by Sara Nathan, via DailyMail |
She was once a penniless waitress who has become one of TV’s most recognizable financial gurus.
But for Suze Orman, it has been a long and hard struggle to climb to the top – and at the age of 62, she now admits: ‘After 62 years of life and probably more failures for many of those years than successes, you learn from the school of hard knocks.
‘Sometimes poverty is the greatest gift you can ever be given. Sometimes loss is the key that leads you to gain.’
While working as a waitress at the Buttercup Bakery in Berkley, California, and living with a girlfriend in the back of a van, Suze was given a break aged 30 in 1980 when a group of regular customers pooled together and gave her $50,000 to open her own restaurant.
But fate took a cruel hand, and after investing the money with a broker she describes as a ‘crook’ at Merrill Lynch – it was all gone within three months.
Having studied for a degree in social work – and having secretly accrued a huge $250,000 credit card debt – Suze had had no idea what she was doing and her money was lost in a string of failed investments.
Too scared to let her customers know, Suze, who hosts the long-running CNBC series, The Suze Orman Show, admits in a new interview on the Sundance Channel: ‘I didn’t know what to do. So I thought “I know. I could be a broker.”
Having waitressed for seven years, Suze now found herself employed by the same firm where the broker who had scammed her worked, and said: ‘Really I had to do something to pay all these people back, so I went and applied for a job at Merrill Lynch, and they had no women working for them at the time.
‘It was the time of affirmative action when they needed to hire women, so they hired me. but I was told that women belonged barefoot and pregnant and I would be fired in six months. I would be outta there.’
Suze simultaneously and successfully sued Merrill Lynch for a prior investment loss of $50,000.
After completing her training with Merrill Lynch, she remained at the firm until 1983 when she left to become vice-president of investments at Prudential Bache Securities.
Speaking on the Words for Wisdom web series, part of the Dream School show, Suze told journalist Paula Froelich: ‘I lost everything…and I was lying through my teeth and I didn’t let anybody know about it.
‘It wasn’t until I stood in my truth and told everybody that I had $250,000 in credit card debt. At that point everything turned around for me. I had to reveal the truth about what I didn’t have, more than pretend about what I did. That was interesting.’
Hired at Merill Lynch without any experience, Suze said: ‘What was wonderful is that I didn’t care what they told me, that I couldn’t make it. I had faith in myself and I went for it, and look at me today.
‘You know, the truth is when your back is up against the wall, when you owe somebody something– sometimes you won’t do something for yourself, but when you need to do something for somebody else to pay them back, you owe them, you lost what they gave you, that gives you the courage or it gave me the courage to go,
‘Because I had nothing to lose, and I knew I’d never be able to pay them back being a waitress at $400 a month. I mean, I’d been there already seven years as a waitress. I would never be able to pay them back.
‘So I had nothing to lose and everything to gain. And rather than looking at things as adversity you can just look at it and go “I can do this. I can do this, I know I can” and at least try.’
Suze came out as gay in 2007 and has been with her partner Kathy Travis for 12 years. Kathy, whom she affectionally nicknames K.T, is a former executive at the marketing firm Ogilvy & Mather and now works as her business manager.
But Suze’s struggles become all the more apparent as she details a troubled childhood, growing up in poverty on Chicago’s south side, in which she says: ‘My father was sick most of the time, my mother was a secretary working and really supporting the family most of the time. My brothers were older and already out of the house. I didn’t- I didn’t have anything that I could go to. I never had a sense of really being loved that way and that I would be cared for.’
Failing to have ‘an outlet to speak to anybody’, Suze adds: ‘I always knew that I would have to make it on my own somehow. But I was always so afraid and so sad and always pretending that I was happy when I wasn’t.
Now, she says: ‘Here I sit a very successful and renowned woman known all throughout the world, but yet I didn’t really graduate college after four years, never got a C as I told – any grade about a C, as I told everybody, was a waitress for seven years until I as 30. It took me a while to find my way.
‘Now, did I lose anything by waiting those years? No, I gained more knowledge by of myself, I gained more knowledge of the real world…and I was I able to inspire myself to have the courage to go in and apply for a job at Merrill Lynch.
She adds: ‘I do not think I am successful just because I have money. I’m successful because I love who I am and I have no regrets and I’m successful because I have a great heart and I have compassion and I care and I would be happy with or without money. Now with that said, lack of money sure can make you miserable, but I don’t think I’m successful because I have money. I think I’m successful because I know who I am.’