Nowadays everyone is an expert in personal finance and budgeting. There are a lot of people and companies that help people with their money stress. Some focus on mindset. Some focus on living minimally and sacrifice. Others tell people to try using a specific app or worksheet to budget. I love that this is such an important topic 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 written many books, has an incredibly successful syndicated radio show and podcast, runs Financial Peace University, conducts small business programs and more. He is an amazing personal finance mogul. He has helped 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 a similar philosophy with some of my clients.
Here are the 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 focus on paying off debt, he subscribes to only one strategy: the Debt Snowball Method. This method 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.
Absolutely! If you are looking for some motivation or need some quick wins, this method will absolutely help you pay off your debt. But what if you are already super motivated? Or you have a payday 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 four different debt pay off strategies. I help clients 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 can't help but wonder if those people would have reached their financial goals faster or with less sacrifice if their plan had been more personalized.
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. I feel that true financial coaching should be completely customized and personalized and that it should be based on goals, dreams, and motivations. That's what we do at Fiscal Fitness.