Suze Orman Biography

Talk Show Host, Journalist (1951–)
Suze Orman is a financial adviser best known for her television appearances on The Suze Orman Show, and for her best-selling self-help financial planning books.


Suze Orman was born in Chicago, Illinois, on June 5, 1951. Orman started out as a financial adviser at Merrill Lynch, founding the successful Suze Orman Financial Group in 1987. Orman then began writing popular guides to finance and appeared in several PBS specials based on her work. In 2002, she began taping The Suze Orman Show on CNBC, while continuing to publish bestsellers regularly.

Aspiring Restauranteur

Susan Lynn Orman was born on June 5, 1951, in Chicago, Illinois. With her books, television show, and other media efforts, Suze Orman has established herself as one of the top personal finance experts in the United States. "My job is to be the financial truth crusader. ...Hope for the best. But plan for the worst," Orman explained to People magazine.

Her life had a less-than-auspicious start, however. The youngest of three children, she struggled to overcome a speech impediment. Her family also wrestled with financial challenges. After high school, Orman went to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. There she majored in social work, but left in 1973 before completing her degree. Buying a van, Orman set out to see America with some friends. She ended up in Berkeley, California, where she eventually landed a waitressing job at the Buttercup Bakery. During her seven years at the bakery, Orman pursued a dream of opening up her own restaurant. She shared her dream with one of her longtime customers, Fred Hasbrook, and he gave her a check for $2,000 in 1980. Hasbrook also approached other customers to contribute to Orman, and she ended up with $50,000 for her restaurant venture.

Knowing little about money management or investing, Orman sought help from a representative at Merrill Lynch. She met with a broker, and put her money into an account there. Although she had told him that she only made $400 a week and needed to keep her money safe, the broker chose to pursue the risky strategy of buying options. He told that she could make "a quick $100 a week" and had her sign a blank form giving him control over her funds. The plan worked well at first, but she ended up losing all of her money within three months.

Personal Finance Buff

Meanwhile, Orman had been trying to learn as much about investing as she could. She read the Wall Street Journal and Barron's, and she tuned in to the PBS financial series Wall Street Week. After losing all her money, Orman decided to become a broker and applied to the same Merrill Lynch office where she had lost her earlier investment. The company hired her "to fill their women's quota," Orman explained to Publisher's Weekly. She was told that women weren't meant to work this business and that she would be gone in six months.

During her training, Orman discovered that her broker had violated the company's policies. She sued the company, and Merrill Lynch eventually settled with her out of court. Orman studied hard to learn about all sorts of investing opportunities, and she did well for her customers. In 1983, she left to join another firm as a vice president. Orman started her own firm in 1987.

Orman got her first media exposure through a local radio station after writing to complain about another guest that provided incorrect information on an investment product. "The next Saturday I went down there and did a show. After that, my phone started to ring off the hook," Orman told Success magazine. Soon Orman became a guest expert for other radio and television programs.

Best-Selling Author

In 1995, Orman had her first book, You've Earned It, Don't Lose It, published. She went on an extensive tour to promote the work, which eventually sold 700,000 copies. Two years later, Orman hit the best-sellers list with The 9 Steps to Financial Freedom. The book, based on a workshop that she gave, sold more than 3 million copies. "It was at that point that I made the change from being a financial adviser who wanted simply to give a book to my clients to a No.1 New York Times best-selling author," Orman told People magazine.

Orman's career continued on its upward trajectory with 1999's The Courage to Be Rich. That same year, she was named one of Money magazine's "Power Brokers." More popular titles soon followed, including 2001's The Road to Wealth and 2003's The Laws of Money, The Lessons of Life. She also became a hit on public television with a number of financial specials based on her books.

In 2003, Orman received accolades for her television series, The Suze Orman Show. Her show won a Gracie Allen Award from the American Women in Radio and Television organization in the National/Network/Syndicated Talk Show category. The following year, Orman won a Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Service Show Host for the The Laws of Money, The Lessons of Life special. She went on to win the 2005 Gracie Allen Award for Outstanding Program Host—a feat she repeated in 2006, 2007, 2008, and 2009. She also won a second Daytime Emmy Award in 2006 for Outstanding Service Show Host for The Money Show for the Young Fabulous & Broke.

Criticism and Praise

In addition to her numerous awards, Orman has received critical praise for her work. A critic for Entertainment Weekly wrote "Suze has managed to do for money what Trading Spaces did for design and Top Chef did for food—make it accessible and entertaining."

Orman did, however, come under fire for not predicting the recent economic downturn. She told U.S. News & World Report that she "believed the CEOs that went on television...and told everyone it was going to be OK, that they were fine." Orman indicated that the crisis was a wake-up call for many. "Our problems were that we were spending money that we never had," she said. She also faced criticism for her business relationships with the brokerage firm TD Ameritrade and credit reporting company Fair Isaacs.

Once a waitress earning $400 a month, Orman has become a nationally known personality. She has even been spoofed several times on the popular late night comedy series Saturday Night Live. Orman loves Kristen Wiig's impression of her, calling it the "greatest honor of my career."

Besides her own weekly television program, Orman makes appearances on other programs, such as The Oprah Winfrey Show and The Today Show. She also writes a regular advice column for O magazine. Outside of her work, Orman supports a number of charities and has been known to help out her fans with free financial advice and other forms of support.

Orman and her partner Kathy Travis have been together since 2001. They divide their time between homes in New York, Florida, and San Francisco.

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