Personal finance expert and grateful patient Suze Orman chats with Jason Walrond, a dispatcher for Central Transport and Equipment Services, during a special event.Two days after learning she had a rare, non-cancerous tumor on her spinal cord last summer, renowned personal finance expert Suze Orman underwent a 10-hour surgery with a 20-person surgical team at the Brigham to remove it.
The complex, emergency neurosurgery saved Orman from life-altering health concerns, including the possibility of paralysis. Grateful for the exceptional care she received at the Brigham, Orman sought to show her appreciation and give back the best way she knew how: by sharing her financial expertise with members of the Brigham community, including some staff from her own care team, through personalized counseling sessions.
“The care that I got when I arrived, all the way through my stay, was over the top,” Orman said. “I want to thank all of you — every single one of you — because I do believe to this day that if I didn’t come there, I don’t know if I’d be sitting here.”
In recorded conversations with seven members of her care team, Orman answered common questions about personal finance, including student debt, real estate investments, emergency funds, cryptocurrency and planning for college and retirement. The conversation, which was introduced by Sunil Eappen, MD, MBA, interim president and chief medical officer, and Madelyn Pearson, DNP, RN, NEA-BC, senior vice president of Patient Care Services and chief nursing officer, was broadcast to the Brigham community on June 16.
Jason Walrond, a dispatcher for Central Transport and Equipment Services, spoke with Orman about how to maximize his retirement savings between a traditional 403(b) plan and Roth IRA plan.
“Talking to Suze was so helpful because I was already considering readjusting my retirement contributions, and just hearing her say it confirmed that I’m making the right decision,” Walrond said. “It was a great experience because I’m learning more about my finances as I get older, so getting to talk to her about it was an honor. I mean, it’s Suze Orman — when do you get an opportunity to speak with someone that well-versed in finance? She has been there, done that and lived the life.”
Jerry Villa, MD, PhD, a Neurosurgery resident who was part of Orman’s care team, asked Orman for her perspective on how to best navigate the unusual situation physicians face as they transition to a higher income bracket after completing their training.
“Suze has a long track record of being an authority of financial matters. It was a pleasure helping with her care, which I think made me comfortable speaking to her about financial matters,” Villa said. “She helped me better understand how to live within my means, despite my level of training, to remain financially sound.”
Emma Pennock, PA-C, a physician assistant in Neurosurgery, asked Orman for her guidance on whether she should consider investing in the stock market while paying off her student loans.
“Her advice to not get involved with stocks or other financial ventures that I am uncomfortable or unfamiliar with was very sound,” Pennock said. “She helped resolved some internal conflict I had regarding how best to manage my expendable income. I am grateful she took the time to share her expertise.”
While money can often feel like a taboo topic to discuss openly, staff who participated in the program said Orman’s sincere, no-nonsense style made them feel comfortable speaking candidly about their questions and concerns.
“I think having proficiency in understanding your own financial situation is super important. As someone in the medical field with significant student debt burden, my circumstances are not unique,” Pennock said. “I felt discussing these topics openly would be helpful not only for myself but potentially for my peers and colleagues as well. Money is a tool, and we should all understand how to utilize it effectively to reap the most success and benefit throughout our lifetime.”