#American Icon: Suze Orman
Photo courtesy of Getty Images
Suze Orman went from losing a $50,000 investment of borrowed money at the age of 29, to becoming America’s most recognized expert in finances today.
Suze grew up in a family with a modest income on the south side of Chicago. She struggled as a child was a major speech impediment. Because of this, she had trouble speaking, and therefore had trouble reading. This led to her always scoring last in her exams.
Suze was expected to go to college, but knew she’d need to pay her own way since her family wasn’t able to help. Despite scoring low on her SATs, she was accepted into the University of Illinois. She often had to work 7 days a week in the dormitory’s dish room, and shared a one-bedroom apartment with two other roommates.
She was told by her guidance counselor that she should pick an easy major based on her previous grades, so Suze chose social work.
Suze was scheduled to graduate in 1973, but her degree was withheld because she was missing her language requirement. Her insecurities from her childhood held her back - she always struggled with the English language so she didn’t think she could possibly learn another language.
So she decided to set off an adventure. She bought a van, repurposed it to be a sleeper van, and set off across the country with some friends. Eventually she ended up in Berkeley, California and started picking up odd jobs while living out of her van.
She later found a job as a waitress at a bakery she would frequent. After 6 years, she started to dream about opening her own restaurant.
Loans and Woes
After mentioning her dream to some loyal customers, she was surprised to find that they all chipped in and issued her personal checks and commitments that added up to $50,000.
Their note to her read: “THIS IS FOR PEOPLE LIKE YOU, SO THAT YOUR DREAMS CAN COME TRUE. TO BE PAID BACK IN TEN YEARS, IF YOU CAN, WITH NO INTEREST.”
One of her benefactors urged her to open a money market account to keep the money safe and help it grow. Suze had no knowledge of investments at that time, but she went to Merrill Lynch and met with a broker.
In a turn of bad luck, the broker was unethical and put her investment in high risk buying options, despite knowing she needed to keep the money secure. Suze lost her entire investment in 3 months, owing a lot of money to those that trusted in her.
A Lucky Break
On a whim, Suze decided that she would apply to find a job at the very same branch that lost her money.
To her surprise, she got the job with no previous experience in finance. She believes to this day, it was only to fill a quota for female employees.
Over the next few months, Suze decided to sue Merrill Lynch, while continuing to work for them. She became one of their best brokers and won a settlement from them - getting back the $50,000 that she lost.
Over the next years, Suze worked as a vice-president of investments at Prudential, and then opened her own firm - the Suze Orman Financial Group.
She went on to publish several books about financial management. As she started to gain recognition, she was offered a show on CNBC - The Suze Orman Show.
Perhaps her biggest break came when she appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show, giving away her book, Women and Money, which spurred 2 million downloads.
This led to a long term working relationship with Oprah - with further appearances on the Oprah Winfrey Show and her own mini-series, America’s Money Class with Suze Orman, on Oprah’s tv network.
Suze was named as one of the 10 most influential celebrities in 2013 by Forbes, is a New York times bestselling author, and has won two Emmy’s for her work as a television host.
Suze is now considered America’s most recognized expert on finances and a “force in the world of personal finance” by USA today.
American Sunglass is inspired by Suze’s story and her dedication to help Americans make better financial decisions.
Photo courtesy of Suze Orman’s Facebook