“If you were smarter than Dave Ramsey, you wouldn’t be in this mess.”
Someone posted this on Instagram, and I was completely taken aback.
Who is Dave Ramsey?
If you aren’t familiar with Dave Ramsey, he’s a personal finance guru who has authored several books, hosts a radio show, and teaches the course Financial Peace University (FPU).
His simple, no-nonsense approach to money has inspired over 5 million Americans to pay off debt, save money, and attain financial freedom.
I’m a HUGE Dave Ramsey fan.
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Reading his book The Total Money Makeover completely changed my life and inspired me to start this blog. I listen to his radio show sometimes, my husband and I attended FPU, and we went to Dave Ramsey’s daughter’s Money and Marriage event in Minneapolis.
I think it’s amazing that Dave Ramsey has had such a profound impact on so many people. His work has changed lives. That being said, Dave Ramsey is a human being.
He’s not perfect and he’s not some kind of rocket scientist genius.
He’s just a guy who made some mistakes along the way, racked up a bunch of debt, turned to the Bible for help, and found answers.
When someone said “if you were smarter than Dave Ramsey, you wouldn’t be in this mess”, I was stunned.
Dave Ramsey and his wife filed for bankruptcy years ago.
They haven’t always made smart choices. I think it’s amazing that Dave Ramsey inspires people, and I agree with about 80%-90% of what he teaches.
However, there are a few key things I don’t agree with.
His Ostrich Approach to Credit Cards
Dave is staunchly opposed to credit cards. He feels that credit cards are too tempting for people and that everyone should ALWAYS pay cash for everything instead. He likes to say that “cash is king”.
I agree with the concept of avoiding debt and paying cash whenever possible, but I also know this is unrealistic. Most of us aren’t able to spend $100,000+ in cash for a home. Instead, we take out a mortgage.
How do you get a mortgage if you don’t have any credit?
The simple answer is that you don’t.
SOME mortgage companies allow for manual underwriting which means that they’ll look at factors other than your credit, like what your income is and whether or not you pay your rent on time.
Many mortgage companies prefer not do this because it’s more work for them and they’d prefer to simply pull your credit score.
Even if you do find a company that will do manual underwriting for you, you need to make sure you meet all of the qualifications. If you live with your parents and pay them rent, that isn’t going to qualify.
I understand why Dave Ramsey discourages credit cards because the temptation to overspend is too much for some people. However, some people are frugal by nature and can use credit cards responsibly in order to build their credit.
Having a great credit score allows you to get a lower interest rate on a mortgage, which means you’ll pay less over time.
The Myth of Working Your Way Through School
Dave Ramsey and his daughter Rachel Cruze both perpetuate the myth of working your way through school.
This frustrates me so much because it impacts how we advise high school students. We tell them to just apply for scholarships, work part-time during school, and choose an inexpensive college.
We tell them that as long as they do these things, they can graduate in four years with a bachelor’s degree and no debt.
Let’s do some basic math. Assuming that someone didn’t receive any scholarships or parental help, she would pay $12,000 per year for tuition at the University of Minnesota. The typical 18 year old working in food service or retail earns minimum wage.
Minimum wage in Minnesota is $9.65 per hour. If she works 20 hours per week at minimum wage, she’d gross $10,036 per year. That doesn’t include deductions for things like taxes, insurance, sick days, or company uniforms.
Let’s say she nets $9,000 for the year. That isn’t even enough to cover her entire tuition, let alone any other expenses…such as textbooks, food, rent, medical expenses, insurance, gas or bus fare.
Instead of perpetuating this ridiculous myth that working your way through a four year degree is possible as long as you go to a state school… let’s encourage kids to take a more realistic path.
Here’s what I recommend if you want to finish your bachelor’s degree with no debt:
- Take as many free college classes as you can during high school. Many schools have programs (such as PSEO, CIS, and AP classes) that allow high school students to take college classes free of charge. If you have the option and the ability to do it, I highly encourage it!
- Apply for scholarships but don’t rely on them. Scholarships are often extremely competitive, so you need a back-up plan.
- Work on your associate’s degree part-time at a community college while you work full-time. It’ll take you longer to complete your degree program this way, but it’ll be worth it when you don’t have student loans.
- After completing your associate’s, go work full-time and take a break from school. Use this time to gain valuable work experience and save up as much cash as you can. Taking a break has a major stigma attached to it, but it’s a smart move financially.
- IF a 4 year degree is necessary in your field, go to a state college once you have enough cash saved up. When you graduate, you’ll be debt-free and you’ll already have some relevant work experience under your belt. You’ll be setting yourself up for success in more ways than one.
His Rigid “One Size Fits All” Approach
Dave Ramsey teaches that everyone should follow the same path.
Pay off debt, save money, build wealth.
When you’re in the “paying off debt” stage, be extremely frugal and work 100 hour work weeks if you have to. Do whatever you can to get out of debt ASAP.
I generally agree that it’s smart to save money and avoid debt.
That being said, I’m also a big believer that what is right for one person isn’t necessarily right for another.
Someone may choose to pay off their debt over 5 years instead of 3 because they don’t want to kill themselves working 100 hours every week.
Maybe they have health issues that are exacerbated by stress or perhaps they want to be able to spend time with their kids occasionally.
Another person might decide to take an extra year to pay off debt so they can travel or be a little less frugal.
Personally, I think that’s completely okay. This journey looks different for everyone.
It’s about paying off debt sooner than you ever believed possible. For one person, that might be 6 months. For another, it could be 10 years instead of 30.
Putting it All Together
Dave Ramsey is awesome and his books have changed lives. I follow the majority of what he teaches, but there are a few things I disagree with.
I’m going to keep building my credit so I can get the best interest rate possible when I buy a home.
I’m also going to encourage others to consider Dave’s general principles, but to ultimately do what works best for their particular situation.
Each person has a unique journey.