Such is the appeal of Suze Orman that she's usually paid $US100,000 for a 30-minute talk, but it wasn't always that way. So when I got to spend a whole hour with this personal finance guru, I felt instantly richer.
Suze rose to success from humble beginnings and is an inspiration to many women for her advice on money, even when it comes with some tough love.
“I hope women stop using the excuse that they’re a woman for why they can’t be more and have more,” she says, adding that women need to go “beyond” simply calling for pay equality and realise that more often than not they own the power to control their destiny.
“They [women] are the ones that are going to have to do it because nobody else is going to do it for them.”
She adds that while women must become stronger, “men have got to stop making their little girls powerless” by wrapping them in cotton-wool when it comes to money, investing and even owning credit cards.
She calls it the way she sees it
The self-built US businesswoman, who is Suze Orman, and worth an estimated $US35 million, is also a brand unto herself.
She has forged a career out of calling it the way she sees it, even if it feeds criticism about her advice published in books and on television.
But it’s not the personal attacks that bother Orman, she can handle them, it’s the fact such criticisms are examples of why many women go silent instead of using their voices to be powerful.
“I don’t say much to my critics anymore, because my critics I can all buy with my little finger and there isn’t a day that goes by where I don’t have five to 10 people telling me, if I am out in public, telling me how I saved their lives and how grateful they are to me.”
She recalls a Boston radio show called the I hate Suze Orman Show which had ratings through the roof as those for and against debated Orman’s worth.
But her advice has never been a problem for regulators. In fact the U.S. Army Reserve has just signed a gratuitous agreement with her to advise its soldiers on money and retirement – a deal that only went ahead on her terms to work for free.
“People will say anything in order to get readership and in order to get ratings and all that matters in life is that you know the truth about who you are and what you are doing.
“And when you know who you are and you can define who you are to yourself it doesn’t matter what anybody else says about you. It just doesn’t matter.
“There is a saying in India and this one saying got me through … and it goes like this ‘the elephant keeps walking as the dogs keep barking’. And it is true. So I have always imagined myself as the elephant and I will keep walking and it does not matter who is yapping at my heels and I will, and I have, got to exactly where I wanted to go.”
Orman’s ability to motivate through personal financial advice, often while talking about credit-card debt and being powerful with money, has arguably been the key to her many successes.
Among which includes best-selling books, such as Women & Money: Owning the power to control your destiny, and winning television awards for The Suze Orman Show, which ended its run last year.
Even Oprah, who regards Suze as her personal finance guru, praises her for her no-nonsense approach to money matters.
'Take a stand together'
It's this frankness that she hopes will motivate women to fight for better pay.
For women in professional sports, who often suffer pay inequality compared to their male colleagues, such as Australian cricketers, football and netball stars, she even suggests going on a united national strike.
“I think the only way you get something is when you take a stand together and you affect someone’s bottom line financially.
"So if women in professional sports could just take a stand and say this is what I want or I am not going to do it, or we’re not going to do it, I think things will change. And it is harder to do then to say do it. But somebody somewhere has to take the risk to do.”
But just because women should fight harder to be heard on equal pay, doesn’t mean they should accept government help either, according to Orman.
She believes government measures such as forced quotas on company boards, which has been debated in Australia, is not the answer to narrowing the gender pay gap and seeing more women in executive leadership roles.
“A long time ago I remember being … on CNN … and it was so sad for me because everyone was looking at the way government needs to change so that people are forced to pay women more. And I was always like ‘have you all lost your minds?’.
“Women need to force people to pay them more,” she said, “Especially if you are in the financial industry, women just don’t make it to the top. If you go to these conferences you can see the number of women and count them on one hand.”
She added that she hopes to be a role model to women by encouraging them to give more to themselves rather than always to others.
“I have a saying and it is one of the rules of money and that is if you undervalue who you are, the world undervalues what you do. And when you undervalue what you do, the world undervalues who you are."