Suze Orman Thinks #MeToo Will Help Women Find Their Financial Voices (Finally)

Photo: Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images.
Suze Orman has been talking about women and money more than 35 years. Unfortunately, things don't seem to be getting much better. She's still having the same conversations again and again — and she says that's in part because money is emotional (seriously).
We've been trying to tackle that problem at Refinery29 with Money Diaries and our regular coverage of all things career and money related (see our full slate of Equal Pay coverage from earlier this week). It's our hope that millennials can change the conversation around women and money once and for all. And Suze definitely has a few ideas on how to help. You might want to listen — after all, she used to be the money expert on The Oprah Winfrey Show.
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I chatted with Suze via Skype a few weeks ago, and that conversation is the basis for the first episode of her new podcast, Women & Money. Ahead, she shares her thoughts on why women still struggle with money, how the #MeToo movement might change that, and why it's never to late to take control of your finances (and your future!).
Why did you decide to launch a podcast?
"You know, what's so sad is that I’ve been doing this now really for over 35 years, and one would think that women would have progressed by now. It's true that women are making more money — many of the women are head of their households in terms of the finances — however, they still are not getting involved with the money that they make. I can go into a room of all partners at law firms, and women who are making six and seven figures, and I can sit down with them and ask them questions about their mortgages and their insurance and their this and their that and they look at me like I am talking another language. They still can’t speak the language of money. They can earn it, but on some level, they even — in my opinion — feel guilty that they’re earning more money than their male spouse happens to be earning. The conversation over all these years hasn’t changed at all, which is why I wanted to do a podcast called Women & Money."
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Why do you think that after 35 years we're still not seeing the needle move on the dial?
"This year is the first year women have found their voice. If you've followed me over all these years, you know I have a saying called "Self Worth Equals Net Worth." And so women, if you can’t even speak up about what’s happened to you, on some level you don’t even want to deal with the money. It's happened to every single one of us. It happened to me. I was one of the first women in the Oakland office of Merrill Lynch back in 1980, and what went on in that office, sexually speaking, was such a travesty. It's not even funny. In my opinion, women finally found their voice this year, and that means they'll now be able to find their financial voice for the very first time. Because if you don't have a voice, you don't have self worth. And if you don’t have self worth, it’s impossible for you to have net worth."
How did you overcome working in that terrible environment to become so successful?
"I’m not exactly sure why I was as strong as I always have been. Right after I was hired, all the secretaries told me if I expected to get ahead I was going to have to sleep with the sales manager. As soon as I heard that, I walked into his office, and I pointed my finger right at his face, and I said: "If you ever approach me on any level other than a professional level, I’m going to cut your pecker off, do you understand that, Mr. Sansavaro?" And I don't know where I got that. Now, I’ve been gay my entire life, I don’t know if it was women’s liberation and feminism, and being a lesbian, that allowed me to just say "Are you kidding me?" They men very quickly accepted me into their tribe. And for instance, they would always have strippers come in to perform for the men for their birthdays, and they thought that would please me."
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Do you ever get frustrated when you talk to women, and you don’t see them having that same inner strength?
"No, it doesn't frustrate me. It makes me more compassionate. It makes me want to do more of what I do. Women have more strength in their little finger than men have in all 10. And women are really powerful, they have the ability to give birth, they have the ability to feed that which they've given birth to. In Asia, they have a saying that women hold up half the sky, but in America, I believe, from the bottom of my heart, that women hold up the entire sky. They take care of their parents, their children, their spouse, their employer, their employees, everybody — and then at the age of 50 they realize they forgot to take care of themselves."
What should young women do to manage their money?
"Young women who are now just getting into relationships have to be very very careful that they do not lose their autonomy and their power and enter into a battered relationship, whether it’s emotional or physical. Women should always have their own bank account, and their own credit card. They need to lock down their credit so their husband can’t steal it.
"Women have got to treat their little bill, bucks, and pennies that they make like they are their children, and they need to get involved with it. They need to invest in it. When somebody says: "Don’t worry your pretty little head about it," you better worry your pretty little head about it. Young women need to take control of their money from Day 1, and they are never to give up that control. Ever, ever, ever."
You can hear the rest of my conversation with Suze — including her advice on building an emergency fund — below. For future episodes, subscribe at PodcastOne.com or Apple Podcasts.
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