Monday, January 9, 2012

Interview with Suze Orman of America's Money Class

by Amy K. Bredemeyer

Chances are, you've heard of Suze Orman. Probably because of her plethora of books on finance. Or, maybe from her many appearance on Oprah. Or even from The Suze Orman Show, which has been running on CNBC for ten years now. Well, she's about to launch a new show, tonight, on OWN. It's called America's Money Class, which sounds just like her latest book. The show will run six episodes on consecutive Monday nights, where Suze will provide tools and tips to help viewers get control of their financial life. The show will focus on individuals and couples with varying backgrounds, from bankruptcy to financial infidelity and more. But, the "more" extends quite a bit.... In fact, you can win $5,000 (five winners) or $50,000 (one winner) for watching the six episodes, logging on to after the final show, and taking a final exam, which may include an essay question. You'll only have 24 hours to do so, so you'll need to be on the ball with it, but you only need an 80% score to be entered to win! Suze Orman talked about the background behind the "final exam," some bits of financial advice, and more, so take a look at what we learned!

cr: OWN
- The idea for how the show came about: She wrote The Money Class a year or so ago with "the theme that the American Dream has died.... So as I was talking to some of the producers about this book we then came up with an idea of, well, why don't we give a money class?" And, why it's on OWN, specifically: OWN is a good fit since Suze has been on the show nearly 30 times, and has been the financial editor of O Magazine since day one, so she has a following within that camp. She's also sure she's "going to be coming [to Chicago] for The Rosie Show sooner or later." She's "just waiting for them to invite" her.

- I asked about the format of the show being six episodes/classes, as the book has many more lessons than that, and Suze responded that "the show really kind of took a life on of its own... in that it wasn't meant to follow the book class by class. The original idea was, 'let's do that,' but the people who were writing in and who wanted help really wanted more than that." She also mentioned that she "was not scripted. I get to do exactly what I wanted to do, which is, you know, the only way I know how to roll." Also, every single person with whom she interacts on the show, she has followed up with. They all have her email address and "every single one of them I've spent a good hour on the phone with just recently, maybe a month ago... I have been in touch with every single one of them in great detail." Will we, the audience, find out how they're doing? "I would love if we were able to see that all online or in a future series but we'll have to see first how the show does."

- Oh, and all that money she's giving away after the series? Here's the low-down on that: The idea "came from me thinking truthfully, 'what can I do to get people to pay attention?' People don't pay attention to the most important thing in their lives. They're not paying attention to their money." Interesting incentive to tune-in, but I found it a bit odd that she did not write the exam herself. She had seen the current version of the test earlier that day, and that there were about 30 questions, but she was planning to "sculpt it down to maybe ten questions and then maybe an essay question." But, you should do more than just watch the show. "After the class there are guidebooks on there as well as the things that you can go on and download for free." Plus, for those who aren't able to subscribe to OWN for whatever reason, she's also "trying to figure out a way [for them] to go to and read the guidebooks or the things that come with it." That's nice of her. But not as nice as this... the $75,000 she's giving away at the end of the show isn't the end of her generosity. "You'll see during the show very unexpectedly I gave money away to people who really touched my heart that had not been planned."

- Now, on to some financial advice that Suze Orman shared with the group... "number one, you have to take greater pleasure in saving than you do spending. And number two, you have got to live below your means but within your needs." That sounds like pretty solid advice, but what will perhaps help people the most is having a bunch of tools in one place: On "there will be instructions there so that people can literally download things that will help them with all the stuff they need, whether it's a will and trust kit or whether it's a money navigator newsletter that tells you actually what to be investing in or it's an insurance kit or an identity theft kit."

- Continuing on, "I will be forever a believer in that, when you enter a relationship, you are an autonomous human being and you should remain autonomous while you are in a relationship." But, if you share an account, consider doing it with equal percentages of you incomes, not equal amounts. We all know that relationships and roles play quite a factor in how we manage our money, but Suze Orman certainly has some interesting perspective... "you know, women give of themselves more than they give to themselves and a woman's child is usually the number one thing in her life, bar none. So she will make sure that that child has a college education and that child is taken care of before she even thinks about taking care of herself. And I think that is a serious mistake that women in general and, you know, parents can make." Oh, and speaking of sending your child to college, if you take out a private student loan and the student dies, "in many cases the parent or guardian is still responsible for those payments even though the child is no longer on this planet... and there's nothing worse that having a student loan that, in most cases, can't be discharged in bankruptcy."

- Regarding trends she sees in personal finance this year (and, keep in mind, TheTalkingBox is not promoting these views, per se): "I think people are being overly optimistic... I think people need to remember what they just went through. I think they need to not freak out and go, oh my God, I have to buy a new home right now before I lose the chance to be able to do so... And I don't see the jobs coming back for quite a while. I mean, I know people are feeling better about it, I don't see it... and this 99 percenter thing that you hear all over the place, it's real, it's true. It's true and people should pay more attention to them because I have seen the middle class slowly but surely in the greatest country in the world totally be disappearing. And there is a highway into poverty and there is not even a sidewalk to get out... I think everybody needs to pitch in and do what they can to help everybody. I think we need to stop blaming the people who don't have money if it's their fault."

Will you be watching the show? Personally, I wasn't a fan, though look for a recap of the first episode soon!
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