I recently read an article in the NY Times Magazine on Suze Orman. I know this wasn’t her intention, but I walked away from the article thinking she was a fake.
I never had positive or negative things to say about her, I just knew she was like an “evangelist propagating her financial epistles” which unfortunately happens to be one size fits all. But, now I have negative things to say.
Hasn’t Walked the Walk
I respect everyone who follows what they preach; people who talk the talk AND walk the walk. There are plenty of financial bloggers out there who are doing just that. I respect all of them whole-heartedly. They make their income, save what they can, and pay off debt.
However, how can Suze Orman truly understand the plight of the everyday man and woman when she really doesn’t know how to pay off debt in the sense of sacrificing day in and day out for five years or more to pay off little by little?
As taken from the NY Times Magazine article:
“As soon as I started to tell the truth, and everyone knew what the situation was,” she said, “the phone rings and it’s Pacific Gas and Electric having another early retirement.” The company hired Orman to advise its employees, and “in one month I got a check for $250,000 and went, ‘Oh, my God,’ and paid off all my debt. I started getting checks like that again, and my whole life turned around.”
How many people can just start telling the truth and wind up with a $250,000 check to pay off all of their debt? No one that I know.
But, Suze Orman is just so quick to judge and ridicule, isn’t she? I would place a lot more authority on her advice had she worked diligently at paying off her debt and not done it in a way that 99.99% of people won’t ever get the chance to do. I don’t blame her, so don’t walk away thinking that. But I think it takes away from her ability to claim herself as an authority figure on debt repayment.
Complete Disrespect of Teachers
I have a great respect for teachers. You may call me biased because my aunt, sister, girlfriend, and a lot of my other family and friends are teachers, and that is fine. Everyone is biased to some degree. But, I think I can outright call Suze Orman an idiot for this opinion.
She has been reluctant to work on school curricula on personal finance, because she says students can’t learn empowerment from people who aren’t empowered, and teachers, she says, are too underpaid ever to have any real self-worth. She told me: “When you are somebody scared to death of your own life, how can you teach kids to be powerful? It’s not something in a book — it ain’t going to happen that way.”
Well, Suze, tell me: If students can not learn personal finance from people who have learned to live on an income close to the national average, please tell me, how can they learn it from someone worth over $20 million who only got out of debt by receiving a $250,000 check from PGE?
If anyone is in a position to teach people about finances, it sure isn’t someone who was placed in lucky circumstances. It is people who know the value of service and contribute to their community by teaching the youth of today (our future). These are people who make $40-60,000/year who have learned to survive on that salary.
I never knew that Suze Orman defined empowerment as being wealthy.
Hypocrisy at it’s Finest
If you called in to the show and told Suze that you were planning on buying real estate and had two options:
- Nice 1,300 sq ft condo for $x
- Nice 1,300 sq ft condo 5 miles away for 3 times $x;
Something tells me she would be adamantly against option #2. However, what did she and her partner do?
With her partner, Kathy Travis, she bought an apartment at the Plaza in Manhattan in late 2007 — paying top dollar near the peak of the market — but their apartment is in other respects quite modest: a 1,275-square-foot one-bedroom in which they installed a Murphy bed.
Why get a modest apartment in a top dollar area? Is that not wasteful nonetheless? Why not get a modest apartment in a modest area? New York City has a great mass transit system so being 5 miles away keeps you just as connected.
Also, Suze Orman often states that the only way to free yourself of debt is to be honest. However, in the NYT Magazine article linked above she is presumably caught in a lie. In a previous book she discussed how her father passed away. In the article she mentions how he committed suicide and was essentially giving up. When confronted she said she probably made it seem more peachy in the book for her mother. Honesty, Suze, honesty.
Too Much Emphasis on Money
I am huge on balance. Without balance, in my opinion, you wind up an empty shell. Too much money and no heart, you are a pain to be around. Too much heart and no money, you just can’t afford to “be.”
What does Suze think?
But she also wanted them to know that “money is kind of just like air — if you don’t have air, you can’t breathe. If you don’t have money, I don’t think you’ll want to breathe — you won’t want to live.”
Money is like air? I can agree that money is essential in some respect. But I don’t think that is the purpose of the simile.
Even if I was broke, I would like to think that I have the presence of mind that I still have self-worth.
I am not defined by my money.
He had escaped the fire safely once, untouched. Then he voluntarily risked his life and was severely injured. The money was that important. That was when I learned that money is obviously more important than life itself.”
And if that is the lesson she got from that event with her father, I feel bad for her. My first thought when I read the recollection of this event was “Wow, that is so unfortunate that he risked his life and could have widowed his wife or orphaned his children for money.” What do you take away from that event? Hopefully it isn’t the same conclusion that she reached.
Do not risk hurting other people or yourself or trading happiness for money. No amount of money can correct those mistakes.
Like Peddling Salads at Burger King
I understand that everyone needs to eat. And Suze Orman is no different. I have no issue with her making money on her work, obviously. Just like I think it is only natural that bloggers put up ads or sell affiliate services to make money on their hard work.
Google Adsense is harder to control, but when I see an ad I think is questionable I try to block it. However, when it comes to affiliate programs I never recommend something I have not tried or heard great things about. ING Electric Orange? I use it and recommend it. Turbo Tax? I have used it for the past six years and it makes things very convenient in my opinion. TrustedID? One of my past employers lost confidential data and got all of the employees a free trial to make sure our credit was safe.
So my problem with Suze Orman in this arena?
[…] Orman said to The Chicago Tribune a few years back, when she was criticized for shilling a zero-percent-interest campaign for General Motors in a television ad that ran for a few weeks. Critics charged that she was compromising her objectivity (and that she hurt her credibility by implicitly endorsing the purchase of new cars, which she, like most financial planners, characterizes as a money-losing proposition). “You think they don’t know I was paid to do the G.M. commercial?” Orman said of her viewers. “I’m not in this for charity. This is a business, and anybody who thinks that it’s not a business is an idiot.”
Granted, every time she appears on QVC, Orman is probably selling to some people who have trouble with debt; selling kits on QVC about how to improve your credit rating is a little bit like being the in-house nutritionist selling salads at Burger King. Critics say Orman sells products like the $48 FICO kit on QVC to the people who can least afford them.
I am sorry if you built up trust with me as a viewer so I thought anything you recommended was actually in good faith. Whether it is a business or not, I think you should stand by the product you sell. Just as I won’t sell ad blocks to pay day loan providers, Suze Orman should not do commercials for things she does not vouch for. Is she not making enough off of the book deals and $80,000 per speaking event?
What Others Think
If you want to get included on these Twitter question/answers, follow me @MyLifeROI.
- @mapgirlstc Love Suze’s books, but I cannot stand her TV show. I think she makes a lot of sense and has a message that ppl need to hear.
- @GetOutOfDebtGuy Suze – I’d love to see more compassion and understanding for debtors and less spanking.
- @stephonee I like that people listen to her (her advice is pretty good for a “guru”) – many people need that “tough love” approach
- @Green_Panda While Suze’s young, broke, and fabulous was a good starting guide. Wish she ran numbers a bit more like ramit.
- @MoneyEnergy Suze: oversimplified finances good for those who don’t figure it out on their own but not someone whose advice I’ve found useful.
- @The_Weakonomist Suze is smart and energetic, like Ramsey she’s not perfect but is a good motivator and teacher.
- @jeffrosecfp RE: Suze Orman. Great entertainer, sometimes question some of her logic and contradicting view points, but some is good…some
- @TheHappyRock I don’t particularly connect with her or her advice, but I think she has been empowering for a lot of women with regards to money
- @ManVsDebt She has awesome story, very hard working, however I personally don’t feel connection, don’t enjoy advice, have better options.
What Do You Think?
You have heard what I think. And you see what other bloggers think (in 140 characters), so what do you think? Am I being too hard on her? Or not hard enough?