If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you know that I’m a HUGE Dave Ramsey fan.
Reading his book The Total Money Makeover shifted my perspective about money and changed my life. A few years after finding Dave, my husband and I have paid off over $127,000 in debt (mostly student loans).
There are numerous other personal finance “experts” out there, including Suze Orman. As a PF blogger, I like to learn about a variety of different perspectives on money.
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I’ve heard other people criticize Dave and say that he’s just repeating everything Suze Orman has already been saying for years. I decided to do some research on what exactly Suze advises to her readers.
I wanted to read about the pros and cons of her approach, and I came across some articles that were VERY critical of Suze.
Interestingly, most of these bloggers aren’t criticizing what Suze teaches. Instead, they’re attacking her judgment and her character as a person.
Another personal finance blogger respectfully criticized Suze’s decision to sell prepaid debit cards, and she responded by calling him an idiot on Twitter (she later apologized). This led to a lot of backlash against Suze.
Most of the anti-Suze criticism stems from this incident and other questionable choices she has made (deciding to sell the prepaid debit cards, leasing an $800/month car years ago to “keep up” with a wealthy person she was dating, etc).
I would like to point out that most so-called personal finance “experts” are not truly experts. You don’t need a degree in Finance or a CFP designation to run a PF blog or start a successful business.
Many personal finance bloggers and writers are just ordinary people who have made financial mistakes in the past. Rachel Cruze spent $19 on one glass of lemonade. Dave Ramsey filed for bankruptcy years ago.
Numerous PF bloggers (myself included) began their blogs while digging themselves out of massive debt. I would argue that this actually makes them more relatable. Let’s remember that we ALL make mistakes!
Instead of attacking Suze Orman as a person, I’m going to discuss her advice specifically. Most of it is great. She teaches a lot of the same concepts that Dave Ramsey teaches, and it’s awesome that her tips have helped so many people to improve their financial situations!
While I agree with much of what she teaches, here are a few key points I don’t agree with.
Everyone Should Have a Credit Card
Unlike Dave Ramsey (who is staunchly opposed to credit cards), Suze advises that everyone should have a credit card, even your teenage son or daughter. I definitely can understand where Suze is coming from.
Even though she dislikes the credit system (like Dave), she’s a bit more realistic than Dave is on this issue and she thinks your credit score is important. While I agree with Suze on this particular issue more than I agree with Dave, I find both views concerning.
Many PF “experts” (Dave and Suze included) recommend a “one size fits all” approach. I don’t agree with this.
While there are some general PF truths that apply to everyone (saving is important, for example), I am a big believer that what is right for one person isn’t necessarily right for another.
Related: Do You NEED Credit?
I think credit scores are important for most people and that some people should have credit cards to build their credit.
However, credit is not necessary for everyone and for some people (who are big spenders), a credit card might be too tempting.
I understand why Suze recommends getting a credit card for your teenager (so he or she can learn to use credit responsibly). Teaching kids about money is extremely important, but some teenagers simply cannot handle having credit cards.
Some can, and some can’t (which is also true for adults).
I would say that you know yourself (and your child) better than anyone else does. Do what makes the most sense for your unique situation.
70 Should be the Retirement Age
Suze has said that 70 should be the new retirement age and that she hates the FIRE concept (financial independence, retire early). She brings up concerns about how early retirees will pay for disability insurance and health insurance.
I am certainly not an expert on FIRE (and I don’t plan to retire in my 30’s or 40’s), but I will say that most FIRE bloggers seem to have early retirement well planned out.
It’s clear that the majority of them have given a lot of thought as to how they’ll pay for their expenses.
Erik Carter does a great job of explaining exactly why Suze Orman is wrong about early retirement on Forbes.
Encouraging Student Loans
Suze discourages parents from delaying their own retirement to help their kids pay for college. She has even said “You can always take out a loan for college. You can’t take out a loan for retirement.”
I agree that parents should not be delaying retirement for their kids, but I don’t like that Suze encourages student loans. She recommends having your kids take out Stafford loans (which have a maximum limit) instead of private ones so that they will finish school with a “manageable” amount of debt.
Again, this is an area where Suze is a bit more realistic than Dave.
Dave’s approach to college is more naive in my opinion (he claims that working 20 hours per week during the school year and 40 hours per week during the summer will be enough to pay for college, which is not true).
However, I don’t think that student loans are the answer here (even if it’s a “manageable” amount).
I’d prefer to see PF experts encouraging parents to start saving for college when their children are young AND advising high school students to look into two year programs, community college, or other alternative paths (like working full-time for a few years, saving up some cash, and then going back to school).
To be clear – Suze Orman and Dave Ramsey may advise parents to save when their kids are young AND to look into alternatives to a four year degree.
I am NOT saying that neither of them have ever recommended those things. I am saying that I think those should be the focus when we talk about paying for college (instead of emphasizing Stafford loans or working part-time).
Prenups for All
Suze says that all married couples should have a prenup. Again, I don’t like the “one size fits all” approach here. While a prenup is a good idea, it’s not free. A prenup can cost $3,000… and that’s an amount that many young couples just don’t have.
Should they go into debt to pay for a prenup? Of course not.
One Last Thought
I think that personal finance gurus like Dave Ramsey and Suze Orman have a lot of valuable information to share. They’ve helped so many people to get out of debt and improve their financial situations, and that’s amazing!
That being said, just because someone calls themselves an “expert”, it doesn’t mean that we have to agree with every single thing they say. I don’t agree with everything Dave Ramsey says, and I disagree with some of Suze Orman’s opinions as well.
What do you think of Suze Orman’s financial advice?