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Suze Just Doesn’t Get It

By Amy Lin

Do you know who Suze Orman is? She’s that personal finance guru who’s written a ton of books and has a show on CNBC.  For those unfamiliar, people call her show to ask her questions and display their most intimate financial details.  How much money they earn, owe, spend, have in savings, they share it all with Suze and ask, “How am I doing?” “Should I invest in this fund?” “ Can I afford it?”

Suze speaks frankly.  She’s charming with her Midwestern accent, and she calls everyone “girlfriend” or “boyfriend.”  She talks about how you have to have at least eight months worth of expenses in an “emergency fund,” and she warns people against bad investments.  Throughout the show, she exclaims, “Are you kidding me?!” when people want to buy ridiculous things like $40,000 watches and shouts “Denied!” at people in the “Can I Afford it?” segment when they don’t have enough saved and the desired item is frivolous.  She says “Approved!” to those who want to buy things they can afford, especially if they’re meaningful (a tombstone, for example, was “Approved!”).

At the end of every show, she restates her mantra: “People first, then money, then things.”

But despite her sage advice, excellent tan, and cute jackets, when I watch the Suze Orman show, my stress level triples, because young people just aren’t there.

Sure, we know we should save money and not buy frivolous things.  But Suze goes into specifics on mortgages, investments, and other funds I don’t yet understand because I don’t have enough money to worry about yet.  Her advice just isn’t relevant to my friends or me.   Suze doesn’t tell you how to save, day-to-day.

Take my own case.  After months of looking for employment, I landed a job with benefits.  I live with friends who have graciously housed me for over a year.  Although things are okay now, it can still be a struggle. But by Suze’s metrics, I fail: I don’t have enough savings, enough in retirement, and I don’t have any idea how I’m going to buy a house for my theoretical future family.  And I’m not alone.  Young adults are struggling – this whole generation is way behind where our parents were at our age.  We can’t buy houses, we barely have jobs, and we owe so much money.

Usually, I’m proud of myself for working, saving, and taking steps to move out of my friends’ house.   But after an episode of Suze, I feel glum.  If I called her show, I’d be denied for everything I want to buy: a nice dinner, a trip to see a friend, a new outfit.  It would be far worse for young people who have families, dependents, no degree, crippling student loan debt, no child care, are unemployed or work part-time, minimum wage jobs.  What’s your advice for these folks, Suze?

To be fair, not everyone who calls her show is wealthy and out of touch.  Some who call are in debt, young, or bankrupt and want advice.  Overall, Suze Orman offers solid advice to many people.  I just want her and others to know there are a lot of us who face a very different reality.  We could use some encouragement and words of wisdom, too.

So for now, if you’re a young adult, broke, or struggling to save and want a sympathetic ear and some free guidance, go here and here.