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Homeownership is part of the American dream — but buying one before you're able can lead to financial disaster."Sometimes it makes sense to own a home," Orman tells My street name is "the Money Lady." That's what strangers say when they stop me: "Look, it's the Money Lady! Early in my career, they seemed to be commenting primarily on the fact that I was always popping up somewhere giving financial advice. And if it weren't for the fact that I'm usually standing in a crosswalk when people stop me, I'd tell them that when I first had a lot of money, it served the purpose of showing me exactly how powerless I was. But that's only perceived power, and it can be fleeting.But as the years have gone by, I've sensed that the people I meet are referring to my success—and that I am powerful in their eyes because I've made money. I can't tell you how many times my grandfather would say, "Suze, they can take your house, they can take your job, they can take your money, they can even take your mind, but they can't take your heart.That would have saved me money and gotten me to happy a lot faster. If you lend money to someone, are you really solving their problem or just getting them off the hook? That was the moment I learned how my powerlessness had cost me a fortune. When I was just starting to make money as a stockbroker, I would come home after a long day and throw my clothes on the floor; by the weekend I had a pile of disheveled items that I schlepped off to the dry cleaner. It was symptomatic of my lack of respect for the money I had worked so hard to earn. I once knew a woman who had serious external power and a super-impressive career.To know whether something is right or just easy, I turn to my three gatekeeper questions: Is it kind? My experience is that people who are bailed out of trouble often end up back in trouble. And if you are lending money that depletes your emergency savings, or prevents you from working toward your own financial goals, is that kind or true to yourself? We all take in financial information from outside sources, whether it's friends and family, professionals we hire, the magazines and blogs we read, or the television we watch. That was when I vowed to never trust anyone else to care about my money more than I do. How you respect your possessions says a lot about how you respect yourself. I spent a lot of money having clothes cleaned and pressed because I was too lazy to hang them up at the end of the day. But her car was a disgusting mess: fast food wrappers all over the place and a trunk that was a mini-dump. I was at her house once when someone from the utility company came by to turn off her service because of lack of payment. When you can't manage to keep the power turned on, exactly how much are you in control of your destiny?And when I ran through all my money, I started using the bank's: I eventually had more than ,000 in credit card debt. I'd done the work—made the choice—to earn money, but then I made another choice: to use the money not to build personal wealth or move toward financial security but to try to impress people. I felt less than because I could not afford what all those rich people could. It was right then that I started to use money as my guide.I began watching how I was using money and how I was feeling when I made money choices.

Seeking out opinions is smart; blindly following those opinions without thinking through whether they make sense to you—and for you—will leave you drowning in a pool of powerlessness. Purchasing a home with a crazy mortgage just because you think it is your right to be a homeowner—and then not being able to keep up with the payments—is not being true to your circumstances.

If you have credit card debt and no savings, and you feel miserable, don't attribute your woes to not having enough money; instead see the lessons your money is trying to teach you. I see so many women fail the gatekeeper test when it comes to dealing with loved ones.

Is it possible you have yet to find your self-worth? Do what's right, not what's easy Believe me, I know how easy it is to run up credit card debt. When a sister asks for a loan to pay off her credit card or a child asks you to cosign a loan for a new car, you jump in and say yes without a moment's hesitation.

When I was a struggling waitress and some amazing customers raised ,000 to help me open my own restaurant, I blindly "gave" the money to a stockbroker without knowing how he was investing it. Leasing a fancy car to keep up appearances when you have to borrow from your 401(k) to make the payments, or don't have enough to fund your Roth IRA? If you don't respect what money can buy, you don't respect money.

If you don't respect your financial obligations—paying your bills on time, buying only what you actually have the money for, saving for your future—then you don't respect money.

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