Suze Orman: ‘Being Gay Has Been the Foundation of My Success’

A photo to accompany a story about Suze Orman Courtesy of Suze Orman
Suze Orman—pictured with her wife Kathleen “KT” Travis in the waters near their Bahamas home—says she has always been “unapologetic” about being a lesbian.
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  • Watch a replay of NextAdvisor's June 24 interview with Suze Orman in celebration of Pride Month
  • The personal finance icon opened up about her experiences as a gay woman breaking into the misogynistic finance industry of the 1980s
  • She also answered readers' money questions about saving, investing, crypto, and more

Suze Orman never wanted to be known as the lesbian money lady. 

“I wanted to be known as the money lady who was also a lesbian,” she says. “Big difference.” 

And she doesn’t tailor her financial advice for gay audiences. Whether you’re gay or not, she believes, the mechanics of saving, investing, and building wealth are the same. “Money has no sexuality, no preference, nothing,” Orman says. 

But her sexuality is hardly irrelevant. In fact Orman, now 70, says the strength she derived from being a gay woman was the most important factor in her unlikely rise from a 29-year-old waitress making $400 a month to one of the most powerful and influential voices in finance. 

“Being gay has been the foundation of my success,” Orman told NextAdvisor in advance of an upcoming digital event celebrating Pride Month. On June 24, Orman will join NextAdvisor for a one-hour livestreamed conversation about her experiences as a gay woman breaking into—and ultimately conquering—the male-dominated finance industry.

Standing in Her Truth

In 1980, Orman became one of the first female stockbrokers in the Oakland office of wealth-management firm Merrill Lynch—a world away from her previous gig waiting tables at the Buttercup Bakery. She was a novice at investing, surrounded by men in a testosterone-driven culture. Some of the men expected sexual favors in exchange for leads, she recalls. 

It was the fortitude she developed from growing up gay that allowed her to compete with and ultimately outperform those male colleagues, Orman says. “What allowed me to be strong is because I had already had to be strong as a lesbian,” she says. “And therefore I was like, ‘You ain’t coming near me.’”

Orman was born in 1951 on the South Side of Chicago. She struggled at school with a speech impediment and an unusually slow development in reading. Kids teased her for being a lesbian before she even knew what the word meant, she says. Her parents never approved of her sexuality, but her mother eventually pretended to, she says.

None of that mattered. “I was unapologetic” about being gay, Orman says. By her 20s, she had decamped to the liberal community of Berkeley, California, where she lived in a women’s house, went to gay bars, and wasn’t afraid to walk down the street holding hands with her girlfriend. She got to know the people behind Olivia Records, the pioneering women’s music label, and grew into her identity as a lesbian. “It was the greatest part of my life, before my life became Suze Orman,” she says. “The greatest part of my life was being gay.”

Rich Beyond Dollars

From then on, Orman never hid her sexuality, whether in the boardroom of Merrill Lynch or in the office of her book publisher in the early 1990s, when she signed the deal that would begin a run of nine #1 New York Times-bestselling titles. 

Technically speaking, she came out publicly in a 2007 New York Times article in which she called herself a “55-year-old virgin” because she had never slept with a man. But anyone who had done business with Suze Orman knew that she was gay. “I always told people,” she says. “I just think it’s important that you really stand behind your identity against all odds.” 

In a recent interview with NextAdvisor, Orman opened up about her uncompromising fight to preserve her identity as a gay woman while achieving unprecedented success in an industry not known for diversity or inclusivity. She gave her best advice for LGBTQ+ individuals trying to build wealth while also reckoning with systemic inequalities and unwelcoming spaces. Plus, she got personal about her relationship with her wife KT, one she says has made her rich beyond dollars.