What You Need to Know About Suze Orman

11 Feb What You Need to Know About Suze Orman

A James Scurlock piece in Slate on what you really need to know about Suze Orman struck a lot of chords with me and other learned financial experts. This, for example, on the reasons people file bankruptcy:

Although study after study has shown that personal bankruptcies are caused primarily by catastrophic events like divorce, job loss, and, above all, medical bills and that most of us are struggling with a gap between our income growth and the soaring cost of necessities like housing, Suze tends toward psychological causes that invariably blame the victim. Who is struggling these days, according to Suze? “People who grew up without much money and later earn a comfortable living sometimes spend too much to make up for what they didn’t get as children. … People who feel entitled to the good life, or are unconsciously copying a mother or father who lived beyond her or his means. … If you feel the need to impress people with what you have rather than with who you are, you are at high risk for credit card abuse.” This from a woman who spends $500,000 a year chartering private jets and who sells “Cruise With Suze” packages on an Italian luxury liner. (She has also hawked for GM, claiming that leasing a luxury car you know, the kind that people drive to impress others is a terrific financial decision: “If you ask me, that’s smart money!”)

I’m in the trenches with the folks who need bankruptcy, and most of them don’t have spending problems. They have had illness, job loss, divorce. The implication that bankruptcy is only for people who overspend out of some psychological need is condescending, ignorant, and just plain wrong.

Most people who need bankruptcy are there because the wrong thing happened at the wrong time, and it can happen to anyone. And they recover from it, too.

There are other reasons to question her advice. She doesn’t demonstrate a full understanding of how bankruptcy works or why/when it can be a benefit for person in trouble.

She assures us that a high credit score is the key to our financial futures. You know what you have to have to get a high credit score? Debt. How about saving? Living on a cash basis? There’s a future for you. I could go on and on.

Wendell Sherk, a bankruptcy lawyer in St. Louis, wrote an article on Suze too: Suze Orman recommends bankrupting retiree without the benefits .

Susanne Robicsek, a Charlotte NC Bankruptcy Attorney, wrote about Suze and why her advise isn’t to be blindly followed in What Suze Orman Doesn’t Understand (About Bankruptcy) on the Bankruptcy Law Network, as did Kansas City Mo attorney Rachel Foley.

It’s natural to turn to experts for advice, especially when you are under pressure. When you’re sick, you want the best doctor. When your finances are in bad shape, you want good advice. But the only way to evaluate the quality of the advice you’re getting from one person is to get advice from many people and carefully weigh what they say.

For all the talk about how no one could have prevented the mortgage and banking meltdowns, there were those who did, if you were listening. For all those who pooh-poohed the notion of a housing bubble, there were those who were predicting just that. You mother told you not to put all your eggs in one basket. It’s good advice for investors, and it’s good advice when you’re choosing your advisers.

In my opinion, author Jill Connor Browne’s granddaddy gave her the best piece of advice I have ever heard: “Be partic’lar” Now, following that piece of advice would save you heartache in a dozen different ways. And that includes who you look to for financial advice.

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Däna (pronounced "Donna") Wilkinson, has been a bankruptcy lawyer in South Carolina for 20 years. She is certified as a bankruptcy specialist by the South Carolina Supreme Court.
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