It amazes me how many people don’t know who Dave Ramsey is or what he’s really about. Maybe it’s because I’ve heard of him for awhile, but I thought he was kind of a no-brainer in terms of household name personalities.
Two years ago I started my journey to get out of debt. I knew a few things about Dave Ramsey and his “methods,” but I wasn’t serious or committed to them. Then I discovered the Dave Ramsey Show podcast and started listening to it whenever I could. I’m definitely not a Dave Ramsey know-it-all, but I’ve gained a pretty good understanding of what he’s all about. Since realizing that not everyone knows about Uncle Dave (my new name for him), I figured I should share with you guys the information he’s handing out for free if you spend the hours listening to and reading his material.
Dave Ramsey was a millionaire once, but it all hung on borrowed money. When his accounts got shifted to a new creditor who took a harder look at his borrowing habits, they gave him 90 days to pay $1.2 million worth of short-term notes. He filed for bankruptcy. That’s when he began living what is now called the “Total Money Makeover.”
The Total Money Makeover is a 7-step process that harnesses the power of focus by giving you what they call Baby Steps. The idea is that most people have so many financial goals: they’re trying to pay off credit cards, cars, and student loans. They’re trying to save for big life events, they’re trying to buy a house and save for retirement. When you try to do 50 things at once, you do 50 things really poorly. Instead, the baby steps force you to focus ALL of your energy on tackling one baby step at a time.
The 7 baby steps to financial freedom (aka The Total Money Makeover) are as follows:
- Have $1,000 in a small emergency fund
Not more, not less. A survey released last fall said that out of 7000 Americans polled, 69% of them had less than $1,000 in savings. Do WHATEVER you can to get $1,000 fast. If you have more than $1,000 you’re going to drop that down (you’ll find out what to do with it in step 2). If you have less than $1,000 you need to work extra jobs, sell things, eat every can of food in your house before going to the grocery store. Get $1,000 FAST.
- Pay off all debt using the debt snowball
List all of your debts based on balance from smallest to largest, with no concern of interest rates. You are going to pay the minimum payment on all of them except the one that’s on the top. Then you’re going to attack that one like it stole your puppy. Extra jobs, selling things, over time, a scaled-back lifestyle. Whatever you can to get extra money, you throw it at the smallest one. Once that one is paid off you take the minimum balance on that one PLUS all of that extra money you’re earning and add that to the second smallest. Get the snowball idea? My friend Brittany wrote a post about it, so you can read more about it here.
- Fully funded emergency fund
Having only $1,000 between you and disaster should scare you into destroying your debt. Once you’ve paid off debt, it’s time to start throwing all of that money into a real emergency fund that has 3-6 months expenses.
- Invest 15% of income into retirement
Dave says to PAUSE all of your retirement investing prior to this step. Some people will say you can get rich on $20 here or there, but your greatest wealth building tool is your income and you need to free it up to build wealth before you really can. Having $120,000 in retirement funds that you can’t touch without penalties does you no good when someone loses their job and it takes 2 months to find a new one. Your emergency fund is what will save you, not a huge nest egg.
- College funds for kids
4, 5 and 6 happen all at once because your income is yours, remember? You’re not sending someone else your money to take care of things you did before you could afford it. Start setting up college funds for your children.
- Pay off the home early
Most people who commit to the Total Money Makeover pay off their house in SEVEN YEARS. We live in a society where debt is SO NORMAL and SO ACCEPTED that nobody even thinks of a mortgage as debt, but imagine if you have LITERALLY NO PAYMENTS. You don’t owe ANYTHING to ANYONE. That is the beginning of wealth, which is step 7.
- Become outrageously wealthy and generous
The tagline of this whole thing is “live like no one else now so that later you can live – and give – like no one else.” The idea of the Total Money Makeover isn’t so you can sit and pat yourself on the back with how much money you have. When you have wealth, you are set up to give in ways that are unfathomable. You make sure your money is divided into three categories: enjoy, save and give. There’s really nothing else to do with money at this point. You’ve changed your family tree and can be a huge blessing to other people.
This is the foundation of all of Dave’s advice he gives on The Dave Ramsey Show and it’s a quick glance at what he writes in depth about in The Total Money Makeover. If you’re interested in the idea but think it might be a boring read, check out his daughter Rachel Cruze’s book Love Your Life, Not Theirs, which is a different spin on the Total Money Makeover.
PHEW! If you’ve made it to the end, I congratulate you! AND I want to know what your story is! Where are you at with your finances? I’m no Dave Ramsey, but do you have any questions?
ps never forget: