10 times Suze Orman got it wrong, her critics say

10 times Suze Orman got it wrong, her critics say
10 times Suze Orman got it wrong, her critics say

It's hard to overlook Suze Orman, one of the biggest names in personal finance. For decades, you've seen her on TV, online and on bookshelves spreading her advice on how to manage your money.

Sometimes Orman’s opinions are spot on and you’d be wise to follow her tips. But other times she misses the mark, often horribly, financial experts say.

Read on for a look at 10 of Orman's recommendations, followed by the reasons experts say each bit of advice is off the mark.

1: When she says don't waste money on conveniences

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Suze Orman says grocery delivery services and other conveniences are a waste of money.

Do you use a grocery delivery service to save time? Do you frequently order takeout or use a laundry service because it’s more convenient?

Orman doesn’t approve. She’s not a fan of spending extra money on things simply to make your life easier, and she cautions that the little expenses can add up.

"Stop leasing cars, stop eating out, stop doing the things that’s wasting your money and makes your life easier, because in the long run it’s going to make it harder," the personal finance guru told CNBC.

What's wrong with that?

We don't all need to swear off comforts, says Jim Wang, the Baltimore-based founder of Wallet Hacks.

“That may be good advice if you’re struggling and in high-interest debt," he tells MoneyWise.com. "But when you budget and know where your money is going, it’s perfectly OK to spend it on the conveniences in life."

If you've saving diligently, there's nothing evil about enjoying a few conveniences. "If you hate cleaning and you’re exhausted after work, hire a cleaner," Wang says.

2: When she says 70 is the new retirement age

old couple, retirement age, hugging
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Suze Orman says we should all wait until 70 to retire.

Let's say you dream of retiring early. Maybe even just a few years early, at 62 — when you can start taking Social Security.

If you're working toward retiring sooner rather than later, Suze Orman is quick to offer an opinion you aren’t going to like.

As she sees it, "70 is the new retirement age — not a month or year before." We're living longer, Orman says, so if you retire too early there's a greater risk that you'll run out of money.

What's wrong with that?

Waiting until the big 7-0 isn't always going to work. "There’s not one universal age that’s right for everyone to retire," says Credit Takeoff founder and managing editor Mike Pearson.

Under the "multiply by 25" rule, you should be able to live off your retirement funds, regardless of your age, once you've built up a nest egg that's at least 25 times your annual expenses. Working with a financial planning service — maybe one conveniently operating online — can help you get there.

"For example," Pearson says, "if your expenses are $50,000 per year and you have a retirement account worth $1.25 million, then you should be able to comfortably retire, whether you're 40 years old or 70."

3: When she says employers look at credit scores

Poor credit score report with pen and calculator
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Suze Orman thinks you should worry about employers peeking at your credit scores.

Your credit score can have a huge influence on your life, as Suze Orman is quick to point out. If you're not aware of your credit score, you can find out for free.

But while Orman is correct to say credit scores are a big deal, she’s got the wrong idea when she says a bad credit score could keep you from getting a job.

"You go to get a job, your employer looks at your FICO score, they go, I am not hiring this person because they have a bad FICO score," she old CNN.

What's wrong with that?

The idea that a credit score could cost you a job is 100% false.

Employers can review your credit report — with your written permission — as part of a job application, but your credit scores are off limits.

In the words of Experian, one of the three major credit bureaus, "credit scores are never used for employment purposes."

4: When she says make at least minimum payments

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Suze Orman says make at least the minimum payments on credit cards.

Financial experts agree: It’s smart to pay off high-interest credit card debt as aggressively as you can. At the very least, you should make minimum payments on your cards to avoid damaging your credit score.

That's the advice Suze Orman gave a woman through her column on Oprah.com, and it doesn't seem surprising.

But when consider that the woman — who owed $8,000 — was 81 years old and barely making ends meet on $600 a month from Social Security, the picture changes.

What's wrong with that?

When a person is struggling to get by on Social Security, protecting her credit scores should not be the priority, says Jackie Beck, creator of the app "Pay Off Debt by Jackie Beck."

“The minimum payment on an $8,000 credit card debt is likely between $140 and $400 per month," Beck says. "That’s a huge chunk of her monthly income."

It makes more sense to sell the woman's car or any other assets to pay off the debt. If there are no assets, the woman and her family should try to negotiate with the credit card company or look into a debt consolidation loan.

5: When she says save in a Roth IRA — period

Roth IRA coins in a jar, saving for retirement concept
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Suze Orman is a firm believer in the Roth IRA.

Suze Orman is a big fan of the Roth IRA, which can be a great tool to help you save for retirement and potentially slash your taxes once you get there.

"The prospect of having tax-free income in retirement makes a Roth IRA a great deal," she says.

Orman tells her fans to focus on this: "No tax on withdrawals with the Roth vs. having to pay income tax on every penny that comes out of a traditional IRA."

What's wrong with that?

It’s not wise to simply recommend a Roth IRA over a traditional IRA, says Logan Allec, a certified public accountant and founder of Money Done Right.

"This is potentially dangerous advice because, frankly, a traditional IRA may result in more tax benefits for some folks," says Allec. That group would include older, higher-income workers.

"If someone is in a high tax bracket and is going to retire in the next few years, after which he or she will be in a very low tax bracket, a traditional IRA may very well make more sense than a Roth IRA," Allec says.

6: When she says if your parents need help, stop funding your retirement

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Suze Orman says if your aging parents need help, you might provide it.

On NBC's "Today" Show, Suze Orman was given this question: "My mom got sick and needs financial help. I’m an only child. Do I stop contributing to my retirement accounts to help her out financially?"

Orman replied, "Yeah, guess what? You do."

She went on to explain: "Later in life when you’ve lost a parent, you're gonna maybe look back and go, 'This money means nothing. Why didn’t I help my mom?'"

What's wrong with that?

While most people might see virtue in wanting to give aging parents financial help, Vicki Cook, co-founder of WomenWhoMoney, says there’s a better way.

"Suze is too quick to say yes, just quit contributing to retirement accounts," Cook says. She recommends that adult children first check the website of their state's office on aging for potential sources of assistance.

“You shouldn’t disregard other support that is available at the expense of investing for your own future," says Cook, who has been through this process with her 80- and 89-year-old parents.

7: When she launched a prepaid debit card

Suze Orman, LinkedIn Influencer Interview 2014
Jacqueline Zaccor / Flickr
Suze Orman endorsed a prepaid debit card called The Approved Card.

In 2012 Suze Orman created and was paid to endorse a prepaid debit card known as The Approved Card.

The card's website reportedly included the following statement from the money maven: "I am proud to say that The Approved card is the first prepaid card in history to share information with TransUnion, a major credit bureau."

Critics said the marketing bordered on deceptive.

What was wrong with that?

The statement made it seem that The Approved Card was the first prepaid card that could help you build credit. But that wasn’t the case.

Card data was sent to TransUnion only for research. Further into The Approved Card's website, there was another statement saying that "this data will not appear on your TransUnion credit report at this time."

Orman took a lot of heat over the card. Eventually, she lashed out on Twitter at several personal finance professionals who gave her Approved Card bad reviews. She later apologized for her behavior.

8: When she says choose more active investments

stock market conceptual image
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Suze Orman has decided everyday investors ought to try a more active strategy.

Though no one has a crystal ball when it comes to the stock market, many experts agree that broad-based index funds that track, for example, the S&P 500 index are typically a better bet for everyday investors, especially when you're just getting started.

Suze Orman agreed with this idea once upon a time. However, in an interview with Money, she switched her position — and left a lot of financial pros scratching their heads.

She acknowledged statistics showing simple, passive index funds outperform 80% of actively managed mutual funds. "But today I think you have to be more active," she said, "and I like [funds] that let you own particular sectors, like [emerging markets, oil and energy or metals and mining].”

What's wrong with that?

Orman's suggested strategy of choosing focused funds "only invites people to time the market and make costly mistakes with their nest egg," says Riley Adams, a licensed CPA working as a senior financial analyst for a tech company in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Adams says Main Street investors should play it safer. "In the long run, a low-cost, diversified passive index fund has proven to be one of the most impactful investments a person can make in their future," he says.

A diversified and passive approach — maybe by using an app that helps you invest your spare change — minimizes risk and rewards a patient investor.

9: When she says your coffee habit is costing you $1 million

woman holding take-out coffee cup
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Suze Orman says your carryout coffee habit costs you $1 million.

Suze Orman famously says that you shouldn't buy carryout coffee but should instead invest that $3 a day, because in 40 years you'd have $1 million.

“You need to think about it as: You are peeing $1 million down the drain as you are drinking that coffee,” Orman told CNBC Make It.

Wait, what? Can you really turn a $3-per-day coffee habit into $1 million? Experts say it's not that simple.

What's wrong with that?

Orman's anti-coffee stance is based on assumptions that are "wildly off-base," says financial adviser Brenton Harrison, founder of BrentonHarrison.com.

For one thing, you'd need to take your coffee money and put it into an account earning a high, consistent rate of return, like 12%.

"In reality,” Harrison says, "even if you could find an investment that averaged 12% — and if you do, please let me know — the math assumes that you earn 12% every single year, which is not how the stock market works at all."

10: When she disses on the FIRE movement

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Suze Orman is no fan of people retiring decades early.

Suze Orman was recently asked, "Have you heard of the FIRE movement?" Orman's answer was yes, but she didn't stop there.

"I hate it," she told podcaster Paula Pant. "Let me tell you why." From there, she went on a nearly 30-minute rant about why she thinks FIRE — which stands for Financially Independent, Retire Early — is a misguided sham.

Orman said you'd need at least $5 million if you want to retire at a young age safely. As she put it, $2 million wouldn't be enough money to offer you protection "when the floods come."

What's wrong with that?

Naturally, proponents of FIRE weren’t happy with the harsh words. Tori Dunlap, founder of Her First $100K, says Orman doesn't understand that the movement is more nuanced and not focused solely on the idea of retiring early.

“Most folks who FIRE are not actually interested in lounging on a beach somewhere and never being compensated for work again,” Dunlap contends.

"Instead, they are more interested in focusing their time on projects they love (that usually also make an income)."