Forgive me, but when I see Suze Orman's financial teachings, I can get a bit snarky. Something about her seems too annoyingly new-age to me. But I can't entirely dismiss her -- many times, what she's saying makes sense, and much of it is important information for women and men alike.
I gleaned a few noteworthy thoughts from her new book, Women & Money. Maybe you and I can learn something.
- First off, I was pleased to see that the book was dedicated to me. Well, to "all the women of yesterday, today, and tomorrow." Perhaps, like me, she has trouble narrowing things down sometimes.
- "Lasting net worth," Orman argues, "comes only when you have a healthy and strong sense of self-worth." I'm not sure that's always the case. Look at Katharine Graham, former owner of The Washington Post. She was born very privileged and wealthy, but entered adulthood with an insufficient sense of self-worth. (Read Graham's amazing autobiography, Personal History, to learn how this changed.) Orman adds: "If we aren't powerful with money, we aren't powerful, period." These kinds of statements make me nervous.
- Orman boldly asserts: "The simple fact is that nothing more directly affects your happiness than money." I'm not sure this is entirely true, but I applaud her for daring to suggest it. She concedes, of course, that certain other things are critical: love, respect, and health, for example. But let's face it -- if you're worried about your finances, if you're neck-deep in debt, if you're not sure how you're going to survive in retirement, if your spouse is spending money like water ... any of these things can seriously suppress your happiness.
After flipping through her book, my general impression of Ms. Orman didn't change. I was put off by much of her emotion- and psychology-based language, but at the same time, I saw a lot of common sense and useful advice. I suspect that readers who aren't already drawn to her won't check out her book, but those who are will get a great deal of practical guidance from it.
Suze's big plan
For women (or men) who want to get their financial ducks in a row, Orman offers her "Save Yourself Plan." Here are some of its steps:
- Take control of your banking. Make sure you're earning the best rates, keeping up with your statements, and maintaining at least one account of your own.
- Take control of your credit card situation. Pay down your debt and establish a good credit record for yourself. (Orman also recommends checking your FICO score. Learn how in our Credit Center.)
- Start planning and saving for retirement, by taking full advantage of 401(k) plans, Roth IRAs, and more. Orman's specific investment recommendations are sound: Focus on life-cycle funds (which you may know as target-date funds) and index funds. It's hard to argue with the ease and effectiveness of broad-market index funds for most people. With low fees and automatic diversification, they're hard to beat if you want to put your portfolio on autopilot.
- Make sure you have proper personal documents in order, including a will, a revocable living trust, a living will, etc. (Learn more in 10 Documents You Shouldn't Live Without.) Secure necessary insurance, too.
See? Those are all excellent pieces of advice, echoing what we've long said here in Fooldom. If you're intrigued by Suze Orman, go ahead and give her a try -- she's got a bunch of books out, along with a show on CNBC and other occasional television appearances.
Alternatively, you can learn most of the same things (perhaps without as much self-esteem enhancement) right here with your friends at the Fool. Our vibrant discussion board community is a great place to ask questions and get answers and to learn from others' experiences and perspectives.
For more money-saving advice, tips on great deals, and general investing guidance (including solid stock and fund recommendations), I invite you to take advantage of a free trial of our Motley Fool Green Light newsletter service. I think you'll like what you see, and you've got nothing to lose by trying.
Longtime Fool contributor Selena Maranjian owns shares of no company mentioned in this article, but she is invested in an S&P 500 index fund. For more about Selena, view her bio and her profile. The Motley Fool is Fools writing for Fools.