The 3 Best Pieces of Financial Wisdom From Oprah Winfrey

It's good to be Oprah.

In 2015, Forbes estimates her net worth at $3 billion, making the actress, director/producer, entrepreneur, TV personality, and philanthropist rank as one of America's most successful women.

From movies to books to TV shows, it seems that everything Oprah touches turns into gold. There's a lot that we can learn from Oprah, so here are her three best pieces of financial wisdom.

1. Change Behaviors Holding You Back

"The greatest discovery of all time is that a person can change his future by merely changing his attitude," advises Oprah.

Successful individuals often arrive at a point in their careers or financial plans where they hit a self-imposed ceiling. The culprit is our tendency to attribute all of our current behaviors, both the good and the bad, to our past successes. We fail to see that what got us here may not necessarily get us there.

For example, back in your 20s you may have decided that socking away $200 a month from your paycheck was enough to build a healthy nest egg. Fifteen years later, you're now married and have two beautiful kids, and you're still only contributing the same $200 per month to your retirement account. Assuming that your retirement account were to have an 8% return compounded annually, you would have $67,955.99 at the end of 15 years.

Sounds pretty good, doesn't it? After all, if you're planning to retire at age 65 and keep things up, you would have close to $1 million by your target retirement age.

However, $1 million may not be enough. Not only is your financial situation different very different from your twenties, but also more than 75% of registered investment advisors suggest a retirement savings goal of $2 million for Millennials. Set up a meeting with your financial planner once a year to determine if you need to apply any changes. (See also: 12 Things You Didn't Know About Retirement)

2. Spend Money Wisely

In her book What I Know for Sure, Oprah advises, "I hope the way you spend your money is in line with the truth of who you are and what you care about."

This deceivingly simple nugget of advice encompasses two key aspects of financial planning.

Spend in Line With Who You Are

Keeping your wants versus your needs in check is a critical skill for more effective budgeting, saving, and retirement planning.

  • You need a wallet to carry your money and cards, but you want a Burberry wallet.
  • You need a case to protect your smartphone, but you want one made with Swarovski Elements.
  • You need a car to get to work, but you want a Ferrari.

Oprah is right in recommending spending your money according to who you really are. If you're constantly complaining that you don't have any money left to save or pay more than just your minimum credit card monthly bill, then you're very likely to be living above your means. Look for ways to cut back on your expenses by finding cheaper, yet equally effective, alternatives. For example, you could stop paying $5 per shaving blade by switching to Harry's or Dollar Shave Club and instead pay just between $1 to $1.88 per blade. (See also: 14 Pricey Things You Shouldn't Buy (And What to Get Instead))

Of course, sometimes you have valid reasons to splurge, particularly if it allows you to generate income. For example, famous piano player Liberace won a case against the IRS and was able to deduct his lavish costumes as part of his business expenses.

Protect What You Care About

And what we care about the most is our loved ones. Be it your spouse, children, parents, or somebody that had a major influence in your life, your loved ones need to be protected against any type of financial hardship.

When you're the main breadwinner in your household and your spouse or children count on you for covering important expenses (such as mortgage payments and weekly grocery trips), then you need a backup plan in case you were to pass away. Nobody likes to think about their own mortality, but having a life insurance policy and building an emergency savings fund are essential pillars of any successful financial plan.

3. Tackle Goals With Patience

Despite her multiple successful ventures, critics have been quick to jump on the stumbles of Oprah's OWN network. However, not achieving immediate success didn't discourage her from her latest project.

During that period of turmoil, the President of Harvard University asked her to do the class of 2013's commencement address. Addressing the mishaps of her OWN network, she said:

It doesn't matter how far you might rise. At some point you are bound to stumble because if you're constantly doing what we do, raising the bar. If you're constantly pushing yourself higher, higher the law of averages not to mention the Myth of Icarus predicts that you will at some point fall.

This piece of wisdom is applicable to several financial scenarios.

  • The price of stocks is bound to go up and down over time, causing you to sometimes lose sleep. Still, in the long run, investing in stocks is necessary to maximize your retirement account. However, it's necessary to hold stocks for a long time and not sell them at the first drop in price.
  • There may be times that you won't be able to make contributions to your retirement account. It's important to save up retirement, but when life throws a curveball at you, you may need every cent from your paycheck to cover medical bills and pay unexpected expenses. Don't add more wood to your fire, focus your full attention on the issue at hand, and then catch up with your retirement contributions on future paychecks. In 2015, most individuals can contribute up to $18,000 to their retirement accounts as long as it's before the end of the year.
  • Working overtime too often has negative effects on your health. Everybody loves the extra cash that comes from an extra shift or work during a holiday. That cash may come at a price. A study found that people who work 11 or more hours a day are over twice as likely to suffer from depression than those who work seven to eight hours a day.

Nobody is perfect, so don't be too hard on yourself. As Oprah suggests, "You CAN have it all. You just can't have it all at once." Be patient and continue to work towards your financial goals.

What are other great pieces of financial wisdom from Oprah Winfrey?

Like this article? Pin it!



The 3 Best Pieces of Financial Wisdom From Oprah Winfrey

Average: 4.3 (9 votes)
Your rating: None

Disclaimer: The links and mentions on this site may be affiliate links. But they do not affect the actual opinions and recommendations of the authors.

Wise Bread is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to

Guest's picture

By far the biggest obstacle against financial success is a simple one, but is, for many, the hardest to manage: low self esteem. Despite all the talk about external factors, low self esteem drives people to behaviors that set them up for financial failure for the rest of their lives.

In order to overcompensate, people get into habits that deplete, rather than add, to their finances, and those habits continue for a lifetime. Most people would be shocked to know how easy it is for "poor people" to spend 10s and 100s of thousands of dollars over time, trying to gain the approval of others in the same or similar circumstances as their own.

Personally, I could't count how many "poor" people I know who have big screen TVs in their homes, more expensive cable packages and cell phone plans than those in most industrialized nations, get their hair regularly styled in salons, and their children wear expensive, designer sneakers. These things alone cost literally thousands of dollars per year (not even getting onto the other forms of waste), yet it's without a hint of irony that they rail against the overall state of "poverty" that they're in.

The investment of just 1/2 of that money per year over time would surely not only pull many of these folks out of poverty, but set them and their children up for financial security for the rest of their lives. Rather than admit to this and make a change, it's only too convenient to keep complaining and pointing fingers.

We need to stop fooling ourselves. The biggest financial hurdles to overcome in most Americans lives are self installed.

Guest's picture

Nail hit right on the head!

Poverty in the USA is a Big Screen TV and a car parked out front.

Poverty in the 3rd world countries is not even having a good pair of shoes.
Wearing the clothes we donate to charity that are sold as rags and then shipped to those countries and then sold by street vendors.
That last part might not be perfectly true but all the pictures from third world counties shows the people is ripped and faded clothes 10 years or more out of fashion.

Anyways, the poor in the USA have it so good other poor people want to come here to enjoy the America fully belly big screen TV poor party!

Guest's picture

Oprah assumes everyone has 200 a month to save in the era with a shrinking middle class and stagnate wages for ten years in what world does she think saving that much is the norm for the average American worker? She is out of touch with the REAL WORLD!

Damian Davila's picture

Hi Guest, what do you think is a more realistic range for the average American to save on a monthly basis?

Guest's picture

Big screen TV's, while expensive, are not the reason people are's the ever rising costs of healthcare, shelter, transportation, food, etc. It's the basics that are getting more out of reach. A two bedroom crappy apartment costs per year the same as if you bought TWO 75" LCD televisons, a laptop, a year of cell phone contract, a year of cable TV, 4 Disneyland Annual Premium passes, a diamond ring and money left for a years worth of designer clothes.

Damian Davila's picture

Hi Guest,

What do you think is a feasible solution to combat the ever-rising costs of living?

Best regards,


Guest's picture

What if your truth is "I want to look nice and save." More so, look nice? I think I am afraid of the future. I still save, though, through my 401k, but I don't think it is enough.

Damian Davila's picture

Tonya, if you're concerned about the future, it's a good idea to maximize your contribution to your 401(k). Remember that you can contribute up to $18,000 for 2015 (same on 2016). While it may seem hard to reach that goal, take advantage of any windfalls that you receive throughout the year and find out if your employer offers a matching program. You got this!

Guest's picture

Ophra is out of touch with the average person's wages and lifestyles. I started saving $200 a month towards my personal pension plan in my later years when I was more settled in life and did without an active lifestyle, by cutting down on many things including going to shows, etc. My job's pension was not matched and now I am retired I have be grateful for the television, radio and internet. If it was not for the latter, I don't know what kind of life I would have. She does not realize that a lot of us, especially single people who never worked for more than around $60,000 a year will not ever enjoy some of the things that she can enjoy in life.

Guest's picture

The only way to get rich is to start a business or invest in property. Do not save as your money depreciates at inflation rate and you will get nowhere fast. Vehicle prices go up faster than what you can save as well as food and house prices, same story. Remember that your debt also depreciates at inflation rate as well as the depreciation of your currency. In Africa the currency depreciates at 30% per anum.