Suze Orman’s ultimate protection portfolio (and a do-it-yourself alternative)

For the past few months, I've been pursuing a paperless personal finance system. I've scheduled electronic transactions with my bank, and I scan important documents when I receive them. My method is still very much in “beta”, but I hope to write about it later this year.

My sister-in-law, Tiffany, isn't a computer geek, but she's been trying to get her financial documents organized, too. So when she saw an advertisement for Suze Orman's Ultimate Protection Portfolio, she figured it was worth $66.24 to make her life a little easier. She ordered the kit, and has spent the past week putting it to use. When I dropped by her house today, she showed me the system.

The Ultimate Protection Portfolio

The Suze Orman Ultimate Protection Portfolio comes in a big blue plastic case, which is ostensibly water-resistant. (I didn't actually put this to the test.) Inside the case are:

  • A custom accordion-file system with ten pockets designated for specific areas of your personal finances. The outside of each pocket contains “Suze's Advice and Checklist” for that particular topic. For example, the Credit/Debt pouch advises, “Review your credit report at least once a year to make sure all information is accurate.” The pockets are wide and cozy and will contain a lot of information.
  • Ten short booklets with topics corresponding to the the pockets in the accordion file. Each booklet is 48 pages long (except Estate Planning, which has 80 pages) and contains a brief overview of the topic. The Investment Records booklet, for example, covers financial advisers, mutual funds, and risk tolerance (or “fear factor” as Orman calls it). The information in these booklets is from 2005.
  • A Protection Portfolio CD-ROM containing financial forms, record-keeping software, and a tool to help draft a will. You must have an active internet connection to use this software.
  • A special integrated organizer with pockets for passports, social security cards, and more.
  • A variety of forms and checklists, including an emergency contact list.

“That's a lot of stuff,” I told Tiffany. “I can see how it would be nice to have everything in one place. What do you think of it?”

“I do like the fact that everything's in one place,” she said. “But this is an expensive way to do it. I don't regret buying it, but I do feel like I could have made something similar myself for less money. It might be worth it if the books were any good, but I think they're lame.”

“I can see that,” I said. “I looked through a few of them. They information is solid, but it seems pretty basic. And they tend to skip over a lot. I think they're just designed to get people started.”

A Do-It-Yourself Alternative

Tiffany was probably right when she said she could make something similar for less money. The Ultimate Protection Portfolio is worth the $66.24 if it motivated her to get things organized, but in retrospect there were cheaper options available:

  • At its heart, the Suze Orman Ultimate Protection Portfolio is simply a good old-fashioned expanding file. We probably have one in the garage. Maybe you do, too. Even if I had to buy one new, Amazon has a variety for around $10.
  • The ten booklets seem excessive. With a quick trip to the public library, you can pick up many great personal finance books for free. (They probably even have a couple Suze Orman books, including The Money Book for the Young, Fabulous & Broke and Nine Steps to Financial Freedom.)
  • You can buy Suze Orman's Will & Trust Kit for $13.57 from Amazon. It's even sub-branded “The Ultimate Protection Portfolio”, so I'm willing to bet it's the same software.
  • Instead of an integrated organizer with pockets for your passport and other important items, you can simply stick these all in a large zip-loc freezer bag and place them in one of the slots of your expanding file.
  • You can find many free, printable emergency forms on the web, including these at Organized Home. If you own a copy of Quicken, it may actually contain an Emergency Records Organizer utility. Often it's most convenient simply create your own.

For about $25, you can build your own custom emergency records portfolio. I admit that this system won't be water-resistant, and it won't have Suze Orman's advice, but I'm willing to bet that you won't notice the difference. You'll still have peace of mind knowing all your important household and financial documents are in one easy-to-reach central location.

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Eric
Eric
12 years ago

I don’t understand why Water resistant is such a large selling point. Personally, I keep a lot of documents in a filing cabinet at home, but all my tax returns, S.S cards, Passports, and other important paper work is in a Water Resistant, FIRE PROOF, Brinks security box. Should the house ever catch fire, I’d be more concerned with the fire than the water damage! That plastic Box may resist the water, but It’s going to melt when the heat rises.

Four Pillars
Four Pillars
12 years ago

Good topic – we are working on our filing system but have not purchased any kind of ‘system’.

A filing cabinet, bunch o’folders works for us.

Mike

David
David
12 years ago

I stick to digital with digital backups as much as possible. Paperless is certainly the way to go.

I’ve heard Orman on multiple occassions tell people to go check her books out at the library instead of buying them.

The Financial Philosopher
The Financial Philosopher
12 years ago

Suze Orman is a marketing mind first and financial mind second. That is neither a compliment nor a complaint — simply an observation…

SavingDiva
SavingDiva
12 years ago

I think it’s great that you are moving to an organizational system. I should do something like this…thanks for the frugal method!

Covert7
Covert7
12 years ago

Anyone have any idea about the Will & Trust software? I’m looking to setup a pretty basic will for my wife and me. I read the reviews on Amazon but there’s only seven there so not a great sample size…

LK
LK
12 years ago

I watched her hawk this on PBS recently during their pledge drive. She is a masterful saleswoman. She repeated “You NEED this portfolio!” or some variation of neeeeeding this, 3-4x that I counted. It was fascinating to watch; she is very convincing. As it is, I have multiple expanding file folders at home that contain everything, and I mean EVERYTHING – credit reports, FSA claims, insurance, tax returns, etc etc etc.

Marilyn
Marilyn
12 years ago

This is a great way for Suze Orzman to make money. She has name recognition and this is very cheap to throw together. I logged on to say while water protection is good (use ziplock bags), you need some fire protection too. As for writing wills, if you only want a simple will, you can get samples from the internet for free or just write your own. I took a paralegal course in Wills, Trusts, and Estates (by no means am I qualified to do estate planning for anyone else) but you don’t necessarily need a pricey kit or a… Read more »

Get a Grip Girl
Get a Grip Girl
12 years ago

I don’t think you need an expensive filing system to get started. Once you want to organize, some simple files would do. Too much dependency on tools and gadgets is just wasting money. Once you got into the habit of filing, then you can explore at tweaking them to suit your needs. I rather that way. I just started with Excel and a folder with multiple pockets. That worked for me and my budget. Perhaps six months down the line I will look into Money or Quicken. Until then…mmm..let me not spend, spend and spend.

Joshua
Joshua
12 years ago

Suze Orman is a money advising hack. She gives you basic information that you could have read about on any personal finance blog on the internet. If you’re smart you won’t listen to her.

Richard Miller
Richard Miller
12 years ago

You lost me at Suze Orman. I was never impressed with her books, etc. But it wasn’t until I listened to her speak. Pure fluff, total arrogance, and so much more. Of particular note was her making it very clear that she was hot stuff, and oh-so-cool because she was rich. She not only came across that way, she directly and clearly communicated it verbally. I despise that attitude. I have many very wealthy friends. I can tell you with certainty that not all wealthy people are arrogant and think they are better than those less wealthy. Count me out… Read more »

cathy
cathy
12 years ago

I have also purchased Suze Ormans organization portfolio.I think for someone who has no idea where to start it is good. It helped me to get all of my papers in order.That was over a year ago. Since then the portfolio fell apart from overuse and I didn’t like the look of the blue plastic container. So now I use the same categories for my file folders and have everything organized in a file drawer. I didn’t use it to make a will but it did inspire me to go to an attorney to have a will made.So,is it worth… Read more »

Moneymonk
Moneymonk
12 years ago

You can’t knock her for marketing it. That’s how gurus make their money

Ali
Ali
12 years ago

I can see what you are saying here, but I still think its great and simplified product for those who are less-DIY inlclined (say my mother).

Monevator
Monevator
12 years ago

I have to admit when I first saw this post I though the gizmo was a shredder. With identity theft on the rise, I think a shredder should be part of everyone’s protection plan. Don’t discard any financial statements in the trash.

Slight aside over. 🙂

J.D.
J.D.
12 years ago

@Ali and Cathy

I agree absolutely. This isn’t a terrible product, and the price isn’t outrageous. The information and concept is great for somebody who doesn’t know where to begin. There’s nothing wrong with this system. But for many GRS readers, I think building your own emergency organizer is a better way to go.

Aaron Pinkston
Aaron Pinkston
12 years ago

JD said, “…it won’t have Suze Orman’s advice, but I’m willing to bet that you won’t notice the difference.” The truth hurts sometimes.

Thanks for sharing your frugal alternative.

Victor
Victor
12 years ago

Nolo has good will/trust software (Willmaker). They have it on amazon. Look for one that has the book with the cd with it.

Finally Frugal
Finally Frugal
12 years ago

I’m definitely suspicious of personal finance gurus who sell their wares (at somewhat inflated prices) while chiding us about our spending habits.

Suze Orman’s not a favorite of mine anyway, but I generally try to find anything (even CD-based ‘workshops’) at the library first, before even considering a purchase. Plan B would be an Ebay search to see if I could obtain the kit at a lower price.

The Weakonomist
The Weakonomist
12 years ago

Suze kills her credibility by putting her brand on this. She’s pretty good, but this is just a joke.

TheOzz
TheOzz
12 years ago

I appreciate the comments here. I was given a ticket to a “GET MOTIVATED” business seminar running all day tomorrow here in Charleston, SC. Suze Orman is one of the live speakers along with others including Zig Ziglar, Rick Belluzzo, Brain Tracy, and Robert Schuller. I am leaning towards a vote to skip the seminar and actually do some work that my customer will appreciate.

JenK
JenK
12 years ago

Maybe if I’d discovered Suze Orman before reading Eric Tyson & Jane Bryant Quinn I’d have liked her stuff. Instead a friend handed me Women & Money with “OMG you have to read this!” and … um … it just seemed like lots of touchy-feeling fluff that had nothing to do with practicalities or my situation at the time (single, high earner, looking for reasonable investments & a practical system to keep from losing my bills before I could pay them). This is supposed to be helpful how?

This kit sounds rather like the book, actually.

Stevelle
Stevelle
12 years ago

Hitting on the theme of identity theft again, putting your SS Card, Passport, and other financial records all in one place makes for quick work for thieves.

The old form of burglary, stealing cameras, jewelry, etc., is declining as the street value falls for those goods… but identity theft is on the rise.

Be aware of the risk if you do create one of these portfolios.

Guest
Guest
12 years ago

@Marilyn

“Make sure you have witnesses sign your will or better yet, sign it in front of a notary and have him/her notarize it.”

I’m an estate planning paralegal and I’d be careful giving advice like this. Different states have different laws. A notarized will may be valid in your state, but it isn’t in mine.

Agnes Kelly
Agnes Kelly
12 years ago

I had ordered this kit from QVC. At first I thought I would be happy with it since it seemed so comprehensive. After I looked at it for a few days I felt quilty for spending the money on something that I could put together myself for a lot less money, so back it went! I agree witht he comment about a FIRE-PROOF box. Perhaps important papers ould be kept in a safety deposit box at a bank- identity thieves would have a hrd time getting to the items there!

Jeremy
Jeremy
12 years ago

Marilyn said, “…you don’t necessarily need a pricey kit or a more expensive lawyer to do this for you. Make sure you have witnesses sign your will or better yet, sign it in front of a notary and have him/her notarize it.” Not to pick on Marilyn, but while you may or may not strictly *need* an expensive lawyer, stuff like this is exactly why you *should* have a lawyer draft your will and oversee the signing. Rules on the number of witnesses needed for a will signing vary state to state, as does much of the substantive law on… Read more »

OurDebtBlog
OurDebtBlog
12 years ago

I can’t believe people actually buy stuff like that… a lot if it is plain common sense… I guess Suze needs more jackets LOL.

HS

Matt Sullivan
Matt Sullivan
12 years ago

Good stuff,

You are so right about the ID theft stuff. As a Financial Coach I end up helping my clients pick up the pieces long after the initial theft. This is great advice. You can keep your personal information organized without compromising security.

mike
mike
12 years ago

Suze Orman is an idiot, she’s just a scam artist on tv. When it comes to wills, trusts, and other estate planning, just save the money to get it professionally done. yea it might be expensive but it’s expensive for a reason. Get professional advisors to handle your personal stuff instead of doing it yourself. it’s worth it in the long run. There are a lot of lawyers, financial planners and accountants that might not be totally trustworthy, so don’t hesitate to ask a lot of questions, if it’s not your profession you’re not expected to know everything. Trust your… Read more »

T. Orman Sheffield
T. Orman Sheffield
7 years ago
Reply to  mike

Yes, that is my name- not related to Suze. I have a certified birth certificate for proof. If Suze is such a idiot why do people continue to quote her and reference her name. She is successful because she gives you valid advice. you can get good advice from other places, all attorneys are not good will & trust writers but many specialize in that area and are trusted by clients. Suze does ask you to do a little research on your own, I think a good idea. If Suze is an idiot I hope this Orman soon becomes an… Read more »

shoyu
shoyu
12 years ago

I just bury all my important documents in the backyard inside a biodegradable container. BTW, Suze invests like a grandmother.

http://articles.moneycentral.msn.com/Investing/Extra/IsSuzeOrmanOutOfTouch.aspx?GT1=9215

M3 Sweatt
M3 Sweatt
12 years ago

A good set of suggestions in your “Do-It-Yourself Alternatives” – I would add one thing that we did at home, which was to compile a list of important infomration (account numbers, contacts, phone numbers…) and scans of all important documents (birth certificates, passports, deed, wills…) which we saved on to a couple of inexpensive memory sticks. One of the memory sticks is in our safe deposit box, another in an emergency “be prepared” bag (as noted at http://blogs.msdn.com/mthree/archive/2005/09/19/471403.aspx) stuffed with items we may need in case of an emergency evacuation, and at a family member’s house. And just for safety,… Read more »

Hannah
Hannah
12 years ago

Good post! I’m pretty traditional in that I keep things on paper instead of all electronically (not for safety reasons, I just find it easier) and have been considering making a “one stop shop” of sorts for my records. Great timing for me to be reading this post.

Mrs. Micah
Mrs. Micah
12 years ago

I like the idea and even the system for someone who’s trying to get her financial life in order but doesn’t have the time and energy to read all the books and blogs on the subject. Sometimes it’s best to buy a step by step assistant. We’ve got a plastic file box with hanging folders. My grandmother gave it to us and it’s got all kinds of stuff like passports, birth certificates, marriage license as well as tax returns and the like. Probably similar to this other thing though not as well-organized. One of my goals is to put it… Read more »

Jeff
Jeff
12 years ago

@mike: I have been watching Suze’s show for years and I would never call her a scam artist — actually, in a world FULL of scam artists, she spends a lot of the time on her show helping people who have been taken in by various types of financial con men, and by extension helping the rest of us know scams when we see them. Yes, Suze’s TV and live shows come with an upsell — as do Dave Ramsey’s shows. They try to sell you books and kits and God knows what else. I’ve never bought anything from either… Read more »

Liz
Liz
12 years ago

As far as getting organized I use an accordian file I got from a box store for five dollars. The birth certificates, deeds, etc. are suppose to be in the safe deposit box. My husband who is an over the road truck driver had been keeping his birth cetfificate and passport (He needs it to go to Canada) in a zip lock bag in his truck. When he emptied his truck on a trip home a couple of months ago he put the bag in a safe place. It took my ten days of searching the house before I found… Read more »

Randy Fox
Randy Fox
12 years ago

After 20 plus years as a CFP and now devoting most of my time to estate planning, I thnk any advice or tool that helps someone wreate their own Will is a littlle like giving a tool kit for removing your own appendix. If it helps you organize your thoughts and highlights areas you need to think about, great but drafting and executing on your own is just plain stupid advice.

Tim
Tim
12 years ago

i’m digitalized as well. whenever i get anything important it gets scanned into pdf and saved on my hard drive that i back up regularly.

Kathy
Kathy
12 years ago

I bought this blue kit a while ago for about $54 at QVC. Its ok….it motivated me to take stuff out of radum file folders and put it all together. I think Suze Orman is obssessed with water-proof because she lives in a hurricane area. I’d rather have fire proof. I think she is good for people who need to get started thinking about personal finance….and there are many people out there that know next to nothing. I think she really wants women to get organized and save some of their own money. She tells people (gives permission) to take… Read more »

Jeffeb3
Jeffeb3
12 years ago

It’s an interesting observation that Suze isn’t a scam artist because the people she helps often were scammed themselves. That tells me that (to be blunt) stupid people are her patrons. That makes me skeptical. I like looking at the people who buy things more than the things themselves. I recently made a big purchase, and the reason I bought the one that I did was because the reviews were along the line of “I compared these two, and I found this was better because…” and the reviews for the other were more like “I bought this, and it’s great!… Read more »

Dave
Dave
12 years ago

One thing I would like to add that is often overlooked: Fire and water go hand in hand. Meaning that when there is a fire, usually (and hopefully soon) it is followed by water or some chemical fire extinguisher. Even when items survive a fire, they are usually water damaged to some degree. Ideally, you would want a fireproof AND waterproof storage device.

Zook
Zook
12 years ago

Take the $66.XX and put it in your Roth IRA and buy a simple Index fund, then ask your boss if you can have 10 manila envelopes. All done!

I really don’t mean sound like a cheapskate or that $65 is an amazing sum of money, but buy a few envelopes and label them. What is so hard about that system?

Bonnie
Bonnie
12 years ago

@ Jeff: I totally agree with you. You cannot blindly follow any financial guru to the letter, but Suze Orman and Dave Ramsey have wonderful advice and plans. Right now I am personally using a combination of Suze’s YFB book and Dave’s Total Money Makeover (in addition to other sources and my own sense), and it’s working for me. They are both terrific at firing people up to become and stay debt-free and to be serious about their finances, and that’s a good thing. That said, I wouldn’t buy this kit. And when the time comes for me to make… Read more »

Jason
Jason
12 years ago

I did this about 2 years ago after the hurricanes of 2005. I started thinking, “What if I have to ‘bug out’?” Not necessarily because of a hurricane but for any reason: fire, bad weather, etc. So I used an old plastic file box, bought some 6 part folders, a 2 hole punch, and I organized all my important files into those folders and they all fit in one file box. I have all my medical records, personal records, tax returns as well as old bank statements before they went digital. Eventually I’m going to buy a scanner and have… Read more »

Robin
Robin
12 years ago

JD, you may already know this but just in case… Hard drives fail. Not some of the time. Always. The only question is when. It may be 10 years, it may be 2. Laptop hard drives will fail sooner because they are abused a lot more. A mechanical arm inside the hard drive moves back and forth to read and write data to a spinning disc, failure is a given in that scenario. Even using an external drive that you set aside, the oil inside will dry out if the platter isn’t spun up about once a year. I know… Read more »

Steve G
Steve G
12 years ago

Granted, Suze’s advices may be too “basic” for some, but for the majority of people, knowing the basic is already better than knowing nothing. And come on Mike, just because you “think” you know more than Suze does not mean she is a scam artist. So let’s say you know how to change the engine oil, that does not mean all of the sudden you can all those car mechanics “scam artist”, can ya? 🙂

Andy
Andy
12 years ago

Ms. Orman simplify personal finance issues to just the basics for the majority of people who don’t take the time to learn the basics. The box is not the value. The value is simplifying personal finance organization into a list of few major categories of importance and what typical documents fit each category so the TYPICAL American can get their personal finance house in order. The portfolio saves time($) in deciphering the many verbose volumes filled with grandiose terms and ideas that over complicate personal finance and what is important to the average person. Is learning everything you can about… Read more »

Lisa Wray
Lisa Wray
12 years ago

I have went thru the documents that she is telling you that you need to have on hand. The papers you all keep saying you already have filed are not necessarily the ones you will need in the case of an emergency. And do you have them all ready at a moment’s notice to pick up and take with you? Or would you have to pull out file after file? You will need up to date legal documents, and if your spouse is not able to take care of business, then you better have a current poa or other. Also,… Read more »

Melissa
Melissa
12 years ago

I think that Andy touched on the purpose of this box perfectly. For a person trying to learn the basics upon having a family (in our case suddenly- can you say engaged in Dec, pregnant in April, previously planned June wedding and lo and behold a preemie by December to boot took us all quite a bit by surprise… all of this occuring in 2001 as 9/11 hit and my husband lost his job along with half the world in tech- after I had to resign due to pregnancy complications and plans to be a SAHM as it was) and… Read more »

Bernadette P.
Bernadette P.
7 years ago
Reply to  Melissa

Melissa, could not have said it better myself.Most people want to judge but do not want to take the time to listen. Before people argue about a point they need to know their apponent.

Shay
Shay
12 years ago

Unfortunately with the internet, stupid people and smart people have equal airtime. Stupid people always seem to get through because they shout louder and longer than the smart person who simply lets it go. I find it appalling that people are so negative no matter what someone does. I don’t care what it is, somebody is ALWAYS going to complain about it. The losers always complain about successful people and the bottom line is Suze Orman is successful regardless if she invests like a grandmother or not as Shoyu said on an earlier post. And you invest your time like… Read more »

Hubert Kelley
Hubert Kelley
11 years ago

Some time ago, I purchased Suze’s Ultimate Protection Portfolio/Will and Trust Kit. I recently relocated and cannot locate the CD container that has the code number so that I can update the program. Also, I forgot the password but the user name is the same. What can I do to update the program?
Thanks,

Dr. Hubert Kelley

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