NEXT Summer 2012 : Page 22
“ I wish people had more faith in who they are and what’s possible for them.” SUZE ORMAN S uze Orman’s name is synonymous with money, but a lot of people may not know that this best-selling author, radio and TV talk-show host, and ﬁnancial truth crusader, who teaches people the difference between their wants and their needs, learned what she preaches the hard way. As a child Suze struggled to overcome a speech impediment. She left college before getting a degree in social work, and moved to California where she spent seven years as a waitress at the Buttercup Bakery earning $400 a month. When loyal customers learned about her dream to open her own restaurant they contributed $50,000 toward that venture. Ignorant about managing or investing money and needing to keep what she had safe until she had the full amount, she turned to a broker at Merrill Lynch who put her in risky options and within three months she lost it all. Suze got a job at that same brokerage ﬁrm because they needed to ﬁll their female quota, but she was told she’d be gone in less than six months. Instead she learned during her training that Merrill Lynch had violated policies designed to protect investors so she sued her employer who eventually settled out of court. Suze transformed her life and she teaches others how they can too. Her many books include You’ve Earned It, Don’t Lose It: Mistakes You Can’t Afford to Make When You Retire; The 9 Steps to Financial Freedom; The Laws of Money, The Lessons of Life and her most recent The Money Class: Learn to Create Your New American Dream . The winner of two Emmys, Suze was a regular on The Oprah Winfrey Show and has celebrated her 10th year as the host of The Suze Orman Show on CNBC, which has a segment called Can I Afford It? Not known for sugar coating Suze helps people get a grip on reality and discover the truth, which is people ﬁrst, then money, then things. A Heartfelt Conversation With Suze Orman Interview by Marsala Rypka The Celebrity Scribe 22 22 NEXT SUMMER 2012
A Heartfelt Conversation With Suze Orman
Suze Orman’s name is synonymous with money, but a lot of people may not know that this bestselling author, radio and TV talk-show host, and financial truth crusader, who teaches people the difference between their wants and their needs, learned what she preaches the hard way.
As a child Suze struggled to overcome a speech impediment. She left college before getting a degree in social work, and moved to California where she spent seven years as a waitress at the Buttercup Bakery earning $400 a month. When loyal customers learned about her dream to open her own restaurant they contributed $50,000 toward that venture.
Ignorant about managing or investing money and needing to keep what she had safe until she had the full amount, she turned to a broker at Merrill Lynch who put her in risky options and within three months she lost it all.Suze got a job at that same brokerage firm because they needed to fill their female quota, but she was told she’d be gone in less than six months. Instead she learned during her training that Merrill Lynch had violated policies designed to protect investors so she sued her employer who eventually settled out of court.
Suze transformed her life and she teaches others how they can too. Her many books include You’ve Earned It, Don’t Lose It: Mistakes You Can’t Afford to Make When You Retire; The 9 Steps to Financial Freedom; The Laws of Money, The Lessons of Life and her most recent The Money Class: Learn to Create Your New American Dream.
The winner of two Emmys, Suze was a regular on The Oprah Winfrey Show and has celebrated her 10th year as the host of The Suze Orman Show on CNBC, which has a segment called Can I Afford It? Not known for sugar coating Suze helps people get a grip on reality and discover the truth, which is people first, then money, then things.
Enjoy this heartfelt conversation with Suze Orman where she not only shares who she is but why she’s made it her mission to help millions of others.
What three words best describe you, Suze?
COURAGEOUS. TRUSTWORTHY. PASSIONATE.
It’s courageous to stand in the truth 100% of the time when most of the world, when it comes to money, stands in a lie. It’s courageous to go after the financial institutions that, in my opinion, financially raped America knowing they are the main advertisers on many of the shows I appear on. It’s courageous to do what’s right rather than remain silent which is much easier.
I am trustworthy because I have never put money before people.
I am passionate because at 60 I’m as excited about changing the direction of the financial waters so that people rise rather than sink as I was 30 years ago.
Who are the three people who have most influenced your life?
My father, who died 30 years ago at the age of 71.
He never smoked, but he got emphysema from the smoke he inhaled when the little 400 square-foot fastfood chicken shack he owned caught fire. Every night I Watched him not be able to breathe, yet every morning he’d get up and go to work because he had to support his family. He didn’t have the luxury of slowing down. I learned my work ethic from him so when I work 24 hours a day it’s not like ‘Oh my God, I have to work,’ it’s ‘Thank God I get to work.’
Second was Kiki, the 20 year-old girl my mother hired to look after me while she worked.
My mother lived in total paranoia that there wouldn’t be enough money. She worked as a secretary and hid the fact that she took a second job as an Avon rep to pay the bills so my father, who was always sick, would think he was doing okay. Kiki literally became my mama. When I was old enough to ride a bike, Kiki would send me to the store to buy her a pack of cigarettes for 25 cents. Her boyfriend would beat her up and she always ended up in the hospital. When I asked why she let him do that to her, she said she didn’t have the money to leave. I’d say ‘Kiki, if you didn’t spend a quarter on cigarettes every day maybe you could leave.’ I told her when I grew up and had money I would take care of her forever, but she died at 40 from lung cancer. Without knowing it Kiki taught me to be careful about who you get in a relationship with and what can happen if you don’t have money to leave.
When I was 21 I wrote Kiki a long letter explaining how she’d taught me more about life than my own mother.I forgot she couldn’t read, and she took that letter to my mother to read it to her. It’s important for parents to understand what they give their children and what they take away. Out of that came a healing for all of us. My mother found out the truth about how I felt and why. All of those things made me who I am today.
Third is Ruth Carnovsky who died 10 years ago at the age of 96.
I met Ruth in 1980 when I became a stock broker for Merrill Lynch. I was the only woman in the Oakland office so they gave me all their female clients especially the ones they didn’t think had any money. When I called Ruth she said she hadn’t heard from her Merrill Lynch broker in years. It turned out Ruth had close to a million dollars in Treasury Bonds. I was new in the business and I told her to keep her money where it was.
Ruth had no children so I became her child and she became my role-mother mom. Every Wednesday for 20 years I had lunch with her and I’d take her shopping.She was an extraordinary woman. At the age of six she became a vegetarian and she walked to school with a little sign about not eating animals. She went on to get a PhD from Harvard or Yale and she became a professor at the University of Chicago. She had all these journals and slides of her travels around the world. She never drove; she only took buses. She lived by herself and was so independent and wise. She taught me how powerful knowledge of the world can be and that a woman can make it on her own if she really wants to. Eventually I moved Ruth into an independent living center and remained there until she died. Then I made sure all her money went to her 16 nieces and nephews.I have a funny story to share.
It’s no secret I’m a lesbian and once when Ruth injured herself I drove her to therapy every day. Her therapist was a cute gay woman I started to flirt with. One day the therapist, who had been friendly, was suddenly cold toward me. When we got in the car I asked Ruth what she said to her. Ruth said ‘Suze trust me she’s not your type so I told her we were lovers (laugh).’ Ruth was in her 80s at the time. She always said, ‘Suze, I’m the smartest friend you’ll ever have.’ I’d bring my girlfriends to Ruth for approval and most of the time she’d say, ‘Are you kidding, no.’ She never got to meet my partner Kathy Travis who I met on April 16, 2001, but she would have loved KT.
On Gay Marriage
When President Obama spoke in support of gay marriage I thought I was going to die of happiness. I’m 61 and I never thought I’d see the possibility of it in my lifetime. I’m all about legalization of gay marriage on the federal level because marriage at the state level still gives us no rights financially or medically. KT and I have been together 11 years and there’s something radically wrong with the fact that although we pay lots in taxes and have multi-millions of dollars in each of our names, when one of us dies the surviving partner will have to pay 50 percent in estate taxes, whereas if we were legally married we wouldn’t have to pay a penny.
What are you passionate about?
Changing how the world thinks, feels and acts toward money, one wallet at a time.
I am passionate about revealing the truth behind the financial products that people are being sold. Many of the middle class who aren’t disciplined enough to use credit cards have turned to prepaid debit cards. Some of these cards charge a fee every time you use it that costs people $35 to $50 a month, which is a travesty. Your credit score is based on using credit cards. Using debit cards doesn’t increase your FICO score, which is wrong because you are rewarded for creating debt and penalized for using cash. I’m trying to change that paradigm.
I introduced the Suze Orman Approved Debit Card (TheApprovedCard.com), the first card in history that will share information with TransUnion, one of the three major credit bureaus. We’re doing this in hope that over the next 18-24 months it will be determined if transactions on a debit card can create a credit score. Time will tell. The Approved Card will have features such as FREE identity theft protection and FREE TransUnion credit reports and scores with unlimited updates and 27/7 email updates of critical changes to your TransUnion credit report.Features like this typically would cost you $200 a year.You will get FREE texts/emails every time you swipe the card that gives you a balance update and the amount of transaction. Every morning you will get a text/email with your balance update. There are so many extraordinary features of this card and the fee is only $3 a month, if you pay attention.
What would people be surprised to learn about you?
I don’t care about the things that money can buy. I understand the importance of having it, but I don’t care about amassing huge displays of wealth for others to see. KT and I have four homes because I work in all those places, but I’d be very content with one. And none of them are more than 2,200 square ft. Our apartment in New York is 1,275 square feet. We have a home in San Francisco that KT bought in 1998. We have a home in South Africa where we got married, and the money I make there stays there because I don’t believe in stripping a country of its wealth. Our main home is a two-bedroom, 2,100-square-foot condo in Florida. KT and I also share a car. I keep my cars for at least10 to 12 years. Every time I go to buy a new one, I just can’t do it. My car in Florida only has 30,000 miles. Why do I need a new one?
What is your greatest strength and greatest weakness?
My greatest weakness is I believe people and trust them until they teach me I shouldn’t.
Sadly, most times I’m wrong. I was working with a company hoping to do something good for the students of America and I found out they were only interested in making money. I was so disappointed. When it comes to things like hiring, KT has to make those decisions. I’m no good at it.
My greatest strength is that I always do what’s right versus what’s easy.
I never cross the line. I told that company I would never work with them because I don’t want my brand tainted by them. It didn’t matter how much money I would have made. I do not cross that line. I don’t care if people are getting away with things right now; the truth always comes out like it did with Madoff. I live my life knowing that.
On being outspoken.
I don’t ever use a script on TV or a teleprompter. I did seven PBS specials and when I walked on stage they didn’t have a clue what I was going to say. The six shows I taped for the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN), which is some of the best work I’ve ever done, was all without a teleprompter. I am an unscripted talent with no filter.I was on Larry King’s show 29 times, and his quest was to ask me a question I didn’t know the answer to. It never happened. It’s like flying with very strong wings. One wing is self-effort and the other wing is grace. With those two wings flapping 24 hours a day, you won’t need a net because you will not crash.
Who would you trade places with for 24 hours?
I wouldn’t want to change places with anyone.
Sadly, we live in a political environment where the only thing that counts is political gain, so I’m in the perfect place to change people one by one. I have 1.2 million followers on Twitter and I answer everyone’s questions.I stay real by walking down the street and talking with people. What I do wish is that people could be me for 24 hours so they would really understand what I’m talking about.
Why has society gotten away from delayed gratification and living within their means?
I believe technology and the computer was the beginning of the downfall of patience.
With the stroke of a few keys you could get answers, communicate with people, make and lose money, and that translates into instantaneous gratification. Years ago we had layaway. You’d make payments every week and you didn’t get the merchandise until it was paid for. Credit cards allowed people to get something they didn’t have the money and that was the ruination of things.
Is there any good that has come out of this recession?
I’d like to think people will learn to become financially responsible, but I’ve seen so many people dig themselves out of a financial hole and go right back to their old ways.Most people who declare bankruptcy once, claim it twice.
How should seniors handle their finances?
It used to be the older you got, the less risky you should be with your money. If you had saved $200,000 for retirement and it was in CD’s at 5% you’d make $10,000 a year. Now you get less than 1%. Your plans for the future need to be realistic. Many people can’t retire at 59 or take Social Security before 69 or 70. It should be a priority to have your home paid off by the time you retire.
Even if people own their homes outright there’s still a cost to keep them up. My concern is that with interest rates so low and the prices of homes so low, people will buy more house than they can afford to maintain. The smaller the home, the less the taxes and repairs you will have to make.
Pay off your car and debt as soon as you can. Most people show the world who they want to be versus who they really are by the size of their home, the type of car they drive, etc. When they lose those things they don’t know how to define who they are.
Live below your means, but within your needs. KT and I do, which gives us the ability to save, save, save. We seldom go out to eat. If we’re invited we’ll go, but we’d rather stay home and eat. KT’s a great cook.
What makes you angry?
Lies, whether it’s the financial institutions or people who lie to themselves or others.
Our goal in a few years is to buy a Sea Ray 450 Sundancer and live on it. We’d love to take a year and go around the world on a boat. I’ve learned how to captain one, but not good enough to handle the world wide ocean yet. KT is like MacGyver; she can fix anything on the boat.
Words of wisdom
I wish people had more faith in who they are and what’s possible for them. Not based on the things around them, but by understanding that with just a little bit of effort, they really could change everything that’s not going right in their lives.
Heart to Heart by Marsala
Marsala is a celebrity journalist who lives with her husband in a solar-powered home in Las Vegas. She hopes her writing is entertaining and also offers comfort to those who are hurting, wisdom to those who are seeking, laughter to those need uplifting, insight to those who want clarity and guidance to those who want to take action both personal and globally. Visit Marsala’s website at www.Celebrityscribe.com.