June 17, 2005

"The evident rush of adrenaline that comes from confronting America's boneheaded middle class."

Virginia Heffernan looks at Suze Orman.
Consider just one typical exhortation, derived by Ms. Orman from the given importance of people over money. She recently told the daughter of a mooch that she ought to leave her father to his bottomless debt, just as the woman's mother had done.

Speaking of the mother, Ms. Orman said, "She had the courage to look at the man that she loved and say, 'Sweetheart, you're going down the drain, but you're not taking me with you!' " This, she told the tremulous girl, is what she should also say to her father: down the drain with you.

Heffernan doesn't resist referring to "her hectic manner and garish appearance" and "the kick she gets from divining the straits her guests are in - "Crossing Over"-style."

Orman has invented a pretty cool TV niche for herself, hasn't she? What do you think? Can't switch channels fast enough? Or do you mean to click past but find yourself strangely fascinated?


Eric said...

I don't watch or care about the show. However, I once had to work with Suze Orman on a professional basis -- a couple of meetings that might have led to a licensed product but didn't. The woman is only slightly less intense off camera than she is on the air. Holy mackerel, were those a couple of exhausting meetings.

In the course of conversation, she discovered that my colleague had just leased a car. You would have thought he had confessed to drowning a sack of kittens. She laid into him with full ardor, and he may in fact have been a good three inches shorter when he left than he was when he came in.

I like strong personalities like that... for a while. I wasn't too displeased when the potential business alliance went south.

Eric Berlin

JLP said...

Suze had one good book that I recommend called The Road to Wealth. I like the Q&A format and for the most part her advice is right on.

I lost a lot of respect for her once she started advertising for GM. It wouldn't have been so bad if she wasn't always preachng about getting out of debt. Anyway, that just didn't sit well with me.

JLP at AllThingsFinancial

AJ Lynch said...

I too don't watch the show. However, you can't avoid Osman if you watch PBS. So, what gives with that? How many hours per week should PBS devote to one commodity? It's shades of the Bill Moyer production group- I believe in capitalism but Orman must be making a bundle off of PBS exposure! and that's a little questionable to me- It appears the PBS producers are lazy and don't actually produce much of their own original programing.

Dave said...

Have never watched Orman.

However, I think the concept of financial literacy is a vitally important one, about which many people seem to be ignorant.

How can it be a bad thing for Orman to want people to become more knowledgeable about their own finances?

Tonya said...

I have a problem with the name Suze. It feels incomplete.

Slac said...

While flipping the channels I saw her as a guest on a daytime talk show. She was talking to a mother and a daughter. The mother had bailed her daughter out of credit card debt but insisted that she be paid back. Suze asked a very straight question to the daughter. "Would you rather be in debt to credit card companies or your mother?" She said the credit card companies. Very logically, she said to the mother, "you see, you have just made your daughter's life worse."

And she did. They followed with comments about how their relationship is worse and how badly the mother feels when the daughter buys new shoes instead of paying the money back. Then she asked the mother, "if you could go back in time, would you make the same decision?" The mother said yes, I love my daughter. And Suze said to the audience, "here we have two people who have not learned a thing from each other."

That's a message that people need to hear. I know of plenty of relationships, including ones in my own family, where overgrown children in debt ask their parents for money. The parents of course oblige and both parties turn the relationship into hell. Suze was a genuine guide.

I rarely watch her at all, but that NYT article's supposed contradiction of her "people first, then money, then things" motto is missing the lineage of those terms. Responsible use of money comes from responsible people. When you give money to irresponsible people, they are no closer to recognizing their problem. You would be placing too much importance on money, believing it actually has the power to help people. It hurts you and it hurts the people you're trying to help. Letting the father go down the drain financially is the right thing to do. He'll be in a better position to stand on his own and stay standing. You can't buy someone's self-responsibility.

Suze may sound harsh. But from what I've seen, she's right.

chuck_b said...

Tonya's remark made me guffaw.

I think what Suze does is great, although I am neutral on her personally. While channel surfing, I may linger on her for a minute or two, but I would never tune in to watch her. I also sometimes read her articles on finance.yahoo.com.

I think it might be nice to have many different demi-celebrity financial adivsors w/ different styles and different appeals. If we can have celebrity chefs, why not celebrity financial advisors?

Culture is soaked in romantic images of financial disaster... Carrie Bradshaw and her closet full of Manolo's, for example. On one Sex & the City episode she couldn't come up w/ a mortgage down payment because she'd spent all her money on shoes. It was sad for about 30 seconds and then it was fun and romantic. In real life, many, many people use images like this to romanticize being broke and financially over-extended. In reality, it's as devestating and depressing as a drug addiction. Suze is the antidote. People benefit greatly from getting real about $. And, sadly, they don't often get that from parents.

The downside: everyone talking about money all the time. It's tacky and it's boring. Money's tricky... On one hand we benefit from a frank discussion of it, on the other hand it coarsens us. Doesn't it?

Gerard said...

Just another crummy and hectoring media personality among a myriad dedicated to profiting off the misery of others.

That's all she is. Deep down, she's shallow.

Lori said...

I have had the chance to watch a few shows while running on the treadmill. I don't like the glee over taking apart the dire financial situations of others that she seems to have. However, like many of the other help shows out there, I acknowledge that there are some people who really need to be told, gruffly, the truth in order to act.

Personally, I get more of a kick from listening to Mad Money while running -- Jim Cramer cracks me up.


Mark Daniels said...

Suze Orman was just a name to me when, a few years back, my wife and I saw her on Oprah Winfrey's show. Winfrey announced that her production team had sent Orman to consult with a Chicago-area couple who had evidently found it difficult to save money in spite of their both being professionals of substantial income. (I forget what profession the woman pursued. The man was a lawyer.)

Orman went to the couple's house and almost immediately opened their closet. She found it to be lacking in neatness and professed in this, to have found the key to understanding their failure to save money. "Money," she told the couple, "doesn't like to go where it's not welcomed. Your cluttered house doesn't welcome money." (I'm paraphrasing, here.)

The couple greeted this stupid counsel with all the credulity of four year olds.

My wife and I rolled our eyes and turned off the television.

There have been two long-term results from that brief exposure to Orman:

(1) Whenever we see her face on TV, we switch the station.

(2) We made mental notes to remind ourselves that no matter how educated people may be--including ourselves, they can still be suckered.

Birkel said...

My thoughts on Ms. Orman,

The advice to spend less than you make shouldn't be novel. The advice to not buy on credit shouldn't be novel.

So I don't understand why she's on TV, which means she's never on mine for more than 5 seconds.

dick said...


Granted that the advice shouldn't be novel but unfortunately to many it seems to be the case. If Suze Orman can get the thought to people that it shouldn't be novel then she will have earned her money and helped them at the same time. Not everybody is as bright at money matters as you are and they need to havwe this message knocked into their heads. If she does that, then she deserves to be on television for those people. Since you don't need it, then you are right to skip on by but not right to say that she should not be on television.

Joe said...

I used to watch Suze Orman, but got tired of putting on sunscreen to protect me from the reflection of her teeth.

Sloanasaurus said...

I find her intensly boring mostly because everything she says seems like common sense to me. After all I do work in the finance world.

However, I am grateful that she reaches many others who are dismal on money and economics. Most are clueless.

I challenge anyone on this board to explain in one paragraph where money comes from.... if you don't know maybe you should start listening to Suze too.

amba said...

When she was growing up she was "Susie," and Suze is pronounced the same way.

jk said...

Having grown up in a relatively financially ignorant blue-collar area, I saw a lot of folks who could benefit Suze’s tough truth. I think it's near criminal that there schools don't provide some sort of “Handling Your Money 101”. It would be more useful long-term than much of the other course work.

Seven Years of College Down the Drain said...

All I can say is I pity the poor sumbi*** whose lot it is to be MISTER Orman.

Slac said...

Sloanasaurus, I'm an Econ major, so I accept your challenge. Let me know if I miss something important (seriously).

Money in its current form comes from governments with discretionary monetary policies. If the nation has its own currency, it introduces money into economies by exchanging printed notes and coins for goods and services. In the process they extract purchasing power in the form of seignorage revenue, the difference between the cost of producing money and its face value. The notes have little intrinsic value but are legal tender and protected by enforcement agencies. The value of money may be artifically altered through monetary policy, or it may be allowed to "float" naturally with supply and demand. Ultimately the value of money rests on the collective faith its users have in its power.

Okay... I probably could've cut out that part about seignorage, but since it's an interesting thing that most people don't know about, I thought I'd leave it in.

Monty Loree said...

My 2¢ worth..

America has a recond amount of per person debt. There are record amounts of bankruptcies, credit counselings etc. People are drunk with debt right now.

You would think that common sense would prevail in this situation. Obviously if people are that much in debt, they aren't using common sense. Actions tell the story.

Suze Orman is merely speaking out to a very sick country financially. If interest rates all of a sudden went up to 12-15% where they were in the 80's, bankruptcies, defaults on loan and credit card payments, mortgage defaults would go through the ceiling.

Suze Orman, love her or hate her, is trying to fill the market niche of bringing the message to the masses.