In debt? If so, you're not alone -- according to US News and World Report, 70 percent of Americans feel your pain. While debtors aren't her only target audience, Suze Orman is hoping to slap some common sense into viewers about handling money with her new show, "America's Money Class with Suze Orman" (premieres Mon. Jan. 9 at 9 p.m. ET). During a conference call with reporters, the tough love financial expert talked about the death of the American dream, the shrinking middle class and why she's hopeful that she can make viewers face their fears about money.
Orman, who already delivers tough love to consumers through CNBC's "The Suze Orman Show," says that writing her book "The Money Class" helped spur an idea for a show on OWN. "I wrote it a year or so ago with the theme that the American dream had died. I think I was the first person to put in writing the possibility and probability that that had happened. So we thought, why don't we teach a money class?… It wasn't interesting enough to just have us lecture on topics, but that's how we started with the topic."
Though she admits "my advice is always the same," there will be marked differences with the OWN show befitting the association with Oprah Winfrey. "If you come on [this] show and you gave your heart and facts and vulnerability to America, the relationship does not end. They have my phone, my e-mail… hopefully we will be able to do follow-ups online… I have been in touch with every single guest in great detail."
The look of the program (and most likely the budget) is also a step up from CNBC. "On my CNBC show…. all you ever see is me staring into that camera. In the viewer's mind, they don't know what that person looks like or if they can relate to them. This show, it's not scripted and I get to do exactly what I want to do, you get to see these people in depth for the first time along with me. I think that adds a dimension, that you'll be able to identify with these people. There's a whole new vulnerability level. There's also a different side of me. Sometimes I'm funny, sometimes sad, sometimes I'm stern."
One issue Orman is pulling no punches about is her take on the current economy. While pundits may think it's on the upswing, she is unconvinced. "Here we are just a few days into the New Year, and I think people are being overly optimistic. I think they're making light of what's going on in Europe and the economic situation we have here. People forget and that scares me. They just go right back to where they were. I think people need to remember what they just went through, People need to stay in their bodies... let's see what happens." But what about increased consumer spending being a positive sign? Orman isn't buying it. "What has turned around? What has changed? Nothing. The people who write to me, their situations haven't changed. I predicted that it won't be until 2014 or 2015 that things turn around, and I wrote that in 2009."
Orman does have some ideas about what needs to change, however. "America needs to come together. Those that have need to start working with those who don't. The 99 percenter thing is true. People should pay more attention. The middle class is disappearing and there's a highway into poverty and not even a sidewalk to get out. Everyone needs to start pitching in to help everyone they can, and we need to work together to pick everyone up by their bootstraps."
One issue that Orman is optimistic about is her new network, though she honestly admits the fledgling business is a bit shaky. "I don't think that OWN at this moment in time.. it's not in the right footing. But it's starting to get the right footing. If there is anyone's footsteps I would want to walk in, they would be Miss Oprah Winfrey's."