Women and money

April 8 2007 by Ellen Roseman

Suze Orman

Suze Orman is the diva of Saturday night television, preaching about money management as an essential life skill for mid-life women drowning in debt. She can be annoying: That helmet of frosted platinum hair, the whiter-than-white teeth, the habit of calling people “girlfriend” (and “boyfriend” for the occasional man who calls in) and her love of referring to herself in the third person. I also marvel at the way she can psychoanalyze women a minute after they start their stories. “You don’t really love him, do you?” she’ll tell a caller who’s only just mentioned a male partner. (She recently came out as a lesbian in a New York Times magazine article, a brave move for someone in the public eye.)

But I do like some of her psychological insights in her latest book, Women and Money. Recounting some of her own misadventures with money, she talks about how woman often devalue themselves and treat themselves as a commodity to be priced by others. On her show, she constantly tells women they’re putting themselves “on sale,” meaning discounting their true talents and worth. She’s getting at an important truth when it comes to money management: You can’t save it if you don’t earn it. You have to believe in yourself and boost your value in the marketplace, be it the labour market or the marriage market. It’s no coincidence that women who don’t value themselves end up with men who don’t value them either.

Suze pushes women into taking care of their finances following a five-month plan she lays out. Unfortunately, much of her information is relevant only to US readers. And she keeps sending readers to her website, where information is for sale and not freely offered. Even the book’s back cover is controversial, since she’s made a deal with a stockbroker for readers who open accounts. She sells more books by offering this $100 discount coupon with TD Ameritrade, which makes some people suspicious.

Her advice is basic, almost too simple, in some readers’ opinion, but it’s meant for absolute beginners. And most people seem to like it, judging the comments at Amazon.com.

“I’ve already made a few day-to-day decisions in order to re-direct a much larger part of my monthly income to retirement planning. I took Suze’s advice and added extra $$ to my mortgage payment this month and opened up a savings account with TD AMERITRADE with automatic withdrawals. It meant that I didn’t buy my teenage son the $130 shoes he asked for last week, like I’ve done many times before. It also meant that I didn’t lend my good friend the $250 she asked for “again” last Friday, even though she eventually pays it back..but with zero interest, of course. Finally it also meant that my husband I didn’t agree to go to Vegas with some friends in a few months. Vegas will now be an ANNUAL trip, allowing me to put an extra $2000 per year into savings. I imagine there will be plenty of time to go to Vegas when I am retired. Okay, so I’m taking Suze’s advice and taking care of ME now so that later on…it won’t be ME living in poverty. Thanks Suze for writing this book and making me keenly aware of the fact that I needed to wake up and get with the program in terms of retirement planning.”