As a financial coach, I both love and hate Dave Ramsey.
Now-a-days everyone is an expert in personal finance and budgeting. There are lots of people and companies that are helping people with their money stress. Some people focus on mindset. Some people focus on living minimally and sacrifice. Others tell people to focus on using a specific app or worksheet to budget. I love that this is such an important topic in America right now and that there are so many resources for people that need help. I fully support anyone who wants to affect change in our world in the way of helping people feel more in control of their money and right now there is nobody bigger than Dave Ramsey.
For those of you who haven't heard of Dave Ramsey, he has been helping people get out of debt and attain "financial peace" for nearly 30 years. He focuses on "baby steps" of saving, paying off debt with the "Snowball method" and living on rice and beans (as frugal as possible) until your debt is paid off. He has multiple books, an incredibly successful syndicated radio show and podcast, Financial Peace University, small business programs and more. He is an amazing personal finance mogul! He has helped thousands and thousands of people get their personal finances in order, pay off debt and live without the stress of money hanging over their heads.
I have read his books, attended his Smart Conferences and in person workshops multiple times and listen to his radio show. I like a lot of what he teaches and use similar philosophy with some of my clients.
Here are the big problems I have with Mr. Ramsey
First and most importantly, when it comes to personal finance, one size does not fit all. His system moves you upward towards being debt free step-by-step. Once you get to focusing on paying off debt he subscribes to only one strategy, the Debt Snowball method. This basically says to organize all of your debts from lowest remaining balance to highest remaining balance. You pay the minimums on all your debts except for the one with the lowest remaining balance. That debt you pay all extra money towards it until that debt is paid off and you move on to the next lowest remaining balance and so on.
Does this work?
Absolutely! If you are looking for some motivation or need some quick wins this will absolutely help you pay off your debt! But what if you are already super motivated? Or you have a pay day loan that is costing you crazy amounts of money each month in interest? Or you have a debt that really makes you sick every time you pay it because it was a credit card that you used irresponsibly or used it to pay your divorce attorney? He would say it doesn't matter. I like to think that there are at least 4 different debt pay off strategies and will help a client decide which one to use based on their personality, motivation levels, types and amount of debts and a lot of other factors.
He also has to speak to millions of people across the country and has to keep his content accessible to all walks of life as well as consistent from one day and one person to the next. When you give general advice you obviously can't customize and personalize. This can cause someone to lose motivation and have slow progress because they don't operate in that way. The great and amazing thing is that he has obviously helped thousands of people, so his system works. But I wonder if those people would have reached their financial goals faster or with less sacrifice if their plan had been more personalized.
That's not all...
He doesn't actually give specifics on how to create a budget and work on mechanics of daily budgeting. The traditional budget that we have all tried to use fails about 80% of people. This can be frustrating in itself. A budget should be fluid and intuitive. It should also allow you to see how the financial decisions you make today affect you weeks and months into the future. We take that philosophy and then create the person's budget based on their numbers, goals and lifestyle.
He is polarizing. Mr. Ramsey has to have hard and fast rules and either gets immediate and long lasting buy in or you lose interest really fast and fail.
He can be rude to people on his radio show. This can be pretty off putting for a lot of listeners. Now, some people really need a big wake up call because their financial woes are self inflicted and they are oblivious to this fact. The number of people that actually need this are minimal, where I think that people need empathy, understanding and no judgment. My job isn't to give you an answer, it's to help you see the answer for yourself.
Dave Ramsey is an amazing personal finance expert and marketing genius. He has helped thousands of people pay off debt and gain financial freedom. I love that he helps people do this and that he is able to reach so many people. But as a financial coach, I don't subscribe to any one strategy or steps-to-follow for everyone and I'm not willing to sign off saying I do, and that's why I won't ever become a Dave Ramsey Certified Coach. I feel that true financial coaching should be completely customized and personalized and that it should be based on goals, dreams and motivations.