What I Think of Dave Ramsey

It's rare to find a PF blogger who doesn't have an opinion on Dave Ramsey and/or his programs and teachings. There's plenty on both sides of the fence for a variety reasons. As a fan of Dave, I see it fit to read both stances, as is true with other issues. Anyone not listening to both sides of any issue is doing themselves a disservice.

To that point, I've found that so many of the anti-Dave side are staggeringly unfamiliar with his methods, his message, and his reasons. Unfortunately for them, most of what they know of Dave is second or third hand at best. Getting all or most of your information this way, even from a Dave fan - myself included - is flawed. Getting information from Dave's website is better, but you're likely still not getting the full picture. I would invite anyone on either side of the fence or riding the fence to form your opinions first hand. Read his books. Listen to his radio show. Watch his TV show. Take his FPU classes. If you don't understand something, call his radio show. Email him. I know that he is more than happy to answer questions - big, small, simple, complex. See the links at the end of the post to get a start on that. But first, I'll offer my own reasons for supporting Dave and for using his methods.

"Its as much personal as it is finance"
Something you'll hear Dave say from time to time and far too many others have forgotten or failed to acknowledge. No, the personal side of personal finance cannot be ignored! Some go so far as to accuse Dave of injecting psychology and emotions into personal finance. Quite the contrary. Dave is one of the few personal finance gurus that actually addresses the psychology and emotions that surround money in our lives. These other personal finance goobers try to reduce it all to a math equation. They are missing half of the picture.

"My problem is controlling the guy I shave with" (himself)

dis·ci·pline (Merrium-Webster)
4: training that corrects, molds, or perfects the mental faculties or moral character
5 a
: control gained by enforcing obedience or order b: orderly or prescribed conduct or pattern of behavior c: self-control
Dave is a huge advocate of personal responsibility. No victimizing here. Just today, I was listening to a Dave podcast where a guy was talking about a credit card that he hadn't payed on for over a year. Dave's first response was "Why haven't you paid them?" It was not about how to dodge your creditors, or get out of your debts. Dave will always advice you to do the right thing, and part of that is paying what you legitimately owe. If you signed up for the debt, then it is yours. The only way you'll progress is to admit your mistakes and learn from them. Then you can work towards that 'self-control' thing.

"When I was 28 years old, I was several million dollars in debt, with a brand new baby and a toddler, and bankrupt...and lost everything"
This tells me several things. One is that Dave actually knows how you feel. He knows what it's like to be foreclosed on. He knows what it's like to be bankrupt. He knows how it feels, smells and looks. He knows what it's like to do "stupid with zeros on the end of it". So he can walk with you through that, and not only tell you how to get through it, but also how not to lose your mind during the process. This also tells me that his plan, his advice, his coaching, and his baby steps are not all some nice theory. It's not something that he came up with one day, and all of the math came out right so he started teaching it. This is based on actual life experiences as well as sound financial planning. And it really works too!

"Now if you took that same money that you've been paying on car payments and invested that in good growth-stock mutual funds for the next 30 years, you'd have...."

Dave can do math. Trust me, this dude can do math. He can take your weekly take-home pay, multiply it in his head by the number people who claim that 'Dave is bad at math', divide by goober, and report back your annual salary all while listening to the rest of your situation. Dave Ramsey is awesome at math, and he can run a financial calculator like it's nobody's business. Likely, he's as big of a math nerd as those who like to criticize his arithmetic. Listen to his show for 5 minutes and you'll agree that Dave can definitely do the math. So much so, that he knows when it takes center stage, and when it takes a backseat. He knows that it's not the answer to everything. Like any good tool, it is as important to know how to use it as well as when to use it.

"The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender" - Proverbs 22:7
"Free yourself, like a gazelle from the hand of the hunter, like a bird from the snare of the fowler" - Proverbs 6:5
The context of these are great as well. Likely part of why Dave recommends reading the entire book of Proverbs. Religion is where some folks part ways with Dave. As unfortunate as that is, it is the choice that they have made. Christian or not, faith does not invalidate any of his advice. It still stands on it's own. We are in fact Christian and appreciate this part of his teachings. There are hundreds of verses in the Bible about money and not once does God used debt to solve anything. In fact, the good book steers you away from debt every chance it gets. Dave does the same and has helped hundreds of thousands of families pay off millions in debt, while getting people talking about money and excited about living debt-free.

"If you pay off all of your debt and don't like it then you can always go out and get some more."
If you haven't listened to Dave's show, then you really should. It's as entertaining as it is informational - and there is a ton of information in each and every hour. If you are new to Dave, then hopefully I have convinced you to spend some time with the man himself and find out what he's all about. I've only scratched the surface here. Likely the best part of his advice - if you don't like his way, then you can always go back to the way you were doing things before.

"Giving you the same financial advice that your Grandmother did, only we keep our teeth in"

The Dave Ramsey Challenge: Pro, anti, or neutral, give Dave a week - minimum. Read one of his books, listen to his show, attend an FPU class (you can usually attend one lesson for free if you contact the class coordinator). Give Dave a week and report back what you've learned.


Pete said...

good post. Most people certainly do have a strong opinion about Ramsey, but for us, we love him! We're taking Financial Peace University right now, and its been eye opening. You can follow along with us on our blog right now in our series of posts on the subject.

BigAssSuperstar said...

I've been catching the one-hour podcast a few times a week for the past few months ... my thoughts ...

- I dig his straight-ahead, no BS, Dr. Phil-style approach
- it's basic, easy-to-follow advice perfectly suited for people who need a rope to get out of the hole they've dug
- I'm not in debt, nor have I ever been in any noteworthy debt, so I'm getting a little bored. It's becoming more of a cautionary tale than a direct how-to guide for me
- I'm Canadian, and some of his specific tactics are very US-centric
- I'm Canadian, so his anti-socialist rants don't go over well with me. We're a rather socialized country, and doing just fine with it TYVM
- The God stuff falls completely flat with me
- I'd like to hear more success stories beyond debt-free screams. What does life really have in store for people who are now "living like no one else"? What do they have that I don't? Inspire me!
- I'd love it if he could, once in a while, mention that you'd actually save more money paying off the highest-interest debts first
- Beans and rice: sounds like a great plan. Recipes, please?

That's about it. I still listen, but not as 'religiously'. I get the point of the baby steps now, and it'll help me avoid debtly living in the future, but at this point, it's getting repetitive.

(not) the Jet Set said...


Thanks for your comments! I'm currently on a similar regimine of occasional 1-hr podcasts. The show can get repeditive sometimes, but then again, it's mostly up to the callers, so you're getting a snapshot of America. The problem with the 1-hr podcasts is that it is the first hour fo the show. The second hour is the theme hour for the day - kids and money, cars, bankruptcy, tipping, college... Those help to mix things up quite a bit.

As for "living like no one else", I know that he is working on a show with stories from folks who have been debt-free for 10+ years to discuss what you are talking about. REALLY looking forward to that one.

As for rice and beans, try making them with taco meat. It streaches the meat so far that you can have a mexican feast every night for a week! Funny thing, I was once at the Taste of Chicago and saw a Haitian food booth. Every dish was Chicken with rice and beans and Goat with rice and beans, fish with rice and beans.....

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