On January 2nd 2019, ThinkAdvisor interviewed Suze Orman, a best-selling author, former stockbroker and former media personality on CNBC and on January 3rd Barrons referenced the same article quoting many negative points about advisors. In short, Ms. Orman made a number of pejorative comments that lack any kind of reference to research or facts. Famous people who bash advisors without fact are making it harder for everyday investors get the help they desperately need.
First Orman claims that advisors themselves are bad with money, yet she provides no research or facts to support this claim. In fact, she states in the interview “most advisors have a horrific relationship with money” without any research quoted, or data to form this opinion. Why would she make this assertion? Isn’t it irresponsible to make such a claim as a media personality without some type of research to back it up? Millions of investors have watched her shows, purchased her products and view her infomercials and making blanket statements like this could actually prevent someone from engaging with a much-needed financial advisor. Could it be that her particular conflict of interest is that she sells a brand of consumer financial advice such as videos, books and pre-paid debit cards, and that these at some level could be considered an alternative to help from a licensed professional? Orman claims to help others yet makes flippant remarks without using independent research. These are the hallmarks of either a huckster or someone without verbal self-control. Whatever her malady is, it is not appropriate.
Orman also claims that most investors don’t need advisors, as investors only need to pay off debt, reduce their mortgage and invest in index funds. This is an unconscionably simplistic statement. Giving advice to the masses over cable TV or radio is always a bad idea, and should be taken as a simple reference point and not be taken as a directive or advice. Her statement is also quite insulting to the many thousands of financial planners out there who work hard to improve people’s lives, and especially so to the younger advisors that cater to the younger demographic and charge very reasonable fees to help them get their start. Evidently Orman believes that things like life insurance, health insurance, housing options, college funding decisions, and your physical health have either no bearing on one’s financial wellness or they will take care of themselves. The aforementioned are just a few of the dozens of topics a financial planner will help you understand and decide on. Imagine if a medical doctor said “You don’t ever need to see a doctor. Just don’t smoke, eat well and exercise. Only call me if you get cancer.”
In this interview she also states most advisors don’t want to make investors independent. This statement I completely agree with, however, she makes the point as a negative. In reality it is a positive. What Orman does not share is the very real fact that wealth management is a complicated, ever-changing and emotional subject. An investor or consumer should never go completely without some fashion of licensed, professional personal guidance. It would be financial malpractice in my opinion to tell someone they are just fine without the use of a financial professional periodically at minimum. Imagine if someone told you just to refer to WebMD for some helpful tips on removing that tumor, and you did it yourself? A silly analogy, but the gravity of the potential results might very well be just as bad.
Suze Orman is not the first well known person to unfairly bash financial advisors and she will not be the last. Other personalities can claim ignorance of financial advisors, Ms. Orman cannot.