by michael on February 13, 2012

Today, although it was Sunday, I did what I was more than likely to be doing, which was working on one or more projects, trying to keep ideas separated among them, hoping that I would not write into a client’s trust agreement my notes on engravers of fly rods.

I took a break to make from scratch, pun intended, some chicken soup. I turned on the small TV located a few feet from my chopping block and kitchen stove. The issue of the US debt had been hanging in my mind like a skull. The US budget deficits, on the macro level, seem certain to damage if not destroy this country.

But what was my future, my family’s future, on a personal level? What, if anything, could a somewhat prudent responsible individual do to survive financially? What could one do to protect one’s family? Those are questions worth asking.  

Then: Fate.

I turned on the TV. Whatever channel it was, I think it Channel 12, a public broadcasting channel, Suze Orman was on the screen giving a class on real estate investing called The Money Class. Suze was allowing her class to be used to raise money for public television. I had heard of Suze but had not listened to one of her presentations or even a part of a presentation. I had not read any of her material. I had not read any parts of her several books.

Quickly evident was that Suze was speaking about more than real estate investing. She was speaking about the New American Dream. She was speaking about how to enrich what was, in her opinion, truly important: family and raising moral children. I left the soup on the stove, grabbed paper and pen, pulled a chair up to the TV and began taking notes.

Suze had much to say, as can be expected from someone who has written several best selling books—The Money Class, The Money Navigator, Women and Money—and has been voted as one of the 100 most influential people in the United States, as I recall.

            I share a few of her many vibrant thoughts relevant to the topic of raising strong independent children and the topic of nurturing a supporting healthy vibrant family.

            Key to all success in what she describes as The New American Dream is to live below your means but not below your needs. This concept takes time to absorb. Suze referenced some technical financial matters such as distinguishing between recourse and non-recourse debt: mortgages tend to be non-recourse debt but home equity lines of credit tend to be recourse, which means that failure to pay the loan can leave the debtor with personal liability exposure.

            Suze raised profound questions:

  • Who do you trust?
  • Where do you get information?
  • How trustworthy is your information?

 Her recommended approach to life in pursuit of the New American Dream is to:

  • Speak the truth;
  • Act the truth and
  • Live the truth

 Suze talked about raising children to have a sense of values and a sense of duty in a way that will reject an entitlement mentality. She used as an example the matter of giving a child an allowance. She’s against it. Parents have a duty to provide shelter and food, and most of all, they have a duty to provide love. Beyond that, everything must be earned by the child. Suze called that concept “work pay.” That is to say, pay must be earned.

In return for their food and shelter, as part of the family, children should do chores. If they want money, then they have to do extra chores. The entitlement mentality occurs when children get things that are not earned.

Getting things that are not earned is not living the truth. It is not the truth because the world does not work that way, as a general rule, and there is no honor in getting things that are not earned, as a general rule.

The most difficult words for a parent to utter, Suze opines, are “We can’t afford it.” These words seem to indicate a total failure by the parents, whether it is a new car, a vacation, new soccer shoes, staying in one’s current house or apartment.

It’s not failure. It’s life. “We can’t afford it” also means we will not be phonies; we will not live at a level we can not afford; we would rather devote scarce resources to enriching the family, reducing pressure to squeeze out every dollar from work, having less stress emotionally and financially.

Suze advocates that parents put themselves first, which has a very specific meaning: put the true needs of the family first: time, less stress, more attention, more love even if it means fewer things.

Suze expressed an optimism that, I admit, caught me off guard and which I will have to ponder with greater focus. Suze said the changes in America, which she believes will include reduced economic opportunity and income, can be good for the fabric of the family and country.

The segment I watched ended with Suze making a stirring poetic statement: “Speak to your children with joy and take pride in who you are rather than show shame for what you don’t have.”

That’s what I call a powerful statement. I have become a fan.

More information about her can be accessed by these links:



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