Suze Orman to Filipinos: Money means almost everything
MANILA, Philippines - Suze Orman was hard to miss. The frosted blonde in a zebra-print frock and nearly peso-sized earrings easily caught the attention of the over 1,000 Filipinos who flocked to Taguig's NBC Tent on Saturday, February 25.
Her magnetic personality pulled their focus and held it on the sometimes bland topic of personal finance.
This personal finance guru is Oprah Winfrey's go-to gal for money, a New York Times best-selling author 9 times over, and one of Forbes 100 most powerful women in the world in 2010.
"Money means almost everything," she said, not mincing words.
"What does it take to feed your children? Money. What does it take to pay for the doctor's bills when your children or you are ill? Money. What does it take to keep… everything working the way that it should. Money."
Her succeeding advice summoned connotations of a drug rehabilitation program. It centered on taking an honest sobering look at one's financial situation, admitting the truth of what one has and doesn't have, and taking steps tailored to each person's own circumstances.
Orman asked those in the crowd with debt to stand up and financially out themselves to their neighbors.
More than half the audience rose.
Orman went through the same financial exercise in her own life. She can relate to her debt-riddled audience.
Susan Dominus' New York Times article, Suze Orman is Having a Moment recounted how a late 1980's Orman was neck-deep in over $70,000 of credit card debt, was driving a leased BMW, and even took money out of her retirement savings to pay for a $7,500 Cartier Panther watch she thought would impress a wealthy date.
The article told how, over one dinner, Orman realized she probably had even less money than the waitress. After Orman was honest with herself and her friends about her situation, she was able to climb back on the ladder to financial success.
At the NBC Tent, Orman kept the discussion personal.
In terms of determining the ideal amount to save for an emergency fund, she said, "Every single one of us knows what we need to feel like we can financially breathe. If we lost our job, or we got sick, or our parents needed more money, we know what we need. That is the figure."
Orman spent nearly an hour taking questions from audience members. She answered personal questions with a driving intensity that took the whole audience along.
For teens and twenties
Mark Manalo, 17, asked how he should invest money he got for his birthday and Christmas in the stock market. Orman pointedly told him he should begin working for his own money.
Smiling, she went on to explain the strategy of peso-cost averaging, investing a fixed small amount, like P100, at regular intervals over time. She said, "Your job here isn't to figure out the stock market. Your job is to pick certain things that you're going to want to invest in month in and month out for the next 30 years."
Orman explained that with this strategy there's less stomach-turning when the stock drops. Instead the buyer can use the same P100 to purchase more stock at a lower price. "The more shares you have in the long run, the more money you make," said Orman.
The strategy is reasonable for a teen or 20-something with a long-term investment horizon. A Filipino personal finance authority in the audience, Francisco Colayco, weighed in and agreed with the gradual and steady approach.
"Getting rich is easy, slow but sure," he said, adding that compound interest and living within your means are key.
A mother of 4 asked the expert what she should teach her children about finances. Orman replied that parents "start teaching children about money the moment they are born… Kids do not listen to what you say, they do what you do."
Orman shared that she thinks what women really need to learn is how to make themselves a priority.
"It's very dangerous for women because they just seem to feel that they don't matter. That everything they do is for their husband, their parents, their brothers, their sisters, their friends, their enemies, their children, their employees, their employers."
She said, "It is not until a woman is about 60 or 50 years of age that she starts saying, "What about me?' It is important with times changing that we teach out children that there is nothing wrong, especially if they are little girls, with saying, 'I matter, I matter and I count'."
Orman recalled that during her plane ride to the Philippines, the flight attendants reminded adults to first secure their own oxygen masks and then help their children. Orman joked, "Ladies they're talking to you. Men would know to put it on their face first. And there's nothing wrong with that. That is what you should do."
Hers was a basic lesson that she was fond of saying: "Everything has to start from you."
For the Philippines
She waved her hand as she explained that she waived away her usual speaking fees when Bank of the Philippine Islands invited her to speak about personal finance. Surprisingly, Orman who generally promotes her books, didn't even plug her hotly debated prepaid debit card to the crowd.
She mentioned that she is in the country because she came out with a product that needed a call center. She explained that part of her visit is to train the Filipino staff of the call center herself.
Orman is betting on the Philippines for her business. She said, "If you can attract the likes of Suze Orman to want to be paying money to the Philippines so that you can service my customers in the United States, can you imagine what could happen (here)."
It's a fact that the scale of the Philippine stock exchange is dwarfed by neighbors in Singapore, Indonesia and Japan. And Orman is frank. "You are making your growth be just stable. You need more stocks on the stock exchange, you need more companies, you need more education in that regard. But the only way that's going to happen is if you make an effort yourself to learn."
The finance guru hammered home that Filipinos have to learn more about personal finance. Suze Orman told every Filipino in the audience, you can make your country "as great as it's about to be by simply getting involved with the money that you do have and the money that you want to have, no matter where you start." - Rappler.com