I watch the Suze Orman Show on CNBC every week. I love it. Hearing about people's lives as it relates to money is fascinating to me, and Suze is both a financial advisor and a sage advocate of human progress and happiness. One of the things I have learned from Suze is that the way people tend to run their financial lives is normally very similar to the way they run their emotional lives. If their finances are in chaos, so are their relationships. If they are honest about their financial lives, and live within their means, they tend to be honest and straightforward in other capacities. If they are stingy and greedy, they tend to be stingy and greedy with love as well. Every week Suze ends the show with this saying: "People first, then money, then things." I think most people if they had to say what is more important would probably put people first in the list as well, though I don't think many people do it. What I think is interesting is that money comes before things. A lot of times while growing up I felt that the objects in our house were worth more than I was, in fact worth even more than the money spent to buy them. I felt very guilty when I got careless and broke a glass or a plate. I even went through this phase where I tried not to spend any of my parents' money. I never asked for anything extra, no treats, no presents, nothing. In the midst of this attempt to get a martyrish sort of attention from my parents, I badly twisted my ankle. I remember my mom having to write a check for 20 dollars to rent the crutches. I made a huge fuss about how I didn't want the crutches because I didn't want my mom to spend any money on me. She stared me right in the face and said, "listen! I am your mother and I am going to take care of you and I sometimes that costs money!" Later, when I was 16, my dad bought me a $2000 Oldsmobile (boat), and 3 months later I got into an accident and totaled it. (ran into a coral reef-- j/k) After I realized that the car was totaled, I remember thinking that I would have rather died than wreck that car. I literally thought that. I CAN'T BELIEVE I thought I was worth less than 2000 dollars. It boggles my mind now, but I remember clearly feeling that way and crying inconsolably when my parents arrived at the scene.
Money is big for people. People sometimes use money, and their things to feel a certain way, to change their mood, or to define themselves. People saddle themselves with debt in order to live a lifestyle that they cannot afford. They literally agree to live a lie to have a life that they really shouldn't have. Nothing would be wrong with having less stuff, or a more affordable home, they've just decided that something IS wrong with not having that stuff and that home, so they get it even if they can't afford it. Suze started the year by telling people that in these tough financial times, the best thing we can all do is tell the truth about who we are financially. I loved that. She even made the audience on the Oprah Show all stand up and say how much debt they all had, and she also calculated the debt of the entire audience, which was a whopping number. It was a really powerful lesson about being honest about who you are, financially and otherwise.
On the topic of honesty and being who you are, this recent academy awards ceremony was particularly moving to me. With Dustin Lance Black, the ex-mormon screenwriter of Milk, winning an oscar and giving a powerful speech about civil rights and progress for all people, and then Sean Penn winning for best actor and giving another wonderful speech along those lines, its been a big year for "being who you are." On valentines day, Suze gave shared this message on her show. It's worth posting here.
I hope we will all be who we are this year more than ever. That we will allow ourselves to thrive in the light of day, letting the TRUTH bathe our very bodies and minds. I hope that with our money, we will tell the truth about who we are, and not use currency to spin a sticky dangerous web that it will be difficult from which to extricate ourselves. We have the power to tell the truth, and with that truth we have the power to live in our bliss starting today.