Feature

Author of the week: Suze Orman

Orman became obsessive about financial discipline soon after her father's death. She thinks he was broken by his failure to provide for his family.

Popular personal-finance guru Suze Orman revealed last week that money problems did her father in, said Susan Dominus in The New York Times Magazine. “My father killed himself—on Father’s Day,” she said in an interview. Burdened with financial worries, he died, Orman said, “a defeated man.” That claim might surprise readers who read Orman’s first best-seller, 1997’s The Nine Steps to Financial Freedom. In that book, she wrote with a touch of admiration about her father, who once escaped a fire at his takeout chicken stand—only to dash back into the flames to rescue the cash box. That story ended with his bouncing back and reaching financial security late in his life. “Who knows what I said in the book?” Orman says now.

Orman’s father’s death wouldn’t have been classified as a suicide, said Dominus. He died, almost 30 years ago, of heart failure. But Orman thinks he willed it. Though he suffered a serious heart condition and had been using a wheelchair, he chose Father’s Day to stand up and walk until the point of exhaustion. “He wouldn’t open the presents,” she says. “He knew what he was doing.” Orman thinks he’d been broken by his failure to provide for his family. Soon after, Orman became obsessive about financial discipline, renouncing debt spending with the zealousness of a convert. Her father’s example, she says, “made me the person I am.”

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