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Will Orman's “Financial Soap Opera” Work?

Suze Orman is a one-woman industry. On CNBC, she doles out weekend
advice about financial issues. On QVC, she peddles her self-help books and
videos focused on money and relationships. As if that weren't enough, Orman
has a radio show and authored four New York
bestsellers. One of them, The Laws of
Money, The Lessons of Life
, was turned into a PBS special that
earned her an Emmy.

Known for her big smile and no-nonsense approach, Orman got a degree in
social work but took a job as a waitress in 1973, figuring that was the best
she could do. By 1980, she realized she would never get ahead by relying on
other people to manage her money. Ever-enterprising, she landed a job as a
broker with Merrill Lynch, studied to become a Certified Financial Planner,
then began her ascent in the financial world, ending up as a vice president at
Prudential Bache Securities. By the late 1980s, she had enough experience to
start her own company: the Suze Orman Financial Group. At 54, she is one of the
country's best-known personal-finance experts. Orman talked with
B&C's Jim Finkle about the daily
syndicated talk show she is preparing to launch in the fall for Fox's
Twentieth Television.

Will your new show repeat what you do on

If it did, I'd vomit. Everything has a time and a place. Saturday
night is a great time to be intense, really smash it to viewers and let them
know what they need to do with their money. But they don't want to hear about
it Monday through Friday. That's when they have to work for their money. You
will never hear me say, “Buy this stock. Sell that bond. Put 30% there.” If
you want that kind of show, tune into CNBC.

What is the new show about?

Every person will be able to relate to this show because it's real.
This is the first financial reality show. It's also a financial drama, a
financial soap opera. It's kind of a show like Desperate Housewives, with all of their problems.
Except this show is desperate people in all sorts of situations.

What kinds of

It's like, “I'm only happy when I'm shopping. I'm hiding
$90,000 in debt from my husband. Please help me, Suze.” That isn't a
financial problem. It's a personal and emotional problem that results in a
financial problem. Or I'll get: “My ex hasn't paid me child support in
nine months. What should I do?” Well, the answer is, “Honey, I can tell you
what you need to do to try to get that money. But we need to look at the
reasons you allowed your ex to get nine
months behind.”

You sound a little like Dr.

Fear, shame and anger are the three internal obstacles to wealth. Those
emotions keep you from doing what you need to do with your money. Problems
occur because you're afraid, you're ashamed, you have anger.

There are three other new one-hour daily
shows, hosted by Tyra Banks, Robin Quivers and Martha Stewart, that are headed
to the National Association of Television Program Executives (NATPE) show Jan.
25 in Las Vegas. How will you compete?

I know very little about what they are going to do. I don't want to
compete. I just want to win. But I do know this: How many more talk shows do we
need of people interviewing celebrities? Those shows have a valid place. I'm
not saying they don't. But we need a show that covers the area that I'm
going to cover: finances. It affects everybody's life. And there is only one
person who can do this show. That's me. I've never been somebody who really
looks at what others are doing. I have never read another financial book by any
other author. Never. All that really matters
is what I do and how I do it. In my opinion, in my own strange way, I don't
think anybody compares to me. I think there is just one Suze. Just like
there's only one Oprah and only one Dr. Phil.

You make a great

I believe what I'm saying. I look into the camera as if I am looking
directly into your soul. That is not easy to do. It's not something that
somebody can teach you. Either you have it, or you don't. I am lucky enough
to have it. I am not doing this for the money; I have more than enough money. I
am doing this because there is such a need out there for this type of
information. I cannot begin to tell you. With all the years I have put in, it
seems to me that the ultimate culmination is developing a show that people need
to watch.

How did you learn so much about money
without any formal training?

My education really started in 1973. I went to Berkeley, Calif., and
ended up working as a waitress at the Buttercup Bakery. I made $400 a
month—for seven years. I had a college education but didn't really know
what I wanted to do. And I didn't think I was good enough to be anything but
a waitress. You learn a lot by serving people food. I saw people spending money
on food that they couldn't afford. That's when I started to really learn
about people and their money, what drives them, what really makes them feel

You went from Buttercup Bakery to a job
as a Merrill Lynch broker. How did you get it without any experience in

Believe it or not, they hired me on the spot. In my opinion, they did it
simply to fill their women's quota. There was affirmative action back then,
too. At the time, I was told by the manager of the office that women belong
barefoot and pregnant. He said I'd be out of there in six months.

He turned out to be

Every time a woman walked in the door, they sent that woman to me to
deal with their money. That's when I started to learn that women also care
about money. People think that's not the case, but they really do care.

What is your plan for

I never plan to do anything except to show up—and give it everything I
have. I'll go anywhere the Fox executives want me to go. I'll do anything
they want me to do to show that this show has what it takes to fill a time slot
everywhere in the United States. I'll do what's needed, at the moment
it's needed.