not only what I am saying but they can relate to the people that are calling in as well. It’s a show that relates to the masses, no matter how much money you have. It relates to you whether you are in the lower, upper or middle class, whether you are male or female, whether you are Christian, Jewish or of any other religion. It’s a show that is inclusive rather than exclusive. Personal Finance is very different than economics. Personal finance affects everybody personally.
55+ I have to ask you about your belief in “People First, Then Money, Then Things.” How did this come about?
SO With Elisa my neighbor. It must have been 1998 or 1999. I was still living in Oakland Hills at that time. I came out of my driveway and was going for a walk. There was Elisa and her little sister sitting in their driveway selling lemonade for 10 cents a glass. They must have been 5 and 3 years old. I went over and started talking to them about how they figured out their prices. I thought they were selling it way too cheap. As we were sitting there and talking, I said, “What are the most important things in your life?” She thought with tremendous effort and said, “Well, my house, my candy, my money, my tv and my Mom and Dad.” So I said, “Allright, lets talk about this for a second.” She actually put money right before Mom and Dad but all the other things first. I said, “So what does it take to buy the tv?” She said, “money.” I said, “What does it take to get candy?” She said, “money.” I said, “What does it take to get this house?” She said, “money.” I said, “So, what did it take to get Mommy and Daddy?” She said, “love.” So I said, “Don’t you think you have this a little bit reversed? Don’t you think it should be Mommy and Daddy (people), then money, then things?” Then she said “YEAH!” That’s EXACTLY how it started. Just that simple.
55+ In the last few years you have been named as one of the most influential people in the world by several top magazines. How does this make you feel?
SO Hmm.... very satisfied, but not for the reason you might think. It was those same magazines that wrote some of the most absolutely, horrific articles on me. Those exact, same magazines made fun of me when I first started. They asked what a woman, who did not have any type of fi nancial degree, who talked about spirituality and money, who talked to minorities rather than the majority, and talked about money having an energy force of its own...what would she know about anything? The magazines would call me “Suze the Floozie” or Suze with nothing more than just hype. Why are we all listening to her anyway? Are you kidding? And now, a few years later, those exact same magazines name me as one of the most influential people in the world, or one of the top 100 women in the world. This is a true indication that if you continue to do what you think is right, regardless of what people say about you, they will eventually come around and even honor you. I have since learned to let people think what they want to think because I now know they were wrong. It takes a tremendous amount of faith in yourself and in God to learn the truth as well. You know how it feels and when it feels right. It doesn’t matter what other people say about you. Now, ten years later they are honoring me. It has rectified what they said about me in the past.
55+ You appeared on the “Oprah’s Allstars” show in 2011. Tell us a little about that experience.
SO Well, it was actually my idea that Dr. Oz, Dr. Phil and myself all come together. All of us, in my opinion, owe our careers to Ms. Winfrey. She really did, in her way, make allstars out of all of us. She was starting a network and obviously, that must have been a very important thing for her. It would seem to me that the greatest gift that we could give back to Oprah was for all of us to come together and do that show. The first time we did it, it was absolutely fabulous! It was the first time that the three of us appeared on a stage together in a consistent format. It was the first time I really appeared with Dr. Phil, ever. It was fun and a delightful experience. It was everything you could have hoped for and a real highlight for me.
55+ You have received more Gracie Awards (The Gracies recognize the nation’s best radio, television and cable programming for, by, and about women) than anyone in the 35 year history of this award. You must take great pride in this.
SO Hmm.... would I be ungrateful if I said NO? I’ve won Emmys, I’ve won this and won that. That isn’t what gives me great pride. What gives me great pride is when I get a letter or somebody stops me in the street and they say, “Suze, you saved my life! Oh my God, Suze! When I first started listening to you I had $30,000 in credit card debt, I was living in my car, I was this and I was that, and now look at me!” I cannot quite explain it. It isn’t that the gratitude does not come from being recognized, the gratitude in my life comes from understanding the transformation that people have done in their own lives because of the information that somehow has funneled through me. THAT is the most gratifying of all. While my Gracies and my Emmys are all around me, and it really is quite something to even think that Suze Orman won 2 national daytime Emmys, it’s still like.... “Are you kidding me?” Now that I am almost 61, I think about what will happen to them when I die.....will anyone even care that there are awards with my name on them? But when I think of the people whose lives have been transformed, whose families have been saved, that will continue on with tremendous energy, those are the things that I spend my time thinking about.
55+ Our readers have enjoyed your books such as, “Women and Money” and “The Money Class” to name a few. Which book do you feel is a must read for our Baby Boomers and why?
SO It’s not that one book can replace another book. It depends on your needs. Today, in 2012, and if I had only ONE to choose, I would say ‘The Money Class. It’s like going back to school again.
55+ What should the Baby Boomers concentrate on in preparing for retirement?
SO Having absolutely no debt, having as much money in savings and retirement accounts as possible and making sure they have a will and a trust. They should also make sure, if they do have children, that they have term life insurance. If they own a home and plan on staying there, then having it paid off as soon as possible should be their number one goal. This is why “The Money Class” is such a great book because it goes into great detail on this subject. They need to understand that nobody is going to save them but themselves. They need to take this very seriously and probably will have to work until they are 67 or 70.
55+ Prepaid cards have become very important in the market and I noticed that “The Approved Card from Suze Orman” was listed as one of the 5 best cards due to its low fees. Please tell us about the benefits of this card?
SO If they really understood that card, they would always rank it as number one. To live in today’s world, you need a piece of plastic. There are 70 million people currently that are using prepaid cards and it is projected to be 120 million in the next few years. What is so sad is that the majority of the cards, in my opinion, charge people way too much money. They give you no benefits and no services. You have to pay a lot of fees for using those cards. I decided that I needed to do something about it and I put in over $1 million of my own money. I created The Approved Card. The name came from the ‘Can I afford it?’ segment. I believe it is one of the lowest, if not the lowest cost card in the market. When it first came out, many people lied about it. You also get benefits like identity theft protection free, unlimited TransUnion credit reports, credit monitoring, a text or email when you charge something to the card, and you can pay your bills online free. If people use it the way I tell them to use it,
they would not pay more than $3 a month. This card will be everything that you would want it to be.
55+ How do you feel about entering your 60’s?
SO My years have given me a maturity that only years can give. It has made me not so vulnerable or sensitive to what others say. It has given me a conviction in the work that I have done and only made me feel stronger about my beliefs in what I have done. It has given me something to look forward to. My partner and I can spend our future living on a boat. Not traveling the world, but living on the ocean and on the water. We plan on starting that part of our lives very soon.
55+ We know that you love South Florida and spend some of your time here.....
SO As much as I can. It is my residency and I could not love it more. If you said to me, Suze you could only pick one place to live from this point on, it would be right here in South Florida.... ARE YOU KIDDING ME? •
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