When June applied to be on the Suze Orman show in 2012, she was a young doctor making $58,000 a year with $240,000 in student loans from medical school and $40,000 in credit card debt. As a divorced mother with three children, who was also caring for a terminally ill parent, June’s income barely covered her living expenses. When a friend suggested that she apply to be on the Suze Orman show, June agreed; she wasn’t familiar with the show but figured it couldn’t hurt to get some professional advice. 



a woman holding a cell phone: @outlandvideography via Twenty20


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@outlandvideography via Twenty20

Initially, her experience with the show producer was positive. The producer told June that she was working so hard and she was exactly the kind of person Suze wanted to help. 

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That’s why she was so surprised when Orman, one of the most well-known faces in the personal finance industry, started off by telling June that she shouldn’t have gone to medical school. Orman then advised her to declare bankruptcy, questioned if she should buy her children Christmas presents, implied that June was spending money on her children to make up for her guilt over the divorce, and said that June’s 16-year old child needed to start working to help take on the responsibility of June’s debt. 

“Tell them the situation you have gotten yourself into.” Suze yelled. “Let them see the reality of when you are irresponsible with facing the truth — what it can cause.” 

This advice may seem shocking, but most traditional money advice is built on shame, often packaged as tough love and personal responsibility. In a shame-based framework, financial stability is accessible to everyone. Certain financial decisions are positioned as entirely positive, such as homeownership and 529 education savings plans, while other financial decisions are considered

Thomas, a reader in Chicago, wrote: “Liberty Mutual Insurance television commercials, which state ‘Only Pay for What You Need,’ appear to suggest that other insurance companies will sell you coverages you don’t need. I’ll bet a lot of people wonder what they mean.”

This column has received similar comments, and to find out what ‘Only pay for what you need” means, I contacted the company’s media relations team at Boston-Based Liberty Mutual, asking them that very question. That was weeks ago, and I am still waiting for a response. So, I turned to a trial attorney whose law practice concentrates on insurance company bad faith and asked him what he thought. The discussion that followed surprised me.

Customers Typically Should Insist on More than Minimums

“When they say you will only pay for what you need, they are implying that other insurance companies will automatically sell you coverages that you do not need, which is complete nonsense,” says Los Angeles-based attorney Shant Karnikian.

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Actually, the opposite may tend to be true about some insurance companies, he says. They may prefer if customers bought less insurance coverage, not more. And that can be a problem for consumers.

“The insurance industry wants to minimize exposure to future customer losses, and plaintiff lawyers are already seeing this reflected in the companies’ marketing practices, where they only want to sell minimum limits of auto or homeowners insurance, reducing payouts in the event of a claim. If you buy more coverage, they are exposed to paying more for the loss. 

“Even if you need it, they don’t want to sell it! But if you ask for more coverage, they are obligated to sell it to you. This means consumers must become educated and learn the coverages they absolutely must have.”

The intricacies of making the most of your money can be complicated, but according to just about any expert you ask, the basics of personal finance are dead simple. Have a budget. Spend less than you earn. Automate things so you save without having to do anything every month. Pay down high interest debt first. Build up an emergency fund. 

We’ve all heard this kind of sensible, straight forward advice before. But the same experts who usually dish it out are now saying that, thanks to the pandemic, you may want to ignore most of it. 

“Cash is king in a crisis.”

With the Covid crisis rolling into its seventh month, the economy sputtering, and many of us feeling insecure about our income, these aren’t normal times. So when Apartment Therapy recently interviewed personal finance experts, they agreed that now may be the time to put your long-term goals on the back burner and focus on short-term cash flow. 

“Typically, we like to see people mercilessly pummel away at their debts once they’re sitting on more than a month or two’s worth of expenses in cash,” said Julia Lorenz-Olson, co-host of the PBS show, Two Cents.

Instead, right now, hold on to every penny you can. “Cash is king in a crisis–the more you have, the more options [are] available to you,” according to Olson. “Any extra money you might receive from a stimulus check or a surprise windfall, keep it in cash.”

Personal finance gurus generally hate credit cards, but 2020 is making them reconsider the role plastic should play in your life. Famed credit card foe Suze Orman, for instance, has long insisted you should only use cards if you pay off your balance in full each month. But a few months back she told Business Insider the

When house hunting, the price of homeowners insurance probably isn’t top of mind. But homes with hidden risks can make getting coverage difficult, expensive or both. Learning how to identify them could save a homeowner a bundle.

This could be a particularly important concern for first-time homebuyers and those moving from cities to suburban or rural areas who may not be aware of common hazards, says Jennifer Naughton, risk consulting officer for North America for Chubb, an insurance company.

Three out of 10 city dwellers told a Chubb survey in early August that they were considering moving out of the city because of the novel coronavirus outbreak. Meanwhile, the number of first-time homebuyers in the first half of 2020 rose 4% compared to a year earlier as lower interest rates made mortgages more affordable, according to Genworth Mortgage Insurance.

A homeowners insurance premium can depend in part on distance to the nearest fire hydrant and fire station, Naughton says. Homes that are on narrow roads or otherwise difficult for fire trucks to access also could be more expensive to insure.

Three out of 10 city dwellers told a Chubb survey that they were considering moving out of the city because of the coronavirus outbreak.

“If they have to cross over a bridge, it’s not only a consideration of can a car go over that bridge, but also can a fire engine,” she says.

Some homes are at such high risk of wildfires and severe weather — hurricanes, tornadoes, windstorms and hail —that private companies won’t insure them. Without insurance, buyers can’t get a mortgage, so they need to turn to state-run risk pools such as Beach and Windstorm Plans or Fair Access to Insurance Requirements Plans, better known as FAIR. These policies typically cost more and cover less than regular

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An engineer works in the general laboratory during a media tour of a new factory built to produce a COVID-19 coronavirus vaccine


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A briefing document published today by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration makes it clear that President Trump won’t be able to push through a Covid-19 vaccine before November’s election.

The FDA posted the 38-page briefing on its website, ahead of an Oct. 22 meeting of the agency’s outside scientific advisors on development and authorization of Covid vaccines. Inside, the agency reports that it has advised vaccine developers not to apply for an emergency use authorization until they’ve followed-up on clinical trial participants for an average of two months after the last shot.

A two month follow-up would make it late November for the vaccine being tested by

Pfizer

(ticker: PFE) and

BioNTech

(BNTX), writes Raymond James analyst Steven Seedhouse in a Tuesday note. That vaccine had been regarded as the front-runner, with a clinical trial design that Pfizer executives thought would yield an answer before October’s end.

But Seedhouse says the agency’s request for two months of safety and efficacy data would likely delay a Pfizer submission until around the same time as

Moderna

(MRNA), whose readout was expected in November.

Johnson & Johnson

(JNJ) expected results of its pivotal vaccine trial in December or January.

News reports have said the White House is blocking the FDA from issuing guidelines that require two months of surveillance. But today’s briefing document shows that the agency had already advised vaccine developers that such data should be part of their submissions.

The ball is now in the manufacturers’ court, says the Raymond James analyst. Nine vaccine companies had pledged last month to resist political pressure and only request approval after trials that met FDA requirements.