Women and Money by Suze Orman: One Man’s Review

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Initially, I had intended this to be review of Suze Orman’s newest book Women & Money: Owning the Power to Control Your Destiny to be done by my wife. However, she expresses no interest in doing so. So I read it myself, and found out that her reaction was actually a bit ironic. Here is my review of this book both from the perspective of a male and the husband of a smart, capable woman who doesn’t like dealing with money.

The first half of this book deals primarily with the question of Women can handle money as well as any man… So why don’t they? It’s tough to deal with this subject obviously, because not all women are the same and you don’t want to be accused of stereotyping. But at the same time I’m glad that Suze tried. Here are a few ideas.

Women feel like coveting money is wrong. For some reason, it is okay to be proud to have a good job and a good family, but it’s wrong to openly admit you want lots of money. It could be that women tend to be more nurturing and taking care of others versus themselves. They don’t want to be considered selfish.

But at the same time that they try not to focus on money, they still worry about being broke. The book quotes a study that showed 90% of women describing themselves as feeling insecure when it came to their finances. In the same survey, nearly half the respondents said that the prospect of ending up a bag lady has crossed their minds.

Women are more team-oriented, as opposed to individually oriented. When a man thinks about money, they are at war – it’s a competitive battle. Me, me, me. When a woman thinks about money, she wants to make sure the whole team is treated fairly, and wants everyone to get along without hurting anyone else’s feelings.

An example of this is during salary negotiations. The book states that research has shown that women are 2.5 times more likely to say they feel “a great deal of apprehension” about negotiating. In one study, men used the metaphor of “winning a ballgame” to describe negotiating, while women picked the metaphor of “going to the dentist.”

I have personally experienced this with my wife. Although her performance reviews are always great, she has always been very passive when it comes to salary negotiations. Despite my suggestions, she has never asked for an higher raise than offered, and never put in a counter-offer when accepting a new job. Suze puts it this way – “You are not on sale. Do not undervalue yourself.”

Save Yourself Plan
The second half of the book is a condensed version of all her personal finance tips, broken down into 5 steps. The idea is that a woman should finish one manageable step per month. The advice is solid and straightforward, if a bit one-size-fits-all. Here’s a brief summary of each step:

  1. Checking and savings accounts. Get organized, get a free checking account, open up a higher-yield savings account, etc.
  2. Credit cards and FICO scores. Check your credit score, build up your credit if you don’t have any, pay down bills, pay less fees, etc.
  3. Retirement Investing. Start putting something away, invest in 401ks and Roth IRAs, buy low-cost index funds, etc.
  4. Must-Have Documents. Wills, living revocable trusts, advanced directives, etc.
  5. Protecting Your Family and Home. Life insurance, renters or homeowner’s insurance, personal liability insurance, etc.

Overall Review
I would read Women and Money if you (or someone important you know) feels like they should learn more about money, but for whatever reason haven’t been able to do so. This books tries to find the right buttons to push, and if it works then it will be worth it. It’s pretty popular so I’m sure most libraries have a copy. The advice included afterwards is good enough as starter material, but is not a source for advanced financial tips.

As for me, this book has caused me to want to involve my wife more in the day-to-day activities, if only to get her more familiar with things. I will continue to encourage my wife to read this book, and will probably include it in my Financial Will. Any thoughts from the women who’ve read this book?

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  1. I think that usually in couples, one of the partners wants the financial geek status and the other one usually shy’s away from it. Sometimes both partners are capable, but if one is on top of things, the other one doesn’t want to bother. And maybe, after being away from control for a while, they may get intimidated a little.

    I know my husband doesn’t want to be bothered by any of it. Most of his check is direct deposited into my checking account and I pay for everything. I think he actually gets a little stressed thinking about bills, where handling the bills, strangely enough, relaxes me a lot. I like knowing where all the money is going, that all the bills are paid on time. It’s one area of my life where I feel lots of control and that is great. With everything else — I’m kind of disorganized and not as sure of myself.

  2. While being the one who handles the money, I still have a lot of those female behaviors. In particular, I hate negotiating. I suppose they have classes for that kind of thing. I should look into it.

  3. Hmm, I’m usually not a fan of anything Suze Orman says, but this seems to be of value. A man could have never written this book due to the stereotyping issue you mentioned earlier.

  4. Ted Valentine says

    Does Suze really say that men think that way about money? How does she get a pass for this?

    Maybe I should write a book about men and money and be sure to detail how women primarily use sex to get money one way or another.

  5. I’ve flipped through it – long enough to realize that although it’s ostensibly aimed at “women”, I’m not really one of the women it’s aimed at.

    I think like many books of this type, it’s designed as an “introductory” book to help people who know they have some sort of conceptual barrier to jumping into this area. If you’re already involved, or your barrier isn’t the one addressed (one or both of which may be true for many women), it’s really not for you. But, if happens to line up with what’s holding you back, it all seemed like reasonable advice, at least….

  6. Cashmere Addict says

    My husband and I go to a financial planner (I know you guys don’t), but one of the early on exercises he had us do, that was very helpful, was to lay out every single line item in our financial life. Then, look at it together and figure out if we are okay with it, or want something different based on our short and long term goals. By doing it together and looking at it together, we were both forced to know what is going on across the board in our financial life.

    A lot of times there will be one who is handling the day to day finances, but this exercise forces the one who isn’t touching it all of the time to be involved, help in the overall plan and have some thoughts of their own about where they want to be.

    Honestly, as a woman, it actually makes me a little sad that your wife, and other smart amazing women like her, don’t want to be involved in the financial side of the marriage/life. I don’t understand just handing it over… I could never do that (and neither could my husband, which is why we each demand to have a say in our financial plan). It’s really one of the things in life that gives you not only freedom, but perspective on what you really want (do you want to retire young or old, do you want a house or not, do you want to be able to live like you are now when you retire or your partner passes away, etc…). If one just turns their head to money/finances, I think they are turning their head to more than just money.

    This is a great post! Thank you for your review of the book.

  7. I hate books that generalize about the sexes. I am a man, and I hate “negotiating”. I know lots of women that don’t want “everyone to get along”. The fact that women are 2.5x more likely to feel apprehensive isn’t very useful. It could be that 1% of men feel apprehensive and only 2.5% of women. Or it could be that 40% of men feel apprehensive and 100% of women. In the first case most people have no problem, while in the second many men have the same problem as well so it isn’t fair to generalize to women.

  8. I’m blessed with a marriage where both partners are financially savvy, and came in with their own financial history (and accounts, which will matter in just a moment).

    The challenge here I find is that each of us is comfortable managing our own finances as individuals, and we both want to keep our own accounts (it’s annoying to balance a chequebook when you didn’t do all the transactions!). So we agreed to do household accounting quarterly and pay the other person to settle up, so that we split expenses 50:50. So far so good.

    There’s two issues with this hunky dory strategy:

    1) We’re not “specializing” by consolidating accounts, which in terms of overall household time and energy means that we’re basically doing double the work we could theoretically be doing by opening one joint chequing account, etc. But both of us know what all our own stuff is doing, and where the other person’s account info is. Same for insurance, taxes, investments. (We do file jointly). So we both know exactly what’s going on in a timely fashion, but it almost seems redundant in a way.

    2) We have different risk tolerances for investments. I’m happy learning about things outside my comfort zone, trying them at small scale, and ramping up the investment in that asset class as I see what the consequences of owning it are (taxes, fees, etc.). My spouse, not so much — keeps a lot of money in CDs. We also go through somewhat different learning processes, so we both respect that, but that means that we have to consider both *individual* asset allocation as well as the *household* one. It’s hard to reconcile where we’d both like the household asset allocation to be with our individual ones if one partner is just less comfortable with risk — the other partner is either forced to be too risky with their individual portion to compensate, or (like our situation), the household allocation stays just too conservative, or imbalanced from a tax-diversification point of view.

    This is the stuff I’d like to see from personal finance books: where you are tempermentally in alignment with your partner (we’re both savers) but you would like to elevate your dialogue to take into consideration these subtle issues that can have a long-term impact on your family’s portfolio. Because I get the feeling in the end, one partner just cedes all authority/knowledge to the other, and then the learning and dialogue stops just because it got too hard, and one partner’s either in the dark or stuck with a situation they’re not comfortable with.

    How do partners learn and grow their assets together, so both keep learning and pushing their comfort zone? (And you have to do the latter to keep up with all the new information out there these days.)

  9. I handle all of the family’s finances even as I have taught my husband pretty much everything he knows about managing money, saving, and investing. I also enjoy negotiating, and have repeatedly requested – and received – extra raises (don’t ever believe that you can only get one raise a year, regardless of your company’s policy – and remember that if you just took on extra responsibilities without getting extra money, you have a beautiful opening for that conversation). And although I know that this statistic is problematic, the fact that women are said to make $.79 on the dollar compared to men always inspires me to make *more* than my male colleagues so as to help even out the imbalance. 😉

    So what’s the point? Personality and gender are factors, but childhood training is highly significant too (I was raised to believe that women *should* be the ones handling the money); most people aren’t taught anything about finances and so are understandably apprehensive about them; most people aren’t taught how to negotiate either and so are apprehensive about that too. If you’re raised as a kid to see these things as a game that you can play and win, you’re going to be a lot more excited about playing it – with confidence – later in life.

  10. You know what’s the secret to making money and saving money? Write a book! Suze Orman and the likes of her are very good at packaging well known facts and regurgitating it. Anyone who considers buying her book would do well to save their $24.95 and read this blog instead.

  11. I have been debating hiring a professional money manager recently. Although I trade for a living, I have found that in the last few years my personal performance has not been as good as I would have liked. I am thinking that a fresh approach would be better.

    Any Ideas on the best wat to find a good money manager?


  12. Suze’s advice does seem overpriced. Blogs are a lot less expensive. How many ways can she say: “Save money, spend less, get organized, you can do it, girl.”

  13. Rhonda Argetsinger says

    I can read Suze’s book for free by checking it out from my local library. A true saver would know to do this intuitively. So don’t discredit the advice based on the price of the book.

  14. anonymous says

    I am a female and I fit Suze’s generalization in some (not all) categories. So, yes, this book benefits me more or less. I didn’t like negotiations. I felt uncomfortable negotiating for more salary. I felt like investing was a rocket science and wanted someone else to handle it for me.

    The book gives easy explainations of the basics about money, credit card, and then some. I’d say the book can give you a good start, if you don’t hate her style.

  15. I’ll never forget seeing Suze on television and one man asked if he should sell Enron stock to which she replied no don’t sell. The Enron collapse was soon to follow. Same thing happened with Jim Cramer recently when a caller asked about Bear Stearns. They’re just guessing sometimes.

    I used to be in the book business when Carlton Sheets was around with his no money down book . He was just an ordinary man when I met him and had lunch. Nothing special. Great promoter.

    I’m still trying to figure out how Suze says she sued her employer Merrill Lynch for failure in their fidciary responsibility when she lost $50,000 she invested with them. Does that work better when you’re employed by the firm than the average person on the street? Like in female employee — make a settlement so she’ll say nice things about us? Somehow I don’t think it’s because it’s a great company etc. like she professes.

  16. I HATE generalizations. I am a woman and I find that many of these generalizations are appalling. I would not be buying her book 🙁

  17. This book was REALLY basic to me and obvious. However I think it would make a nice gift for a young women out on her own for the first time.

  18. Kim Rowley says

    I’m a big Suze fan and taker of her advice. My brother is as well, and like he says “Take off the Wo and you get ‘Men and Money’ “.

  19. Lisa Lazarus says

    it’s right

  20. I downloaded the book for free from the Oprah web site, during the 24hr offering, otherwise I would have gotten it from the library. If you’re a regular reader of this site or other financial sites, it’s not for you. It’s meant for people who are not in control of their finances or whose finances are out of control and need a place to start. The book was written by a woman for women, if men want to read it, nobody’s stoping them but they’re not the target audience. I gained a better understanding of why some women don’t take control and I have used it to help friends and co-workers take more control of the finances. It’s not for everyone nor is it intended to be.

  21. Jude Hodge says

    I am reading this book and love it. I have accomplished alot in less than 24 hours, in fact it is what took me to your site as I was looking up info for a free online will and it took me right back to Suze as you had a code. I now have a will and trust thanks to you adding it here for us.

    All women 18 years or older should read this book.

    Thanks and I love your site, it encourages me! 🙂 Jude

  22. I am female and don’t fit the stereotype described in this book. I think the female focus of the book is a marketing strategy and the book’s description of “female characteristics” certainly are not true for all women. Still, in general I am a fan of Suze Orman’s financial advice. In books like these I find that I must separate the hype from the good and useful advice.

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