Meet "The Money Lady"

suze orman with creepy floating green money symbols
On her television show, Suze Orman is part friend, part parent, and a whole lot of attitude. With more than 8 million books now in print, she's been called the high priestess of personal finance. But Orman goes by another name. Ben Tracy meets her - and learns about the woman behind the brand.

Tracy asked her: "Is that what you call yourself? The money lady?"

"I do," Orman said. "I call myself the money lady."

And so do the millions of fans now invested in Orman's unique brand of financial self-help.

What's the biggest financial mistake we make?

"We spend money we don't have, to impress people we don't even know or like," Orman said. "We have no money in our savings. We have very little in our 401k plans. We don't have a penny to our name, yet, oh, we all look so pretty. We look so pretty."

In addition to her bestsellers, she writes for Oprah's magazine, is a top seller on QVC, and has her own show on CNBC.

She is clearly a brand. Does she think of herself that way?

"I have to tell you I do," she said.

But when Orman's fans run into her on the street, she's more counselor, often providing a sidewalk intervention.

Orman herself no longer has any financial fears.

Tracy said: "Forgive the directness of the question, but how much money do you have?"

"Lots," Orman said. "You know it's been estimated high, high into the eight figures."

"You know on your show, a lot of folks calling in, these are people who people who are swimming in debt," Tracy said. "Do you feel like you can identify with them?"

"Yes," Orman said. "And I can identify with them because I was them."

Orman grew up on the south side of Chicago. Money was tight in her working-class family. She says she got lousy grades and had a very "poor" attitude.

"I knew I was stupid, so why should I even try?" she said.

She left college and moved to Berkeley, Calif., in 1973.

She waitressed at the Buttercup Café until she was nearly 30 years old, making $400 a month until a customer gave her seed money to invest, to open her own restaurant.

She got taken by a stock broker and lost it all. So Orman became a broker herself. In 1994 she wrote her first book and was quickly dismissed by many money men as a lightweight.

"What is this woman with blond hair and these white teeth that people love to make fun of talk to us about the emotions of money?" she said used to be the reaction.

Her money mantras, such as: "people first, then money, then things," still have their critics, but Orman has stockpiled fans by imploring them to buy only what they need and following her own advice … right down to the one pair of earrings she wears every day.

"I can afford far more than what i have. But i don't need it. So you're sitting in this home with me right now. This is not a huge home," she said. "This home is approximately 2,200 square feet."

Orman shares that home in San Francisco and three others with her partner in business and in life, Kathy Travis.

With all the talk about living below her means, what is Orman's greatest indulgence?

"Private airplanes," she said.

But that's only when traveling for business, which lately involves drilling her message into the military. And taking it global in South Africa.

But Orman's latest book, women and money, is aimed directly at her core market.

"You know how many women stay in a relationship that they don't want to be in?" she asks an audience. "And why is it that they don't leave? Because they don't have the money to leave."

And during these rocky economic times, Orman says her advice for everyone is the same.

"Your first step is you have to get out of credit card debt. After you're out of credit card debt, you need an eight-month emergency fund." She explained. "After you have an eight-month emergency fund, you have to save for a down payment on a home. If you already own a home, then what you have to do is start saving for a retirement account. There are certain steps that you have to do all the time regardless of what's happening in this economy."

She sees it as her job to help others someday quit theirs. So the question is, will Suze Orman retire?

"You mark my words on this: you will go to my Web site one day and when you go and you type in, what you will see is a big sign that comes up that says 'gone fishing,'" she said.

Suze Orman may retire from public life, but Suze Orman will never retire from helping people.