'Freedom,' 'Security,' 'a Washer-Dryer': Why and How Millionaires and Influencers Like Suze Orman and Farnoosh Torabi Save Money

What are you saving for? In honor of Financial Literacy Month, Grow asked a range of influencers, including Sam Dogen, Anthony Scaramucci and Clinton Kelly.

Farnoosh Torabi.
Rob Kim | Getty Images

“What are you saving for?”

In honor of Financial Literacy Month this April, Grow asked a range of TV personalities, social media influencers, best-selling authors, and personal finance experts that simple question.

Their answers may surprise you—and inspire you to refocus on your own savings goals. These famous folks aren't saving for private jets or designer clothes. Instead, they’re focused on everyday goals like retirement, real estate, new business ventures, and family.

As financial expert Suze Orman , the best-selling author of “Women & Money,” points out , saving money throughout her life has given her freedom. Even though now—for the most part—whatever she wants, she can buy, she’s still a saver.

“I save for security, I save for freedom, and the ability to leave more for others when I am gone,” Orman says. “But most of all, I save simply because it gives me more pleasure than spending.”

Suze Orman (Photo courtesy of CNBC)

Here’s what everyone else tells Grow that they are saving for:


Bobbi Rebell, certified financial planner, host of the “Financial Grownup” podcast and cohost of the “Money in the Morning” podcast

“The boring but honest truth is that as Gen Xers, the priority in terms of savings for my husband and I is retirement,” Rebell says.

As a self-employed entrepreneur, Rebell contributes to a solo 401(k). Her husband has a 401(k) through his employer—and he is maxing out contributions. (The limit is $19,000 in 2019, plus a $6,000 catch-up contribution for people 50 and older.) “I am able to contribute the same base amount as him plus part of my company’s profits, which is a big help,” she says.

Tom Zgainer, founder of America’s Best 401k

Years ago, Zgainer started planning to take care of his future self—and that’s even more important with a milestone birthday coming up. “Turning 60 this year, I anticipate to be actively working for the next 5-7 years,” he says. “I expect that the financial resources I have accumulated along the way will sustain myself and my family for many healthy years to come. It’s been said often and is worth repeating that it’s never too early to start planning for your future.”

Alison Green, author of “Ask a Manager,” the advice column and book

Green says watching her retirement account grow is as exciting, if not more, than spending that money on a fancy vacation would be. “Right now I’m obsessed with saving for retirement, which I’m doing by diverting as much money as possible into that account,” she says. “I want to reach my retirement goal as soon as possible so then I can relax!” “I really think peace of mind is the very best thing money can buy.”

Clinton Kelly (Photo courtesy of Heidi Gutman)

Clinton Kelly, Emmy Award-winner and author of “I Hate Everyone, Except You”

Kelly says he wants to be sure his later years are comfortable. “Having recently turned 50, I've got my eye on the prize: Retirement!” he says. “With the help of a financial planner, I've been saving money and investing in funds, a wide variety of them to mitigate risk.”

Tom Corley, keynote speaker and author of books including “Rich Habits” Corley earmarks a chunk of the revenue from his three businesses for retirement. “Like many business owners, my retirement will be comprised of my retirement savings and the proceeds from the sale of my businesses,” he says. But he plans to pass royalties from his books on to his children in a trust to help them fund their retirement—and hopefully, college costs for his grandchildren.

More from Grow:


Anthony Scaramucci, entrepreneur and founder of SALT Conference

Scaramucci is saving to help cover the education costs of his children and future grandchildren. “I had to take out student loans to cover most of my college tuition and expenses,” he says. “The burden of those loans was heavy during my first years as a professional, and I want to give my kids and grandkids an opportunity to begin their careers with a clean slate so they can pursue whatever they’re most passionate about.” “When you’re investing for a child’s education, steady returns and risk management are paramount.”

Natalie Zfat with husband Bradley Farber (Photo courtesy of Storyline Collective)

Natalie Zfat, social media entrepreneur and influencer

“I heard a rumor that children are expensive,” jokes newlywed Zfat, who’s saving for a family. She started by keeping her wedding costs to a minimum. Her now-husband proposed with a simple gold band (per her request), and the couple had a modest wedding. “Whether you choose to have a 1,000-person wedding or elope for a 15-person wedding, it's important to consider the goals you and your partner have for the future—and not what society has dictated an engagement or wedding should be,” she says. That choice “can often have financial and emotional implications for couples (and their families) for years to come.”

Philip Taylor (aka “PT Money”), personal finance blogger at and creator of FinCon

Taylor and his wife are saving for retirement and college savings for their three children. For the kids, they’ve set up 529 savings plans, putting aside $25 per month for each child into these accounts. “We will likely up this in the future,” he says. On the retirement front, “because I have my own business, we're saving for our retirement using a SIMPLE IRA account with Vanguard using their VFORX target-date fund,” Taylor says. This target-date retirement fund is designed for people who plan to retire between 2038 and 2042. “Our annual goal is to max out our contributions to that account,” he adds. (The SIMPLE IRA contribution limit is 2019 is $13,000 for people under the age of 50.)

Real estate

Holly Johnson with husband Greg and family (Photo provided by Holly Johnson)

Holly Johnson, personal finance blogger and cocreator of

In 2018, Johnson and her husband achieved two big home goals. “Paying off our house was a huge accomplishment we're insanely proud of, and paying cash for our new room addition means we're still 100% debt-free,” she says. “Now that those big projects are behind us, we're saving up cash to pay for a third rental property. We've been keeping our eye out for a duplex or multiunit property we think will work, so hopefully we find what we want when the time is right.”

Dorie Clark, professor at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business and author of books including “Entrepreneurial You”

Clark’s goal: more space. “In 2018, I bought a one-bedroom condo in Manhattan,” she says. “Though I love my new home, I'm already saving for a two-bedroom [apartment], because in the city, an extra bedroom can often cost an extra $1 million-$1.5 million. I'm laying the groundwork now, so that in 3-5 years, I'll be ready to upgrade to a home I can stay in for years to come.”

Thomas P. Farley (Photo provided by Thomas P. Farley)

Thomas P. Farley (aka “Mister Manners”), etiquette expert and keynote speaker

Farley jokes that as a Manhattanite, he’s liable for the $20 departure tax—money New Yorkers spend each time they leave their apartments without knowing exactly where it went. But any time he needs to reaffirm his commitment to saving, he just thinks of his place at the Jersey Shore. “It’s a treasured getaway, one that's been calling out to be renovated for years,” he says. “Visions of what it will look like when done are what impel me to hold off on purchasing yet another blazer. More important, I credit the promise of this renovation with powering me through work weeks that sometimes involve travel to multiple cities. The beach is not just my retreat—it’s my incentive.”

Sam Dogen (aka “Financial Samurai”), personal finance blogger at and author of “How to Engineer Your Layoff”

Dogen is “aggressively saving” to buy a single-family home in San Francisco, one with an ocean view. “One of the best pieces of financial advice I can give is this: If the amount of money you’re saving each month doesn’t hurt, you’re not saving enough,” he says. “There will always be land mines on the path to financial freedom. But in order to achieve financial independence sooner, we must save aggressively and continuously take calculated risks.”

Jesse Colombo, registered investment advisor and Forbes contributor who warns about future financial crises Colombo doesn’t believe in the stability of the global economy—rather, he thinks a "bubblecovery" is underway, or a bubble-driven economic recovery fueled by more debt and brand new bubbles. That outlook has affected how he thinks about real estate now. After relocating to Houston from New York’s Long Island recently, he’s now saving up for a ranch in rural Texas. “In addition to recreational use (i.e., to get away from the big city), I also intend to use it as a survivalist,” he says. “It's extremely important for me to have a ranch in the countryside where I can ‘get out of Dodge’ when the bubbles burst.”

Michelle Markowitz (Photo provided by Michelle Markowitz)

Michelle Markowitz, director and coauthor of “Hey Ladies” While she saves up for an apartment, Markowitz is browsing real estate listings and weighing whether she’d prefer a place with a balcony (but a longer walk to the subway) or more closet space (even if it means trekking to a high floor of a walk-up building). “The one constant I think about, which is the most 30-something-person fantasy I’ve ever had, is: saving up to one day own an apartment with an in-unit washer/dryer,” she says. To help achieve her goal, Markowitz recently opened an account with a robo-advisor and automates deposits into that account—or adds money she’s contemplating spending into that account for her apartment fund. “The one thought that keeps me going is one day getting out of the shower and having a dryer full of warm towels crying out: ‘Thanks for not spending that $60 at Sephora in 2019!’”

Business Ventures

Shawn Achor and Michelle Gielan (Photo courtesy of Amy Blankson)

Shawn Achor and Michelle Gielan, happiness researchers who also happen to be married. Shawn is the author of “The Happiness Advantage” and “Big Potential”; Michelle is the author of “Broadcasting Happiness.”

Achor and Gielan say the science of happiness is a solid investment—one they want to share more broadly. “We are saving right now to be able to hire a leader in the nonprofit world to help spread the science of happiness to more schools nationwide,” they say. “Given depression, anxiety, and loneliness are at an all-time high for children, our organization teaches students tools to create greater well-being and resilience. In the schools we've worked with so far, we've seen an evidence-based case of how consciously cultivating optimism, gratitude, and social connection improves not only well-being, but also attendance, test scores, and graduation rates.”

Josh Levs, keynote speaker and author of “All In”

On the personal front, Levs is saving for a big, international family trip. His other savings goals focus on pursuing professional projects. “I'm working to expand the role of men in building gender equality across the country and around the world,” he says. “As part of this, I'm working to educate people about how terrific most of today's dads are. And looking ahead, I'm working toward a big project to tackle ignorance in America, in a whole new way.”

Farnoosh Torabi, cofounder of She Stacks, host of the “So Money” podcast, and author of books including “When She Makes More”

Torabi has her sights on getting a new business venture off the ground. “I've cofounded a company called She Stacks where we aim to create an ecosystem of financial content, experiences, and products for women,” she says. “Our first venture is a massive money pop-up called Stacks House that's kicking off in Los Angeles before touring the country.” “To save, I'm squirreling away much of my income in a plain vanilla savings account. It's not as sexy as investing, but this is money I'll need in the short run, so keeping it safe and liquid is what matters.”

Dan Schawbel (Photo courtesy of Lucas Deming)

Dan Schawbel, entrepreneur, host of the “5 Questions with Dan Schawbel” podcast and author of books including “Promote Yourself”

Schawbel is investing in his new podcast. “By not spending, I'm saving and reallocating funds to invest in my podcast show,” he says. “It was an audio-only show, but I want to up my game and create an entire video series on YouTube, which is expensive. All of the interview shoots and editing add up over time.” “My goal is to have a more frequent audio and video podcast series, producing at least 48 episodes this year and potentially doubling that in 2020.”

Chloe Coscarelli, vegan chef and author of cookbooks including “Chloe Flavor”

A new business tool is on the menu for Coscarelli, who’s saving up for the newest Vitamix blender (which retails for about $550). “I use mine about 4 to 5 times a day, so I’m definitely in the market to treat myself to a new one,” she says. “Although I’d love to splurge and buy one tomorrow, I’m always looking out for sales and comparing prices from different stores to make sure I get the best deal possible!”

Check out Saving just $5 a day could make you rich one day — Here’s how via Invest in You with CNBC + Acorns.