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Books In Use: The Total Money Makeover

 

Dave Ramsey is a popular Christian personal finance guru with his own syndicated radio show and online “university” for learning to manage money. His advice is simple, straightforward, and nearly universal.

Summary:

Dave’s mission, should you accept it, is to get out of debt as quickly as possible. He provides a list of “seven baby steps” to financial freedom; some of which may be skipped depending upon your personal circumstances. The steps are:

  1. $1,000 to start an Emergency Fund
  2. Pay off all debts starting with the lowest balance first (the “debt snowball”)
  3. Save three-to-six months of expenses
  4. Put 15% of household income into Roth IRAs and pre-tax retirement
  5. College funding for your children
  6. Pay off home early
  7. Continue to build your wealth and share with others

Pros:

  • Although Dave Ramsey is a Christian, and much of the rationale for his advice is biblical, this book is not particularly religious.  You won’t find many bible quotes or other references to Christianity.
  • The advice is simple and easy to follow.
  • The advice makes sense; for instance, if you are on step two and you have two debts with similar balances, start with the one with the highest interest rate.
  • I like that he doesn’t accept excuses; he will tell the reader to get a second job if necessary to get out of debt as quickly as possible.
  • There are worksheets in the appendix to help you organize your calculations.

Cons:

  • Perhaps it isn’t really fair to this book, but his radio show always tells listeners that you can follow his steps, but in order to achieve real financial peace, you must “know” the “Prince of Peace.” It’s fairly obvious that he believes that only people who are Christians will have real security.
  • This book is very popular at the library; I had to wait several weeks to get it.
  • This book is obviously written for Christians and assumes that you are heterosexual, married and have children.  He also seems to assume his readers are middle class and homeowners. If you have an alternative situation, the advice will still apply, but the methods used may require some tweaking.

What I Am Using:

I am working steps 1-4 and 7.  I have no credit cards – which makes step 2 much easier.  I have no children and I’m not a homeowner; I may buy a home in the future, but currently I am only interested in building cash and getting out of debt. I also swear by his emergency fund advice; so many times one of our dogs has needed a trip to the emergency veterinarian, or we corded a tire and needed a replacement. It’s easier to stay out of debt when you have emergency funds to take care of the rainy days.

Results:

Dave Ramsey gets callers every day on his popular radio show exclaiming how light they feel now that they have paid off all their debts and their home is free and clear.  These callers now have plenty of money to save for retirement, their children’s college and to give to charity.  I find that I’m in a much better position than many of my relatives and friends since paying off my car and credit cards.  Student loans still loom ominously in my financial future, but I’m in a position to be much more flexible than those with credit card debt and/or a house underwater.

I fantasize that the Pagan community will begin to trend toward becoming debt free and financially independent so that we will have more energy and resources for projects that we love instead of having to focus on survival.

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