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Orman: 'Make every penny count, and count every penny'

  • Story Highlights
  • Financial expert Suze Orman says the market could shed another 10-20 percent
  • Orman says Americans must distinguish between wants and needs
  • "Will it get worse before it gets better? It probably will"
  • Americans must rally together behind the president and the stimulus plan, she says
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(CNN) -- Personal finance expert Suze Orman says Americans must rally behind President Obama and the stimulus package, and together, "we will eventually get through it."

Suze Orman says Americans must save now more than ever. "Let's all get on board together now," she says.

Suze Orman says Americans must save now more than ever. "Let's all get on board together now," she says.

She also says it won't be easy -- that the market could shed another 10 or 20 percent this year. Americans must live within their means, save for their futures and "count every penny," Orman says.

Orman, whose most recent book, "Suze Orman's 2009 Action Plan," has soared on the charts, spoke with CNN's Larry King on Monday. Here is a transcript of their conversation, some of which has been edited.

King: Do you see anything encouraging?

Orman: Yes. Here's what I see encouraging: The stimulus got passed. [Obama] has a plan. We now have to give him our support to make this plan help everybody. I wish everybody would stop saying it is dire -- including the president. Stop telling everybody that it's dire, it's this, it's that.

We have a plan. Let's see what we can do. Let's deal with the housing crisis now, as well. And if we could just keep doing this, little by little, we're going to get through it.

Is it going to be easy?

No. But we will eventually get through it. We need time, though, Larry.

King: ... You just said don't be negative. White House press secretary Robert Gibbs says the economy has not yet bottomed out and things are probably going to get worse before they improve.

Why does that hurt to say that?

Orman: Well, it doesn't hurt to say that. That's realistic. However, I wish all the bickering now between the Republicans and the Democrats -- I wish all of that would just stop. The stimulus got passed. Let's all get on board together now. Let's all be in one boat versus having one leg in one boat, another leg in another boat and then there we go and we sink.

Will it get worse before it gets better?

It probably will, Larry. We're in, really, in a situation where, as I've been saying, I don't think anybody had any idea how bad it really was. However, we have started to turn it around. It's going to take time.

So it's just -- I just, you know, want everybody to really start working together now toward one goal -- and that's saving the people that need to be saved. ...

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King: The Fed recently released its latest survey of consumer finances. The bottom line: The net worth of the average American household, adjusted for inflation, is lower than it was in 2001.

What do you make of that?

Orman: I think that it's very sad. And ... a lot of that has to do with what happened to people's 401(k) plans, what happened to people's real estate. Prices were going up and up. The stock market was going up. Real estate was going up. Everything was going up.

And then, within a very short period of time, if you think about it, we just took a nose-dive. All of a sudden, from October of 2007 until now, you lost 40 to 50 percent of your 401(k). Between, you know, 2005 and 2006, look what's happened in real estate -- 80 percent down.

Some people are 80 percent underwater, Larry, in some of their homes. ... We've got to figure out how do we help those people and what can we do for them.

King: A question on the blog from Fisher who writes: "I have a $42,000 house mortgage at 6 percent. I could pay it off tomorrow if I wish. I have a few bucks saved. And I want to know where is a safe place for those few bucks that I have saved. I'm 65 years old, looking for a monthly income from my investments. I have no other debt other than the mortgage."

Orman: Here you go, Fisher. You're paying a 6 percent interest rate on a mortgage. If you look at safe money right now -- whether it's a Treasury bill, maybe you could get 1 or 2 percent. Hey, CDs that are FDIC insured, so maybe you get 2.5 percent.

If you only have $40,000 or so left on your mortgage, you've almost paid off the entire mortgage, which means it's now principal that you're paying off. You're not getting a tax write-off anymore.

Do yourself a favor: Pay off the mortgage, Fisher. That then saves you your monthly payments that you need to make toward the mortgage. And, in essence, you don't need as much income. ...

King: The U.S. savings rate was 0.8 percent last August. It jumped to 3.6 percent in December, even though the average income was the same -- maybe a little lower.

Is that a good sign?

Orman: I think it is a great sign. You know forever I've been on this campaign of, America, we have got to increase the savings rate. Save yourself. You know, I created that savings account where with, you know, if you put in $100 every month, at the end of 12 months, I'll give you $100. Go to Saveyourself.com, everybody. Be paid to save.

If you don't have a good savings rate and something happens, where are you going to go?

That's when you all of a sudden start putting things on your credit cards -- that you can't do anymore. That's when you then start to become an aid, you know, where you're asking the state to aid you -- food stamps and everything.

So if you have savings and something goes wrong, you will be able to save yourself. I think it's fabulous. I have always been against people spending money they don't have just to keep this economy going. Save money, people. Save money.

King: You've often discussed the difference between needing something and wanting it.

Orman: Yes.

King: Elaborate.

Orman: Well, so many times people ... go to a store or they go out to eat or they go and they have to get their hair cut or whatever it may be. And they think that they really need these things that they are buying.

Most of the things that people buy -- Larry, because I look at their expenses all the time -- they don't need these things, they want these things. They want to go on vacation. They want to go out to eat. They want to go shopping.

Do they need to do any of those things?

No.

What do you need to do?

You need to be able to buy food at a grocery store to feed yourself and your children. You need to be able to pay your mortgage payment or rent in order to keep that house over your head. You need to be able to possibly have a used car to get yourself to work. You need to be able to put gas in the car.

Do you need to be able to put gas in the car to go skiing? ...

No. So there's a big difference between needs and wants.

King: Should you go cheap?

Orman: What does that mean, should you go cheap?

King: Go cheap. Tip 15 percent, that's it. Shop -- bargain everything. ... If tomatoes are 20 cents over there and 15 cents across the street, buy for 15 cents.

Orman: Yes. You have to do comparison shopping. You have to save every penny today. And you have to make every penny you save count because in case you lose a job, in case you lose a paycheck, how are you going to make it, everybody?

You don't have any savings. You don't have any retirement account. There is no equity in your home.

Where are you going to turn?

That's why many people today, I'm sorry to say, are living in their car.

And what are they doing? They're moving their car all the time because they don't want the car company to come and repossess it. You need to make every penny count, and count every penny.

King: ... Another blog from Bonnie: "What if you're a senior who has already lost 30 percent? Do you get out at the bottom or stick it out? I'm 65 and I've lost over $250,000 with a total retirement that was $750,000."

Orman: Bonnie ... you say do you get out at the bottom? What makes you think that this is the bottom?

No, I know. I know. I just said I don't want anybody to be negative. But I do want us to also be realistic. There's no way that we can know that this is the actual bottom. I absolutely don't think that we're at the bottom here. I think it is very possible that we could go down another 10 or 20 percent -- not possibly right now, but sometime within this year.

So if you currently have enough money right now, given what you have, to pay your needs, generate the income you need and everything like that, then I have to tell you, would I be getting out here?

Uh-huh.

If you need money within the next five years or so, that is not money that needs to be in the market, if you ask me. You're asking for trouble. You have 10, 20, 30 years, OK, no problem, as long as you're dollar-cost averaging. But Bonnie, if you're in your 60s, you need this money. Nothing can happen to it. It is not money that belongs in the stock market, not here, not now.

King: Let's grab a call for Suze. Miami, Hello.

Caller: Yes. Hi. I have a commercial loan at 5.75 percent that's coming due next year. Should I refinance now or wait a year?

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Orman: Well, there's no way really for us to predict what interest rates are going to be a year from now. What we also can't predict, a year from now: What will the credit markets be doing? Will they be flowing, will they not be flowing? Will you be able to refinance a year from now? Given what we know, if you can refinance right now, if you're able to, interest rates are relatively low right now. I would do the known versus the unknown.

The unknown is what's going to be in a year. We don't know. What do we know? We know you could refinance right now at a good interest rate, girlfriend, go ahead and do it.

All About Personal FinanceNational EconomyBarack Obama

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