In the Feb. 25, 2007, issue of the New York Times Magazine, financial guru Suze Orman revealed that she is a lesbian and has been with her partner, Kathy Travis, for seven years.
During the interview, which covered her latest book, Women and Money, due out at the end of this month, writer Deborah Solomon asked Orman if she is married, and Orman replied initially, "I'm in a relationship with life."
Solomon then prompted, "Meaning what?" and Orman replied: "K.T. is my life partner. K.T. stands for Kathy Travis. We're going on seven years. I have never been with a man in my whole life. I'm still a 55-year-old virgin."
Orman rocketed to fame in the late 1990s when her financial guidebooks, including The 9 Steps to Financial Freedom (1997) and The Courage to be Rich (1998) became best-sellers. She has become known for her straightforward, passionate financial advice that often is delivered with a spiritual angle. "In all realms of life it takes courage to stretch your limits, express your power, and fulfill your potential," she has said. "It's no different in the financial realm."
In reaction to Orman's coming-out, numerous media outlets have focused on her statements regarding her inability to legally marry her partner and the financial repercussions of that status. "Both of us have millions of dollars in our name," Orman told the New York Times Magazine. "It's killing me that upon my death, K.T. is going to lose 50 percent of everything I have to estate taxes. Or vice versa."
Though Orman now boasts a liquid net worth of approximately $25 million (with $7 million more in real estate), she didn't start out wealthy; in fact, Orman grew up in Chicago 's South Side and worked part-time at her father's take-out chicken shop. After completing her B.A. in social work, she moved to Berkeley, Calif., and worked at the Buttercup Bakery for seven years.
Her professional financial career began in 1980 when she started working as an account executive at Merrill Lynch, where she remained for three years before becoming vice president of investments at Prudential Bache Securities. By 1987, Orman had founded her own business, the Suze Orman Financial Group.
In 1997, she published her first book, The 9 Steps to Financial Freedom, which launched her on her career as a popular financial adviser. She now writes a monthly advice column in O Magazine and a biweekly column, Money Matters, on Yahoo! Finance. She also hosts two television shows: The Suze Orman Show on CNBC and Suze Orman's Financial Freedom on QVC.
Despite Orman's popular appeal, she was criticized by Forbes in 1998 for misrepresenting her financial credentials, including the duration of her experience on Wall Street. The issue of her qualifications was again raised in the New York Times Magazine interview, but Orman has since laid to rest most of those questions, though some still scoff at her spiritually influenced, self-help approach to money.
Her most recent book, Women and Money, focuses on why women don't understand money in the same way that men do. Orman argues that women would rather save money and give it to those who need it — including their children and their best friends — than invest it.
Orman's quip to the New York Times Magazine that she is a "55-year-old virgin" has made headlines in some news outlets who have seized upon the tabloid-worthy comment for laughs. But what is most interesting is that despite the prurient angle this comment invites, few news outlets focus on Orman's sexual orientation. Instead, most focus on why it makes good financial sense to get married — and her inability to do so because she is in a same-sex relationship.
It remains to be seen whether Orman's mainstream fans will continue to follow her advice now that they know she is a lesbian. If mainstream American consumers — including the countless soccer moms who have discovered her via Oprah — are able to see beyond Orman's sexual orientation and still believe in her financial guidance, this may affect the way many Americans view the financial issues surrounding gay marriage.