Book review: ‘The Money Book for the Young Fabulous & Broke’

There are many personal finance books out there, useful to people in all stages of personal finance. I have a lot to learn before reaching financial independence, and the editorial elves thought it would be useful if I shared some of what I learn with you.

My recent reviews include “Change Your Life in 7 Days” and “More Money, Please: The Financial Secrets You Never Learned in School.” This week, I'm reviewing “The Money Book for the Young Fabulous and Broke” by Suze Orman.

If you're at all into personal finance and haven't been living under a rock, you've heard of Suze Orman. She hosts TV shows. She writes books. She endorses prepaid debit cards. And boy is she outspoken! Her brand is based on a “let me give it to you straight” attitude that people either love or hate. There's not a whole lot of middle ground when it comes to opinions of Suze.

Philosophy Behind the Book

“The Money Book for the Young Fabulous & Broke” is aimed at recent college graduates. She assumes that her readers have student loan debt (and maybe credit card debt, too), and either have not found a job yet or are currently underpaid. She provides a comprehensive overview of how money should fit into your life, divided into ten chapters:

  1. Know the Score (your FICO score)

  2. Career Moves

  3. Give Yourself Credit (credit cards)

  4. Making the Grade on Student Debt

  5. Save Up

  6. Retirement Rules

  7. Investing Made Easy

  8. Big-Ticket Purchase: Car

  9. Big-Ticket Purchase: Home

  10. Love & Money

Each chapter contains a “Lowdown” section that explains the basics, “Strategy Sessions,” where she gives specific advice on the topic, and a “Quick Playback” that reviews the most important concepts of the chapter. In this book at least, Suze's advice that is based on the assumption that if you're truly broke, the ideal option is probably not available to you and you shouldn't let the perfect be the enemy of the good. As a result, many of her recommendations fly in the face of “traditional” personal finance advice.

What I Didn't Like

Honestly, when it comes to things that I didn't like about this book, the layout was first on my list. There are a lot of things in a green font that I found very hard to read. There is an icon that appears whenever Suze is referring you to additional resources that are available on her website. While I appreciate that she's providing more information than can be included in the book, it was a rather large icon that was visually disrupting. There are also lots of pages with hardly any text on them that seemed kind of pointless and randomly placed to me.

I also found the tone a little off-putting. Clearly she was trying to be hip, but I think her use of slang just highlighted the age difference between her and her audience (about 30 years). Imagine your parents saying something like “photobombing is totes cray-cray” and you'll have an idea of what I'm talking about. However, I'm also about ten years older than her target audience. Maybe it rings true to younger readers?

As far as the content itself, as I mentioned there is quite a bit of non-standard personal finance advice. Examples include:

  • If you are in an entry-level job that does not pay enough for you to live off of, use credit cards to supplement your income.

  • Don't make extra payments on low-interest student debt.

  • If your student debt has a high interest rate, pay it off with a low-interest credit card or a HELOC.

  • If you have high-interest credit card debt, don't bother with an emergency fund until you pay it off.

  • Contributions to a Roth IRA can double as an emergency fund.

  • Roll closing costs and PMI into your mortgage to save money (nitpick: I think she meant “improve your cash flow,” not “save money.”).

See what I mean?! Now, in each case, there's more to it than that. To take the first bullet as an example, she says you should be putting no more than 1 percent of your gross income on a credit card each month for a maximum of two years. But I think most personal finance websites would suggest starting a side business, selling Stuff, or getting a part-time job instead, don't you?

What I Loved

For every bit of cray-cray, Suze does offer up a nugget of genuine wisdom. Her suggestion to “do what you love and the money will follow” is pretty standard, though I think it's debatable whether or not that's actually the case. I did love her recommendation that if you want a raise you need to make yourself indispensable to your employer so that you can bargain from a position of strength. Other fairly “normal” explanations and advice include:

  • Her FICO overview, which is pretty solid.

  • Play the balance transfer game when you're trying to pay off high-interest credit card debt.

  • Invest in your company's 401(k) up to the match.

  • Diversify your investments to hedge against risk.

  • Buy a used car and drive it into the ground.

Exciting? Not especially. But all fairly consistent with what you would encounter elsewhere in the personal finance community.

Who Should Read ‘The Money Book for the Young Fabulous & Broke'

I do appreciate the reasoning behind some of Suze's advice even when I don't agree with it. Many personal finance writers have been financially established for so long that they've forgotten what it's really like to be just starting out in your career. And people who say you shouldn't take out student loans under any circumstances just aren't living in the real world. Where I work, for example, full-time resident tuition is over $10,000 per year, and that's at an “affordable” state institution.

Suze's target audience are individuals who know little or nothing about personal finance. As a result, they may not realize that much of the advice in this book is non-standard at best. Yet I can see how some of the more unorthodox recommendations might be attractive to someone who is struggling financially. I wouldn't recommend this book to someone who was a complete novice when it came to personal finance, because I'd be afraid they would treat all her suggestions as equally valid when I don't think that's the case.

A note about swag: I bought this copy of Suze Orman's book at least five years ago, fair and square. I am not affiliated in any way with Suze Orman or her publisher, and my opinions are entirely my own.

Have you read any of Suze Orman's books or watched her TV shows? What's your take?

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MoneyAhoy.com
MoneyAhoy.com
7 years ago

Great review – very detailed. It seems like the book does not touch much on investments at all.

I realize the young don’t have a lot of money to invest, but this is one of the most important things to learn about at a young age due to compounding…

Honey Smith
Honey Smith
7 years ago
Reply to  MoneyAhoy.com

She definitely does talk about compounding, which is why she says you should invest in a 401(k) up to the match, regardless of how much debt you have. But investing is not the main focus of the book, you’re right.

M
M
7 years ago

Thanks for the review. And while I don’t want to enter into a debate about student loans, I suggest there is room for NO student debt in the “real world”. We made it a priority to throw as much money as we could into our son’s college fund even as an infant. Then we just let compounding work its magic for 18 years. He knows he must contribute, too, and he’s clear that he’s not to entertain any debt. I’m not superior in my thinking; I just don’t want to weigh down his future with debt(and I was happy to… Read more »

lmoot
lmoot
7 years ago
Reply to  M

I wish more parents were more like this. It’s one thing if a family can’t afford to pay for their children’s education, but I know many parents (and I apologize if this comes off as judgemental…b/c it is) who purposely make little to no effort to save or contribute b/c they believe that it is the young adult’s DUTY to pay their own way for school. Nevermind that barring prolonging education for 5 or more years to get a full time job and save money, or being “good” enough to get full-paid scholarships, there is no way they will be… Read more »

Debi
Debi
7 years ago
Reply to  lmoot

I agree. When you choose to have children it should be for the long term. I gladly gave up living a higher lifestyle so that my children could graduate student debt free. I’ve never regretted anything that I gave up to accomplish that. Now that my children have jobs of their own and know what an advantage they had over their peers they are extremely grateful that we didn’t take extravagant vacations or buy new cars every 5 years while they were growing up.

Carla
Carla
7 years ago
Reply to  M

That’s great you were able to do that for your son but I thought the book was targeted towards young adults, not their parents. If a student is struggling with student loans hearing what their parents should have done two decades ago doesn’t sound very helpful.

Paying for my education was 100% my responsibility and now as a returning non-traditional student in my 30s, good luck to me. My situation is not unique in any way. Most of my classmates received no financial support from their parents past the age of 18 (or 17 in some cases).

Honey Smith
Honey Smith
7 years ago
Reply to  M

And what about graduate school? Should parents be on the hook for that (assuming they have maxed out their retirement and are able, which many aren’t?)?

lmoot
lmoot
7 years ago
Reply to  Honey Smith

No, I don’t think parents should be pressured to pay for graduate school. The main reason for my argument for more parents to prepare for the cost of higher education/ their child’s integration into self-sustainability is because being straight out of highschool, most people don’t have the maturity or the finances to handle the huge financial responsibility of college or its equivalent. Also, if the child knows (I say child, because to me, 18 year old are still children) they want to attend graduate school, not having to pay money during their undergrad, they could get a job for those… Read more »

Cat
Cat
7 years ago
Reply to  Honey Smith

I don’t want to sound harsh, BUT, if you are paying for graduate school, you are probably not in a field where there will really be a financial benefit to the degree, and/or you may simply not have the level of talent required to make it at a level where the degree will have benefit (note this is for graduate degrees, professional programs like MBAs are likely different). In my observation, a lot of graduate degrees are undertaken more to postpone “real life” rather than because the student has thought through what they want to be doing at the end… Read more »

Jane
Jane
7 years ago
Reply to  Cat

Cat – I agree with your assessment of why lots of people go to graduate school, and this is coming from someone who went that route. I would be lying if I said that I wasn’t trying to avoid “real life” or if I said I had an extremely concrete plan upon graduation. Okay, in theory I had a definite plan – becoming a professor. But I listened to others in the field rather than doing the actual research about how many Ph.D.s end up getting tenure track jobs. And yes, never go into debt for graduate school, and only… Read more »

Elizabeth
Elizabeth
7 years ago
Reply to  Cat

I was going to say the same thing about funding. I wasn’t sure it was the same in the U.S., but I’ve heard it said here that “if no one will pay you to study it, no one will pay you to make it your career.” (Professional schools not included, of course). Many people view graduate school as an extension of undergrad and don’t realize they shouldn’t be footing the whole bill. Most schools here in Ontario offer some kind of funding at the institution level (through scholarships, teaching positions, research positions, etc.) but external funding through grant institutions is… Read more »

Cat
Cat
7 years ago
Reply to  Cat

Elizabeth, it is the same in the US–in science/engineering almost every grad student is funded (if you aren’t, something is seriously wrong), and most of those students have decent prospects for making a living after grad school, especially if they’re open to going into private industry. In the social sciences/humanities, full funding is much less common, and the pool of available jobs seems to be a lot smaller and much more competitive (i.e., I’ve heard that most English departments will ONLY hire graduates of the top 10 English grad programs in the country–programs which, coincidentally, have much better funding situations… Read more »

Chuckie G.
Chuckie G.
7 years ago
Reply to  M

If you can contribute to your kids schooling, this is great. I would suggest, however, that there is more room for student loan debt than there are for aging parents with insufficient/no assets to take care of themselves. This is a balance. I am vigorously working to eradicate my own student loan debt while saving for retirement. I am not vigorously saving for my children’s educations. Their lives are entirely up to them. They can choose to go to school, start a business, or do something entirely different. It should be a risk they take and a reward they reap.… Read more »

Rail
Rail
7 years ago
Reply to  Chuckie G.

Amen Chuckie! I am also not sold on the college is the path to the promised land mantra. Look around and see all the Gen-Xers that have 4 yr. degrees and are in jobs that have no relation to their degree, or are in a job that does not require a degree. Much like lifestyle inflation has gripped America, job “requirement” inflation has gripped much of the job market. The easy money of student loans have let universities run up the price of tuition like a auctioneer at a farm sale, and saddled people with student loans for years.

Elizabeth
Elizabeth
7 years ago
Reply to  Rail

And in the meantime, there’s a shortage of skilled labour coming. (In Canada, at least)

Take it from a former teacher, not all students are meant for university. Many students excel in other areas, if their parents would smarten up and let them go to college or an apprenticeship. (University and college are very different things here in Canada, and you can guess which parents tend to favour.)

I do think most people need some sort of education to get a good job, start their own business, and have a career — but education takes so many forms.

Matt @ Your Living Body
Matt @ Your Living Body
7 years ago

Hmm. Although I graduated a couple of years ago I’m going to have to give this book a flip through to check out to see if any of her advice is worthy on paying off student loans. I’m at a big point – pay off extra on student loans or take advantage of compound interest?

nicoleandmaggie
nicoleandmaggie
7 years ago

I don’t like this book because people take the “use credit cards and incur debt while you’re young” portion far too seriously. Suze said it was ok to run up major credit card debt! I’ll make enough to pay it off later when I get a promotion! Suze said so. (Yes, I know people who read the book and took it as a license to spend because Suze said so.) The advice makes some amount of sense with low interest loans of limited size (student loans), and it might make sense for buying a safe and sensible first car so… Read more »

lmoot
lmoot
7 years ago

I read this book a couple years ago (though I don’t remember too much…dunno what that says!) I too was caught off-guard about the credit card bit…HOWEVER…. Flash forward a few years and I’ve decided to include running up a credit card as part of my plans to help pay for school w/out loans, when I go back; so it can’t be too terrible advice (b/c I don’t take terrible advice 😀 ) Of course I don’t agree that everyone should run to a credit card and pay interest in order to get through school. My plan is to maintain… Read more »

Honey Smith
Honey Smith
7 years ago
Reply to  lmoot

@lmoot, one could almost make the argument that credit cards are better regardless of interest rate, since they can be discharged in bankruptcy and student loans can’t.

I am NOT endorsing this, but I think it’s inevitable that people will figure out that they’re getting a bad deal on student loans. Especially my understanding of the new student loan bill that Congress (finally) passed, is that students going to school in a stronger economy are going to be up a creek in terms of their interest rates.

lmoot
lmoot
7 years ago
Reply to  Honey Smith

Definitely something to think of. Though cc rates terrify me! I’d probably try my luck out on a loan than an interest-bearing card. Luckily I’ve never had to pay them b/c I’ve always paid in full…and hopefully people wouldn’t jump into it with the expectation of a possible bankruptcy, but if the last few years haven’t proved what a mistake it is to assume….

Milkman
Milkman
7 years ago

I have also read this book, and I agree with your review. One thing that should be mentioned, to be fair to the book, is that it was published in 2005. This is why it contains a lot of advice about forgoing emergency funds, rolling debt into a HELOC, rolling closing costs into a mortgage, etc. A lot of Suze’s advice changed after the market crash, and as far as I know, the book hasn’t been updated to reflect that. This is actually the reason I wouldn’t recommend this book – it was written for a different financial climate.

Honey Smith
Honey Smith
7 years ago
Reply to  Milkman

True enough! She talks about the early 2000’s as if they were the Worst Years Ever in terms of the economy.

Ha!

ShackleMeNot
ShackleMeNot
7 years ago

Maybe part of the problem is that it WAS written for a different financial climate.

In my opinion, solid financial advice does not follow trends.

I also don’t like how lax she is about taking on debt. Debt ruins lives. It needs to be treated very, very seriously.

lmoot
lmoot
7 years ago
Reply to  ShackleMeNot

Debt improves lives also….debt is a tool. There is a difference between solid financial BASICS and solid financial advice. Yes, the basic spend less than you earn and invest in your retirement should not change…but DEFINITELY how one goes about doing that, changes.

The very thing I do not like about Ramsey is his complacency about leaving the blinders on. Interest rates, market volatility, what is considered a valued commodity, ALL changes in our constantly moving economy. A solid ship that fails to turn when there’s an iceburg straight ahead…well look at the Titantic.

Michael
Michael
7 years ago

Wait. What?

“use credit cards to supplement your income”

Does she really say that? That’s horrible advice.

Valerie
Valerie
7 years ago
Reply to  Michael

She says that only if you are in an Entry Level job. Entry Level jobs tend to not pay as much, but you are learning valuable skills that will help you get the better paying job later. Just think of it as more student loan debt.

She does mention that you have to be careful as to how much debt you take out, and you have to stop doing it and get the better job after you’ve gotten the experience. It’s not terrible advice for kids right out of college with no other options.

Peter
Peter
7 years ago

Good review of the book, glad you came to the conclusion you did, Although not sure I would recommend Suze Orman to anyone, novice or not.

Problem with most financial books, and Suze Orman in general…They tell the readers what they want to hear. Even with her “Outspoken” and “give it to you straight” attitude she is still a enabler of excessive spending and the debter lifestyle.

Monica @MonicaOnMoney
Monica @MonicaOnMoney
7 years ago

Thanks for the book review! Excellent review. I read this book too and felt like its great advice for college students and those new to the workforce. It’s a starting point to get people thinking about saving and accomplished that goal for me.

Amber
Amber
7 years ago

As her target audience, now and when I bought the book in 2005, I found it very helpful. There was lots of advice for people in lots of different kinds of situations with very actionable plans. The online component is helpful and I was able to get advice from others. Even now as someone with no credit card debt, or student loan debt and plenty of savings, I would say her info is helpful. I can still see what my next step should be. (I believe max out 401k or IRA contributions.) I never noticed her using weird jargon or… Read more »

Chuckie G.
Chuckie G.
7 years ago

Wait wait… Full disclosure: I haven’t read the book. But if the advice is to both use credit cards to supplement your income while not paying extra on low interest student loan debt, then *THAT* is “totes cray-cray.” The most fruitful way, hands down, to increase your spending power is to remove drains on your cash flow by paying off student loans, credit cards, car loans, etc. I don’t care how good the interest rates are, or that mathematically you’re coming out ahead because inflation is higher than the interest rate you’re paying. Pull that bullhonky bus over right now.… Read more »

Jen from Boston
Jen from Boston
7 years ago

I don’t care much for Suze Orman… She does offer up unorthodox advice that makes you think, but she comes off as too self-promoting. It makes me suspicious that she just wants to sell you stuff.

Alea
Alea
7 years ago

True, she is a brand, and like everyone, she makes her fortune by selling things.

I have never bought anything from her (the books I read are from the library, which she encourages to borrow), but there is plenty to learn from watching the show.

Every finance guru has a certain audience, I never quite meshed with Davy Ramsey because half his financial advice involved God, which when it comes down to it, 2+2 is still 4, and God can’t change that. But according to Dave, God can make it turn into 5. Sorry Dave.

CCH
CCH
7 years ago

“It makes me suspicious that she just wants to sell you stuff.” Amen to that! Isn’t it ironic that all of these personal finance gurus like Suze and Dave et. al. made their millions by encouraging people to spend money on books and DVDs that tell you how to save money? The whole idea of spending money on their personal finance products goes completely against the philosophy they are trying to teach! Page one of each personal finance book should read “You should have checked this book out from the library or read Honey Smith’s review of it on Get… Read more »

Alea
Alea
7 years ago

I’ve read this book a while ago. It was good beginner info, some of the advice I wish I knew at that early age, but mostly what I got from the book is that I have good instincts about finances, a great deal of the advice she gives, I did on my own by instinct.

I am a fan of hers, but I get more by watching the show, than the books. She may not be to everyone’s liking, but if you listen long enough, there is some great advice for those willing to listen.

Leah
Leah
7 years ago

I recently read “The Money Class” by Suze Orman and she mentions in that book that she has revised many of her recommendations based on the “new normal” of the economy (For example, I remember her NOT being keen on HELOC). The book also seems to address people at all stages of life (entering college, new graduates up to those close to retirement), so I think it might be a better choice today than this book.

Carla
Carla
7 years ago

“Many personal finance writers have been financially established for so long that they’ve forgotten what it’s really like to be just starting out in your career.”

I think they also forget that not everyone at the stereotypical “established” age going to be financially established.

Great review by the way, Honey, but after reading the book is from 2005 its not really that relevant in this day and age.

Honey Smith
Honey Smith
7 years ago
Reply to  Carla

I think that it’s kind of the writer’s job to assume that people will be reading a book years after it’s published and therefore try to make their advice timeless. “In the moment” advice is more appropriate for blogs and TV shows, IMO. However, since Suze is so prolific, she wants you to buy her latest book. I suspect that’s why she times the advice to be appropriate to the time it was written. In a way, this is kind of a scam, to get people to buy her newest book even if they have her previous one(s). Is she… Read more »

Carla
Carla
7 years ago
Reply to  Honey Smith

Honey, I know what you mean. Susan has 10 books under her name and other products for purchase. I would think however after reading 1 or 2 of her books, you wouldn’t need to buy, or read all the others. I know people get up in arms when personal finance gurus try to earn a living on their advice (gasp!), as if the information should be free. I’m torn on that one. Unless you’re completely out of control with spending, buying a book every few years is not going to exactly break the bank. Most people are familiar with the… Read more »

Tyler Karaszewski
Tyler Karaszewski
7 years ago

“do what you love and the money will follow” Hmm, still nobody is paying me to go surfing or sailing. I’ve been doing one for over twenty years and the other for about 7. I guess I’ll just keep at it. But I don’t get why “recent college graduate” seems to be synonymous with “complete moron” in personal finance. I am in my early 30’s, but my girlfriend, at 24, is young enough to probably still count as recent college graduate. And yes, she has a student loan to pay off. But she’s employed, at a real career sort of… Read more »

lmoot
lmoot
7 years ago

I think there is a reason many students aren’t aware of interest rates and how they work. There’s a mental disconnect if you’ve never experienced it. I was on the phone with the cc company after my first cc statement came in…simply b/c I wanted to make sure I understood everything. Before my first CC (which I got in college, but didn’t start using until right before or after I graduated) I’d never financed anything, or invested in anything. I had to seek out the knowledge. It’s not innate. Once you learn it the concept is simple but unless you’ve… Read more »

Elena @ Personal Finance
Elena @ Personal Finance
7 years ago

Very interesting and objective book review. I personally like Suze Orman. I have seen a few of her shows. She is always passionate about what she is talking about! 🙂 She is one of role models for me. But there is definitely no strategy that “fits all”. I also realize that there is no one person that knows everything about money and what one should do in any particular financial situation.

Rosa
Rosa
7 years ago

I know many people think getting a HELOC to pay off a student loan is a bad idea, but it worked VERY well for us. I had no loans, but my husband had $40,000 worth. We ran into a problem, because we moved while he was still finishing his PhD, the idiots in the student loan program (in Canada) lost the change of address and his confirmation that he was still enrolled, & the next year, when he sent in the confirmation again, they refused to accept it, saying he’d defaulted! Nothing we said or did or provided convinced the… Read more »

James
James
7 years ago

A great and honest review. Thank you for sharing.

Teavana
Teavana
7 years ago

I’m joining you on the things that I didn’t like in books. The layout should always entice anyone who sees it.

Anyways despite the layout “The Money Book for the Young Fabulous and Broke” by Suze Orman had helped me in the simplest way.

Great review anyways!

Romona Bradham
Romona Bradham
7 years ago

I think it’s sad people can’t just pursue the careers they always wanted due to the economy and financial burdens. Now and days you really have to do a cost benefit analysis when chosing a degree. I always wanted to be a lawyer but the cost of law school and the amount of jobs available just weren’t in my favor so I chose something else.

Markus Ossi
Markus Ossi
7 years ago

I just started reading YF&B this summer. To me it seemed that a lot in the book was directed toward and sometimes even against Dave Ramsey. However, even and especially with me being sort of a Ramsey devotee Suze’s book was at parts an eye-opener and made me realize that I might have been a bit “blind” to some stuff due to my devotion to Ramsey’s principles. After having read about 30 books about personal finance already it was nice to get some refreshing and differing points of view. Whether some of Suze’s opinions were just a way to differentiate… Read more »

Albert
Albert
7 years ago

You stated who the intended target audience was, but you didn’t mention who you think this book is for.

I graduated with a Finance degree and have been working full time in my career for four years now. I would consider myself moderately financially savvy (higher than average). But by no means am I an expert.

I am one of the few outliers with huge student debt. As such, I’d love to read up on more strategies on how to position myself financially in this situation: 401k allocation, living expenses, discretionary spending, savings, credit cards, car, etc.

Dave
Dave
5 years ago

You said you wouldn’t recommend this book to a complete novice in finance. I have a bit of background with my business minor. I also don’t have any student debt, so that kind of content wouldn’t be useful. Right now I’m looking into investing in stocks, buying a newer used car, and what timing is best for buying a home.
What book would you recommend complete novices like me to start with?

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