Why I Love to Hate Suze Orman

My first experience with Suze Orman was the day I graduated from college. Everyone was handing me cards full of money (which I later wasted on clothes and electronics), but my sister decided to buy me Suze’s book, The Money Book for the Young, Fabulous, and Broke. I’ll admit I was a little upset. First of all, the book cost around $20, and I would have preferred the cash. Second, was my sister calling me broke? It was the type of gift you pretend to be excited about, like underwear in size XXXXXL from your senile great aunt. I deposited the book on my overloaded bookshelf and forgot about it for a long time.

A year later, as most of you know, I was out of grad school, jobless, and on my way to Chapter 7 bankruptcy. I wasn’t ready to make any major changes to my finances, but I was aggravated that I’d let things get so out of control. I picked up Suze’s book, thinking maybe I’d learn something helpful (but probably not, because I was so darn smart).

My first thought: What an annoying writing style! Suze tries to relate to “young people” by referring to them as Girlfriend or Boyfriend. A lot. If you’ve seen her show, you know what I’m talking about. It drives me insane when someone pretends to know what it’s like to be in my shoes - I’d rather s/he just admit that life was different when s/he was my age. The book is full of assumptions about Generations X and Y, most of which I found untrue and irrelevant. Reading the book reminded me of this rant from my 7th grade English teacher:

You guys think you know everything! But you’re lazy! You want to “surf the web” or whatever it’s called and get those phones you can carry around with you. You want an easy way out. You’re too worried about who you’re taking to the dance to pay attention in my class! And I’m tired of it!

The entire message of Suze’s book seemed to be, You’re too young and stupid to make the right decisions. But I’m super smart and rich so I’ll teach you some things. And I wasn’t prepared to hear that message at the time, so I returned the book to my shelf.

But Wait…. There’s More!

By 2007, I had a full time job and (I thought) better control of my finances. Sure, my ex-husband and I were broke, but we had so much STUFF to show for it! Since we’d wiped out most of our debt with the bankruptcy, we were using my paychecks to spend, spend, and spend some more. Eventually I began to see the flaw in this plan.

I returned to The Money Book for the Young, Fabulous, and Broke one day to see if I could stomach Suze’s writing and prevent another financial meltdown. I’ll admit it was a little easier the second time around, though it still seemed difficult to relate my struggles to the sections of the book. Where was the section for people who had already screwed things up? We already owned cars and a home. We already had credit cards. I had tons of student loans. In my mind, it was too late to worry about retirement and savings because we were too far in debt. Again. So I returned the book to my shelf. Again. I decided Suze Orman’s advice was useless and I would find another finance guru to follow.

In the meantime, my regular readers know how my story goes: I continued spending. I refused to admit responsibility for my stupid mistakes. Rinse and repeat.

Third Time’s a Charm

In late 2009 when I was in the process of getting divorced, I started watching Suze Orman’s show on CNBC. Same abrasive personality, only in visual form. Ugh. But I noticed something while I was watching - yes, she was still annoying, but people were calling in to her show left and right to get her advice. I wondered, Why would so many people want Suze Orman’s permission to buy a car or go on vacation? Why wouldn’t they just do it?

The more I watched, I realized that your financial advisor shouldn’t be someone you would be friends with in real life. Because what do your friends do? They support you even when they think you’re wrong. More than likely, they are making a lot of the same mistakes you do. And they won’t tell you the truth because they don’t want to hurt your feelings.

Suze Orman and I are not BFFs. We would never hang out on the weekends because I would probably run away screaming. But that’s exactly what makes her so popular!

Returning for a moment to my ranting 7th grade teacher…What do you do if you want a teacher to stop griping at you? You do what she says. So what do you do if you don’t want to hear Suze Orman’s obnoxious comments? You do what she says. If you’re using credit responsibly, saving for retirement, and keeping up with your flipping FICO scores like she constantly harps about, you are doing exactly what you should be. You won’t need to call her show to see if you can afford a $5000 handbag because you already know what she’ll say.

A Compromise?

Despite figuring out why Suze Orman makes millions of dollars being irritating, I still don’t like her. When I turn on her show, my son yells from the other room, “Turn that down! I don’t want to hear that woman!” And I totally feel his pain. But I watch Suze Orman’s show, not because I like her, but precisely because I don’t like her. When I’m tempted to spend money irresponsibly, I imagine her nagging at me on her show. I pretend she’s watching what I do, trying desperately to find something to complain about. I try my best to make this imaginary Suze Orman shut her face so I can live my life.

Psychotic? Maybe a little. But it works!

The fact is, there are tons of people out there making money by telling other people what to do with their money. You don’t have to watch someone if you don’t agree with what they say. But don’t discount a guru’s advice just because you don’t like them personally. If you find someone who you just love to pieces, I believe you’re more likely to ignore what they say. Because you think they’re so nice and agreeable they would forgive you if they knew the whole story. And believe me, it’s easy to justify stupid stuff when you convince yourself that some famous financial person would understand.

Who is your favorite financial advisor? Least favorite? How do their personalities affect the way you absorb and implement their advice?

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