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A Lesson in Finance: 5 Things to Learn From Oprah Winfrey

Posted by Devayani Bapat

March 12, 2024

From publishing to TV, Oprah Winfrey knows how to monetize and build a multi-billion brand. Here are the key lessons.

“I hope the way you spend your money is in line with the truth of who you are and what you care about. I hope that your money brings joy to you and the ones you love. And I hope you use it as a powerful force for good to fulfill your best intentions.”  – Oprah Winfrey

Everyone’s familiar with the legendary Oprah Winfrey, aren’t they? According to Forbes, her estimated net worth is in the range of $2.5 billion. With her remarkable journey, she’s conquered every realm of Hollywood. Producer, actress, talk show host, author, and philanthropist — these titles encapsulate her extraordinary achievements. Oprah has undeniably blazed a trail for women of color in the entertainment industry. Yet, what many might not realize are her humble beginnings.

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The road to success: early life to television sensation

Born to an unwed teenage mother, Oprah entered the world amidst extreme poverty in rural Mississippi. Her early life, until her early teen years, was marred by hardship and abuse as she made her way from Mississippi to Milwaukee. She found solace in her grandmother’s wisdom through it all: Read and immerse yourself in books; they will become your best friends. At just 14, Oprah sought out her biological father, a soldier, and moved to Nashville.

Her journey started with winning a beauty contest in Nashville before securing a job as a news anchor — where she became the state’s first African-American anchor — and eventually, in 1984, launching Channel 7’s A.M. Chicago, which evolved into The Oprah Winfrey Show. The rest, as they say, is history. While her early years offer lessons, Oprah’s journey from rags to riches provides more. Here are five things we’ve picked up on so here goes:

1. Success is a long road

Oprah’s journey highlights the importance of perseverance, patience, and time in achieving success and reaping rewards.

Instant gratification isn’t realistic; it took Oprah around two decades to overcome her poverty-stricken childhood and the traumas of teenage abuse. It was only then that she finally sought out her father. Her life started to look upward, and soon after, The Oprah Winfrey Show catapulted her to success, much like the steady growth of safe investments.

Key Lessons: Starting with modest amounts and maintaining consistency is critical for those investing in mutual funds. Patience is paramount; in a decade, the returns can be extraordinary as your money starts generating additional income through interest rates and investment returns. Similarly, small business owners should take note: it took Oprah approximately three years to establish her philanthropic foundation, Oprah’s Angel Network, despite her celebrity status and access to an extensive, influential network and resources. This underscores the necessity for patience in the entrepreneurial journey. Commit for the long haul, and success will eventually follow suit.

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2. Work with only the best

Oprah’s success story is deeply intertwined with her collaboration with top-tier professionals, who have propelled her toward greatness. She has established businesses and philanthropic endeavors that have left a remarkable impact.

A prime example is her partnership with Adam Glassman, the creative force behind O Magazine. With an illustrious background in journalism, including stints at esteemed publications like House & Garden and SELF Magazine, Adam brought invaluable expertise.

Our Key Takeaway: Just as Oprah surrounds herself with the cream of the crop, aligning yourself with excellence on your financial journey is imperative. Seek financial advisors and investment experts who can guide you through the nitty-gritty of wealth management, ensuring fruitful, positive outcomes. Beyond mere assistance, these professionals serve as educators, friends, philosophers, and guides who can help enlighten you on the intricacies of finance and empower you to take charge of your financial destiny — a journey you must be fully equipped and informed to undertake.

3. New is scary, but new is good

Oprah’s journey teaches us a crucial lesson: fear should never hold you back. Go ahead and embrace new challenges and venture into uncharted territory. She’s worn numerous hats — including beauty queen, anchor, TV show host, author, and philanthropist — fearlessly embracing each opportunity without fearing failure.

Key Lessons: Failure is a potent teacher, guiding us toward growth and success. Adopting this mindset is essential as you embark on your financial journey. Dive headfirst into your financial journey, whether it’s navigating the complexities of mutual funds, shares, real estate, or the stock market. Educate yourself, seek expert guidance, but above all, don’t shy away from taking calculated risks and initiating action. Every step forward, no matter how big or small, brings you closer to your goals. This philosophy applies equally to small business owners. Embrace the unknown, collaborate with new partners, and dare to take risks. You learn, grow, and ultimately soar to success through these challenges.

4. Ownership

Living a life dictated by debt is a path that no one would willingly take upon themselves. Take Oprah, for instance. Early in her career, she worked tirelessly for a particular station, diligently saving every penny until she could afford to buy the rights to her TV show and, eventually, her television studio — an unusual move for her time. She took deliberate steps to shape her career, prioritizing flexibility and control — the most significant asset a creative icon could ask for.

Our Key Takeaway: This lesson is particularly pertinent for all of you HENRYs (High Earners, Not Rich Yet). While the temptation of luxurious apartments and designer goods may provide momentary satisfaction, they only contribute to accumulating debt and hinder asset accumulation in the long run. Instead, prioritize saving even small amounts today to build assets you can call your own tomorrow. By maintaining a debt-free lifestyle, you can successfully tread the path of financial security and independence.

5. Make smart choices


“I hope the way you spend your money is in line with the truth of who you are and what you care about.”
– What I Know For Sure, Oprah Winfrey

In her book What I Know For Sure, Oprah imparts invaluable wisdom with a simple yet profound message about managing money.  

The key is to live within your means. If you have $50 in your wallet, resist the urge to splurge on a Ferrari. Instead, cultivate the dream and diligently work towards fulfilling it. Most importantly, you must balance wants and needs, carefully crafting a budget that considers every aspect of your earnings and monthly requisite spending. This doesn’t suggest refraining from indulgence altogether, but rather, indulging responsibly within your financial capacity. After all, no luxury purchase is worth the burden of accumulating debt and enduring repayment stress.

The final word

No journey is perfect, and your financial journey might face many hiccups. Don’t let them deter you. Stay steadfast, keep your sights set on your goals, and success will inevitably come your way. Surround yourself with experts and professional individuals who can provide guidance and support as you navigate the ever-changing economic terrain. As Oprah once said, “Challenges are gifts that force us to search for a new center of gravity. Don’t fight them. Just find a new way to stand.”

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Want to know more about finance? Escalon has helped over 5,000 companies across a range of industries to improve their compliance in terms of internal controls and streamline processes. Talk to an expert today.


Devayani Bapat
Devayani Bapat

With 6 years of experience in copywriting and social media management across genres, Devayani's heart lies with weaving words into stories and visuals into carefully crafted narratives that’ll keep you wanting more. She carries with her, her pocket notebook, a trusted confidante that goes with her wherever she goes, and scribbles down into it anecdotes on the go. Her secret weapon for keeping all things copy interesting! Apart from writing, Devayani is huge on travelling. You'll find her booking her next adventure while she's on her current one. And while on those adventures, you'll find her devouring true crime books one after the other. Whether it's a low down on a recent case or one that occurred 70 years ago, she can cook up a story narration you'll never forget.

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