Photo Courtesy OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network"People with money do not inspire me. People who live a wealthy life regardless of what they have and they don't have, those people inspire me." ~Suze Orman
On the eve of her new show, "America's Money Class with Suze Orman," America's most trusted personal finance advisor and best-selling author offered some valuable advice on financial planning in marriage and education, predictions for the economy in 2012, and why her new show is the greatest gift she could have given herself.
Shine: Can you give us a brief 2012 economic forecast?
Suze Orman: I think that 2012 is not going to be an easy year, but I have been saying that now for many years. In comparison to what is going to be happening in other countries, we are not going to look quite as bad. I do think that you are going to see real estate in many of the areas, the sand states--Florida, Las Vegas, or Arizona-probably continue to go down. In big metropolitan areas, real estate has probably hit its bottom-New York City. Hitting its bottom doesn't mean that it is going to go up very quickly after that. I think you're going to see unemployment stay right around where it is, oil go down, and gold go up. I think the main thing you need to know is that it is not going to be easy and it is not going to be easy for the next few years to come, so I would be very careful with everything that I did if I were you.
Shine: Many of our Shine readers are moms and want to know about saving for their children's education. What is the best way?
Suze Orman: Before you ask the question "how do I save for my child's education," you better look at yourself in the mirror and be able to answer "yes" to everyone of these questions: Do you have at least an eight month emergency fund? Yes. Are you totally out of credit card debt? Yes. Are you funding your retirement accounts to the max? Yes. Are you going to have your home paid off by the time you want to retire? Yes. Do you feel that your job is absolutely secure and that you are not going to suffer a financial loss in the future? Yes. If all of those are "yes's" then the question becomes "what do you do?" and the answer is a 529 Plan is the absolute best way to save for your kid's college education. Savingforcollege.com, the website by Joseph Hurley, the nation's expert in this, is where you should go. But, if you answered "no" to any one of the questions, you have to put the financial oxygen mask on your face first instead of your children. If you don't, in my opinion, you are making one of the biggest mistakes possible.
Shine: If we could take one step to improve our financial life today, what would that be?
Suze Orman: To somehow figure out how to get as much pleasure out of saving as you do spending. As important as it is to physically exercise, it's as equally important to financially exercise as well. It is just a little attitude adjustment to get more pleasure out of saving than you do spending. It is not a big thing to ask for.
Shine: On the show taping that I attended, you had a few couples who were struggling financially in their marriage; can you talk a little bit about the importance of couples discussing finances prior to getting married?
Suze Orman: The number one reason for divorce today in the U.S. is from arguments over money. "M" just doesn't stand for marriage, it also stands for money. The first conversation that you should be having before you say "I do" is money conversations: What is your FICO score? Do you have credit card debt? Do you have student loan debt? Are you good with money? Do you like to save? You need to keep your eyes open when you are first in a relationship with someone. You have got to be as financially intimate with somebody as you are personally intimate.
Shine: Should all couples get a pre-nup?
Suze Orman: Absolutely. The time that you plan for the "what ifs" of life is when you are in a state of love, not in a state of hate.
Shine: You are the master motivator, but who motivates Suze Orman?
Suze Orman: The people who don't have a pot to pee in, but somehow make it against all odds and are happy. The other day I was at Consumer Reports and there was a woman that has for 19 years worked in the area where they test dishwashers. For 19 years, she has put ketchup and peanut butter and all these things on plates to make them dirty so that when they go into a dishwasher the results can be identical. I watched her do it and she loved her job. That woman inspires me. Also, the cab driver that I'm in a cab with in New York City, asking him "how's his life? How's he doing? How's his money" and he turns around at a stop light and he says: "You want to know what's so great about my life? We get to eat macaroni and cheese every single night. Can you even imagine how lucky we are? I never thought that was going to be possible." That taxi driver inspires me. People with money do not inspire me. People who live a wealthy life regardless of what they have and they don't have, those people inspire me.
Shine: How will "America's Money Class with Suze Orman" be different from some of your other shows?
Suze Orman: I think when you see me on The Suze Orman show on CNBC you see me staring into the camera and you do not see me interacting with people whatsoever. When somebody is physically in front of me, magic can happen. What you are going to see happen on the show is a transformation of many of the people who came to get their questions answered and hopefully you can identify with those people so that if you are watching it at home you're able to transform as well.
Shine: What is the most important lesson or take away from this show?
Suze Orman: That money is a topic that you need to step to rather than run away from. That no matter what your situation, no matter how bad you think it is, there is always somebody in a worse situation or someone who has less than you, but that every single person can turn it around.
Every penny that I was being paid to do this show, I put back into either the production or the gifts that were given away on the show. I did not make one penny doing this show. I have never enjoyed doing something as much as I enjoyed doing those shows. It was a true work of love and for the first time in a long time, I did something that was an incredible amount of work simply for the love alone. It was an extraordinary experience for me to get that much back in touch with how much I love doing what I do. It was the greatest gift that I could have given myself ever, ever, ever.
Sneak Peek: Watch the first 5 minutes of the premiere before its television debut, then, tune in for the premiere of "America's Money Class with Suze Orman" on Monday, January 9th at 9/8c. Only on OWN!