My wife and I recently finished up Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University. I am not going to dog on Dave’s system too much… ’cause I think it works and is pretty much worth the effort for anyone who wants to gain control of his or her finances. Dave teaches a lot of common sense stuff (and makes a buttload of money teaching it… how much is a buttload… well, it’s more than most of us will ever see; an amount of money that verges on the border of being uncomfortable.)
Dave teaches “baby steps” that anyone can follow and everyone could benefit from implementing. Dave’s little catch-phrase is that you should “live like no one else” (i.e. sacrifice having any sort of life-joy now,) “so later, you can live like no one else” (i.e. so if you find a way to avoid death and make it to 70, you can finally start realizing some of the fruit of your labor.) Yeah, doesn’t sound real dreamie to me either, but it sounds a lot better than completely depending on the soon-to-be-extinct Social Security (damn democrats… instead of finding more ways to spend my flipping tax money, like health care, why don’t you guarantee that I’ll get back some of the stinking Social Security benefits that I have given those who went before me!) Dave paints a much rosier picture than what I believe is truly possible for average folks out there. I think Dave may be a little unrealistic and misleading in some of his assertions and examples.
Dave Ramsey: “If you start investing $2000 per year beginning at age 12 and can make a simple 20% interest, by the time you retire at age 90, you will be a millionaire!”
Ok, this example may be a little far fetched… a little. Maybe Dave didn’t actually use any examples that were quite so retarded. It is funny, however, that whenever he gives an example of the average guy, he picks some 30 year-old schmuck making an above average income(’cause I think you have to make above average to really “live like no one else” in the long run,) and Dave proceeds to tell us all of the sacrifices this guy is going to have to make to (which usually involves, for some strange reason, a night job delivering pizza?!?); this is the first part of the “live like no one else.” Then, when we get to the second half of the “live like no one else,” Dave is throwing out examples of multimillionaires (like himself) who can drop cash for about anything because, well, they’re multimillionaires. The thing is, that 30 year-old schmuck isn’t going to get Dave Ramsey-rich just because he delivered pizzas. The only way to get Dave Ramsey-rich is to make a lot of money through your career (maybe by charging honest folks $100 to take your class where you can teach them how to find financial peace…,) which those of us living in the remote, rural areas of this country will never do. So, although Dave never actually comes out and says that the 30 year-old schmuck will get Dave Ramsey-rich, the way the “live like no one else, so later, you can live like no one else” is presented could be interpreted as a little misleading by anyone who is actually paying attention.
In most of his examples, Dave starts with a savings plan starting at or around age 30 and a retirement age of 70. He gives several examples of how you can amass a ton of wealth (MILLIONS) by investing X amount of money at age 30, making 12% on that money, and retiring when you are 70. First of all, I don’t know what the average age is of someone going through Financial Peace University… but I’m guessing it is well above 30. Crap, I’m 40, so I guess I would have to retire at 80 to hit Dave’s projections. Second, 12% earnings on a retirement fund may be slightly unrealistic in today’s market. I’m going to cut Dave a little slack on this one because the video series I watched was made like 2 years ago (I think it was made in 2008), so things are a little less financially rosy at present time than they were 2 years ago, and who know, maybe the markets will completely rebound and no other major damage will be done to the markets again (but I think the radical Muslims may have a thing or two to say about that.) Finally, even if I had started working toward financial peace 10 years ago, I have no intention of working until I’m 70! Hell, I have no intention of living until I’m 70, so why would I base future plans on retiring at that age?
Dave Ramsey is, first and foremost, a salesman. He tries to sell his ideas, and his books, and his program, and his swag (it kills me that Dave preaches that we shouldn’t spend money on unnecessary crap and there, right in the middle of his workbook which tells you not to buy crap, is an add for all kinds of Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University CRAP that Dave would love for you to buy… ’cause God knows that coffee is going to taste a helluva lot better while you’re doing all this personal sacrifice stuff if you’re drinking it out of a Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University coffee mug!) Dave portrays himself as, you know, just this dude who is trying to help others. He is so willing to help others that it only costs like $100 to take his course that will help you gain control over… uh… your money. But seriously, no harm, no foul. The dude needs to make money, and the course is well worth the money it costs to take… but the “I’m just here to help you” front doesn’t fly. Dave, if you are going to be honest with us and yourself, let’s try, “I’m here to help you, but it’s gonna cost you about 100 bucks because that’s how I got Dave Ramsey-rich and I ain’t ever going back, you’re gonna have to sacrifice more than you are probably comfortable with and you are going to miss out on a lot of crap for now, and you will NEVER be as rich as me. Want to buy a Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University fanny-pack?”
Dave works a biblical approach into his plan, which I like. He actually seems sincere when it comes to his faith, so I’ll give him props for that.
One of the portions of the course I really enjoyed was Dave’s philosophy on insurance. He starts out this section of the course talking about how insurance agents HATE this part of the course. Dave then goes on to talk about why whole life insurance is for idiots and all kinds of other things that I’m sure most insurance agents would not like the average person thinking about. Well, Dave gets done, the DVD player gets turned off, and the one insurance agent we have in our class goes off about how Dave Ramsey is not “all knowing”; about how Dave Ramsey is a salesman more than anything, after all we all paid for his class… he isn’t doing it for free… and about how each individual’s insurance needs are different and we can’t all base our needs for insurance off of what Dave Ramsey is trying to sell us on. In other words, the insurance agent in our class HATED this part of the course. The thing is, the “crappy” stuff that insurance agents try to do which Dave discussed are not things this agent does. I think Dave ended up pissing every person off in our class with one point or another… and it wasn’t that I really enjoyed Dave’s teaching so much as I enjoyed watching how right Dave was about insurance agents not liking this part of the course. Our insurance agent (who is, by the way, a good, honest person… and I like the dude) made this section enjoyable just by how much he let it upset him. It’s always fun to watch someone unnecessarily defend what they do for a living! I know, I used to work for a cell phone company… and there are few jobs that require more defense than when you represent one of the cell phone monsters:
“Isn’t cell phone insurance a rip-off?”
“Well, it makes it easier to replace your phone if something happens to it.”
“But you don’t get a new phone, do you?”
“No, you don’t. You get a refurbished phone.”
“How can you push cell phone insurance when it puts a customer in a refurbished phone?”
“Because I have had the people without insurance come up to me with the 2-day old phone that they dropped in the toilet and which now does not work, and I have had to explain to them that they are under a two-year contract and they have no insurance so their only option is to spend $200 or more full-retail price for a replacement phone. These people almost always yell at me, like I make the rules or I have the power to just give them a brand new phone because they have, after all, been a customer for three years or something. I don’t like being yelled at, I have no control over the policies and procedures of the company, you’re the retard that dropped a $300 cell phone in the toilet, I don’t make any more commission just because you have been a customer for three years… in fact, I don’t make any money unless you actually purchase something… and did I mention that I hate being yelled at… so buy the stupid insurance and quit wasting my time.”
Yeah, working at the cell phone company sucked… the money was good, but people are pretty stupid when it comes to their cell phones. Anyway… long story short (too late), I understand the insurance dude trying to justify around Dave Ramsey’s observations. No one likes to have what they do called into question by a “professional” like Dave Ramsey. Thank goodness there were no credit card customer service reps in our class
Probably my favorite lesson in the Financial Peace University course was the one on careers. Dave said some stuff that I thought really made sense. He spoke of finding a job that utilizes your natural talents. He said that those who tell you that you can “learn” to overcome personality traits that work against certain aspects of your career… well, those people are full of crap (ok, he didn’t say crap, but it was implied.) If managing people, or outside sales, or whatever, is not something you are good at or comfortable with, you will not “learn” to be good at this stuff. You need to find something you are naturally good at or enjoy and go full forward with that. I love this advice… and I agree wholeheartedly! Those people who tell you that you need to “work outside of your comfort zone” to be successful have no idea how extraordinarily craptastic the area outside of the comfort zone can be for many of us!
Dave refers to using personality tests to help you figure out what careers you can be successful in. Upon completing the Gary Smalley test, I have determined that I am almost 100% pure golden retriever, which means I have no self-confidence and do almost anything to avoid conflict… wow, big surprise there. There aren’t exactly a ton of high-dollar jobs available to golden retrievers.
Librarian was one that I think I would actually love… but that would mean, probably, another stinking bachelor’s degree PLUS a MLS degree to actually be able to make ok money… so, at 40, sell the house, take out some student loans, go back to school, and hopefully by the time I’m 50 I can have a career I love… and a crapload more debt. Yeah, that ain’t gonna happen.
I can’t really remember what other jobs a golden retriever could excel at, but I know they all paid CRAP! For example, I would probably make an excellent file clerk. I don’t care how long I work as a file clerk… or how GREAT I get a being a file clerk… or how indispensable I become to my employer as a file clerk… I ain’t ever topping about 12 bucks an hour as a file clerk, and I REALLY ain’t gonna get even close to Dave Ramsey-rich at $12 an hour. Ok, so the “follow your personality trait” deal sounds golden… but in all reality, I think it’s really just a stinking pile of pyrite.
Dave Ramsey has some great ideas, and if you are having issues with your personal finances… or have no idea how you are ever going to be able to retire… you might want to check Dave out. Dave’s system is not get rich quick (and he stresses that it is not get rich quick.) Financial Peace University is touted as a get-rich-very-slowly-system, and if your earnings are above average, you can get there. For those of us with a little less income coming in through the front door, Financial Peace University may offer us the hope of not having to reverse-mortgage our homes to survive when we retire!