Dave Ramsey Falters in a Crummy Economy

By Maggie Ellis, guest writer

I know many people who are followers of Dave Ramsey’s financial advice. Since the economy has tanked, it seems like I’m seeing even more people joining the Dave bandwagon, looking for a way out of the financial messes that they have gotten themselves into. His “Total Money Makeover” and the associated baby steps can be a decent starting point for those who have no idea where to start or who have never tackled financial topics before. It’s simple and fairly easy to follow advice. It may be a bit too simplistic and “one size fits all,” but it’s not a bad starting point, generally speaking.

However, lately I’ve found myself questioning whether or not his advice is still valid given the current economic climate. In a down economy, most of us want protection and preservation. We play defense to save what we have. Dave’s advice is more offense-oriented, requiring you to aggressively pay down debt as fast as possible and get on to wealth building. Not a bad idea when jobs are plentiful and salaries keep growing. When money is everywhere, it’s easy to dedicate a lot of it to debt repayment and investing. But when the economy is bad and the threat of job losses and declining investments make us want to hole up and hide, other approaches might be saner.

Does the current economic situation require a reordering or rethinking of Dave’s advice? With so many people looking to clean up their financial houses, is Dave still the best place to start? Let me take a look at each of his baby steps and see if his advice still holds in a down economy.

Save up $1,000 to start an emergency fund

I have a couple of problems with this bit of advice. First of all, for most emergencies, $1,000 isn’t nearly enough, in good times or in bad. It won’t pay for a new roof or a new heating system. It will only pay for a bare bones appliance replacement. If something big goes wrong with your car, $1,000 won’t cover it. $1,000 will barely scratch the surface of most emergency needs. You need a much bigger emergency fund than this and in a bad economy with prices rising daily, you need it sooner rather than later.

That brings me to my second problem with this bit of advice. Dave advocates saving up the bigger nest egg in Step 3, after all your debt is paid off. However, in a bad economy, you’d better be saving all you can as fast as you can. If you get laid off or put on a reduced schedule, that $1,000 will be gone in a very short time and you’ll be back to living on credit. In a good economy when jobs are secure, you might be able to get by on that $1,000 emergency fund until the debt is paid off. If you want to be secure in a down economy you’d better have that larger emergency fund (or be actively building it) against the day that your job is eliminated.

Pay off all debt using the snowball method

Paying off debt is good. I won’t disagree with this. And I don’t disapprove of the snowball method (in which you pay off the smallest debt first and then add that payment to the payment you’re making on the next largest debt and so on until all debt is paid). However, in a down economy you need to evaluate whether aggressively paying down debt this early in the plan is the best thing for you. (Obviously, you don’t want to be incurring any new debt in a down economy if you can avoid it.) If you are facing the prospect of a job loss or pay cut, you might be better served by continuing to pay the minimums on your debt and funneling all your extra cash to your emergency fund. Being debt free is nice, but not if it means that you have no money in the event of a lay off. If that happens, you’ll be racking that debt back up in no time. If you still have debt but have plenty of cash on hand, you can at least keep the debt load from growing while you’re unemployed. When things turn better and your job situation is more secure you can turn your attention to this step and pay down your debt. But in the meantime, stash all the cash you can in order to protect yourself.

Save up 3 to 6 months of living expenses

In a down economy, I don’t think this should be Step 3 on Dave’s plan. It should be step one. As I noted before, you need to have cash on hand in a down economy to protect you in the event of a layoff. Three to six months is probably too little. Jobs take longer to find in a bad economy because many people are competing for a small number of positions. I’d aim for six to eight months of living expenses. The more you can get, the better. Start saving this larger nest egg as soon as possible and keep adding to it until you have enough to cover six to eight months of living expenses. This should be your priority in a bad economy.

Invest 15% of household income into Roth IRAs and pre-tax retirement accounts

Bad economy or good, I would advise that you contribute at least something to your retirement portfolio at all times. The good news is that in a down market, every bit that you can plow into a 401K or mutual fund IRA is buying you more shares at a deeply discounted rate. You may not reap the benefits immediately but when the market rallies, you’re primed to take advantage. If you wait until all debt is paid off (which for some could be a long time) and you can contribute Dave’s full 15%, you miss out on the fire sale and all that compound interest you could earn over time. You also miss out on any free money that your employer might match with yours. You might be drawing on your retirement money for as long as thirty years. You need all the time you can get to save up enough to cover you if you live a long life. If you wait until all the debt is paid off, you are cutting into your prime savings time and missing out on some bargains.

If money is tight and you can’t do two things at once, save up your larger emergency fund first to take care of any immediate crises and then divide any extra between a retirement plan and your debt repayment. Once your emergency fund is big enough, the debt is paid, the economy is better and you are in a secure financial place, up your contributions until you get to 15%.

Save for your kid’s college educations

In a down economy, I would eliminate this step entirely unless you are very well off and don’t have any other needs for the money. It’s great to be able to help your kids pay for school, but not if it comes at the expense of your own needs. I would continue to add to the emergency funds and retirement accounts and pay off my home before setting aside money for college. Your kids can get scholarships and aid for school (and some might not even go at all), but you have to protect yourself first.

Pay off your home early

A noble goal and one that will free you from a mortgage payment. I would take care of this step before saving for the kid’s college educations. Without a mortgage payment, you’ll be able to save for college that much faster and your own interests will be protected. In a down economy, being free of a mortgage is a great thing and one that frees you to take lesser paying jobs or work less in the event of a layoff.

Invest in mutual funds and real estate to build wealth and give

The mutual funds part I agree with, although you need to know what you’re doing or have a trusted financial advisor to help you pick some good ones. You don’t want to invest in junk. Even in this economy there are some good mutual funds out there, but you’ll probably need direction to find them. If you get into some good funds and have a substantial amount invested, you can live off of the interest, let the principal continue to build wealth for you, and reduce the amount you need to work.

Real estate, however? Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t over-speculation in real estate part of what got us into this economic mess in the first place? Isn’t that, at least in part, what drove prices sky high and then caused the bubble to explode? I don’t deny that owning some real estate can be a decent investment and right now it is a buyer’s market. However, you have to know what you’re doing. Simply “investing in real estate” won’t cut it. Are you going to rent the property? Can you handle the landlord aspects? Can you comfortably carry the mortgage(s) until the rental pays for itself? Are you going to sell it? (Good luck in this market.) Do you understand pricing enough to know when you’re paying too much or when something is a deal? Are you going to be a “flipper?” (I hope not because a lot of those people got burned in the recent bubble bust.) Dave says to invest in real estate on the theory that real estate always goes up in value, but we’ve now learned that this isn’t always true. You can lose your shirt in real estate, particularly if you don’t know what you’re doing (and even if you do). I would seriously question this piece of advice before deciding to put much of my nest egg into real estate.

The giving part of this step is a good one for those who have reached this point and have the means. In a down economy many people stop giving in order to protect their own finances. However you got your wealth, whether it was by following Dave or hitting it lucky in the lottery, please do give to help others.

The idea that you should do one step at a time and not do things in conjunction with one another is where I think Dave falters most in a down economy. We’re trying to deal with a lot of things at once and some multi-tasking is required in order to make the most of our money and time. Particularly if you’re working against a ticking clock where a job loss is imminent, you may need to allocate your money to several steps at once to prepare for unemployment rather than plodding along through one step at a time. I would reorder/restate Dave’s steps this way in a down economy:

1. Save up six to eight months of living expenses: Combine Dave’s steps one and three together and save up as much cash as you can to cover yourself in the event of a job loss or cutback.

2. Invest at least something into your retirement plan at all times to take advantage of compound interest and time: Instead of waiting until all debt is paid off, go ahead and work on your retirement portfolio. You’ll need all the time you can get to save enough so start now. Make sure to contribute enough to get any employer matching funds.

3. Work on debt repayment, but only when your immediate security is taken care of: Pay only the minimums until your emergency fund is large enough to see you through a long layoff. When you reach that point, divide the extra money between your debt and your retirement, paying as much on the debt as you can while still building that retirement plan.

4. When the debt is gone, up your retirement contributions to the full 15%.

5. Pay off your home early: If you have your emergency fund, no other debt, and are fully funding your retirement, go ahead and work on paying off your home. At least if you get the house paid off it will be one less thing to worry about the next time the economy tanks. You won’t have that mortgage payment to deal with.

6. Invest in mutual funds (or another investment vehicle that you are comfortable with) to build wealth and give: Your goal is to create the kind of wealth that can sustain you on the interest alone. With the rest you can give, save, or move on to step seven and provide for your kid’s education.

7. Save for your kids’ college educations: This would be my last step, once all of my needs are taken care of and my future is provided for. Once you’ve created wealth in step six, you’ll be well able to provide for your kid’s educations. But if you don’t reach this step or are still working on it come college time, your kids can find ways to provide for their own educations. Your needs have to come first.

While some of Dave’s advice remains valid in a down economy, some of it bears closer inspection before you jump headlong into his program. If you go into his plan thinking it will save you and that there can be nothing wrong with his advice, you may end up surprised. A lot of the old rules don’t apply right now and you have to figure out what is valid for your situation and what is not. You may need to tackle several steps at once or reorder them to get the best results and protect yourself from a topsy turvy economy.

The bottom line is that, while some advice may remain valid no matter the economic circumstances, you should always evaluate your own circumstances and needs in the current economic context and not do something just because a financial guru (be it Dave, me, or anyone else) tells you to.

This entry was posted in Budgeting, Credit Cards, Debt, Investing, Personal Finance and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

47 Responses to Dave Ramsey Falters in a Crummy Economy

  1. Miranda says:

    As circumstances change, so, too, should your personal finance approach. Re-ordering Dave Ramsey’s advice to fit the times makes sense. It’s all about shoring up right now, and paying off debt can take a back seat — for now. Although if you can, you should still apply money to paying down debt.

  2. justme says:

    it kills people who would like to think they are finacial gurus that so many listen to Ramsey doesn’t it

  3. ceejay74 says:

    Very interesting article. I’m not a strict follower of DR but I think he gives people a clear, simple way out that is inspiring and gives direction. It’s advice that, while not universally the best advice, couldn’t really hurt anyone, and would have to help anyone who’s seriously clueless and in debt.

    Or could it? Are we in an economy so bad that his wisdom no longer applies? I must say your arguments are convincing.

    I was definitely on the “pay debt now, save later” tip; I didn’t even have $1000 EF until recently. (All my family members do contribute a minimal amount to our 401ks and 403bs, for the same reasons you list.)

    It would kind of kill me to stop paying down debt with my extra money and sock it away instead; it would also require more willpower. But you have given me some food for thought. Thanks!

  4. Sunny Florida says:

    On a recent show, in response to a caller’s concern that the sole breadwinner would soon by laid off, DR advised a caller to abandon the debt pay down (I think $ over the minimums) and to put all extra money into the emergency fund.

  5. Kenny Johnson says:

    Common sense is always best. However, I don’t know that you need to start saving 6 months salary before you pay down debt just because we’re in a recession. You have to judge your own situation. How secure is YOUR job. How stable is YOUR company. If you feel there is a good chance that you could lose your job, of course you abandon your debt pay off and save instead. If your job is as secure today as it was 2 years ago (despite the recession), then continue the debt pay-off.

    The $1,000 emergency fund is obviously not enough to meet every emergency, but DR assumes you’ll be aggressive in debt pay-down and be able to get to step 3 very soon (some people do this in months).

  6. A Marino says:

    Dave Ramsey’s Plan is simple, clear, and easy to follow. When people are in debt, they need a plan. I personally think that $1,000. is easier to reach as a goal rather than 3-6 months in the beginning.

    That $1,000 was not intended for the repairs you mentioned. It is more for the day to day stuff that keeps us in credit card debt. It also is helpful having it towards a larger emergency.

    Someone could have so many different credit cards and loans that it could be overwhelming. When we started getting out of debt, one of our loans was a large monthly payment but not too much owed on it. We even saved a little bit by paying it off early.

    In a down economy, you don’t want to have a million credit obligations either.

    Like you, I would invest in the Retirement vehicles with at least matching what the employer matches.

    Your article was very thought provoking.

  7. pete says:

    While not a Dave Ramsey follower, I’m pretty sure he suggests that you pay for real estate with cash. What got us into this mess were people taking out ridiculous (in size and terms) loans that they could never afford in order to turn a quick buck based on the belief that real estate prices would keep going for the stars. As far as I know Dave tells everyone that he got his start by failing at flipping houses with money he didn’t have when the market took a dive. Someone out there either correct me or back me up?

  8. DesignFlaw says:

    DR is good, I think he is getting over rated. Although, nothing beats a paid off home, but in this economy, when houses are losing value day-by-day, what good is it to have it paid out?

    I stopped making extra payments to my house and wont be paying anything extra until the economy comes up.

  9. typome says:

    Charles Schwab recently came out with a list of savings/debt priorities in order:
    1. Contribute to 401(k) up to the match
    2. Pay off credit cards
    3. Emergency fund of at least 3 months
    4. Max out remaining 401(k) or IRA
    (Then these next four can be done in any order)
    5. Save for child’s college
    6. Save for down payment
    7. Pay down mortgage and student loans
    8. Keep investing

    So far this list has worked for me, even in this down economy.

  10. familyof8 says:

    We are Dave Ramsey fans and in many of his recent calls on his radio show, he has jumped over paying off debt and has suggested that people save towards a larger emergency fund. I do think his steps are good and they have worked for us. We are no longer doing them in the order that he has presented them- (we too are saving) but we definitely agree with most of his ideas.

  11. Doug S says:

    While there are valid arguments that can be made against Mr. Ramsey’s advice, it does not appear that the author actually understands the plan that Ramsey presents.

    1) Baby Emergency Fund – As already stated, this is not a full emergency fund. This is a fund designed so that you don’t continue to live on credit cards. When my truck needed repairs and the bill came to $1200, the shop was more than willing to give me a 0% interest loan.

    Furthermore, this fund is to be the size that both the husband and wife agree on. My wife thought $1000 was too small, so we agreed on $2k. It’s about working together as a team.

    2) Paying off all debt leaves you in a more secure place. This step is also supposed to be done with intensity and purpose. Extra jobs, selling stuff, living on a tight budget. The goal is not to languish here, but to move as quickly as possible to get out of debt and reduce your financial risk.

    3) If people did this third step first, they would see an obstacle that they might not believe they can overcome. Mr. Ramsey’s plan takes success and builds on it. Behavior modification is more important than the pure logic of numbers.

    4-6) These next steps are done together (concurrently), not one at a time. Misunderstanding of the plan is very obvious here.

    7) Once the house is paid off, you have freed your income to really work for you. No one can foreclose on your house, you have absolutely minimized your financial risk. Build wealth and enjoy spreading your money around.

    I have yet to hear of anyone who followed the Ramsey plan step by step and didn’t end up better for it. But I’ve seen several people who can’t overcome the obstacle of a 3-6 month emergency fund. The Ramsey plan teaches goal-setting, and that is something that is woefully lacking in our education system.

    I always enjoy this site, but I do wish people would take more time to understand before they criticize.

  12. Shahrul Azwad says:

    I disagree a bit. I think the baby steps still apply in time like these.

    You focused on unemployment in your argument. A lot of your points are good and valid points. But, I’ve listened to Dave Ramsey recently and he give advice to a listener who’s recently unemployed and has some debts. He too advise the fellow to keep cash in hand and pay the debts once he started on the new job which is in this case already be secured.

    Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover is a general advice. I believe Dave Ramsey would varies the steps accordingly just as you did here.

  13. Bill says:

    I enjoyed this post and believe that Dave himself would agree with much of it. As several commenters have already stated, drastic times call for drastic measures when you throw the Baby Steps out the window. Dave will tell you this himself.

    Had I not begun following Dave’s Baby Steps three years ago the current financial crisis would have bankrupted me. I’m not out of the woods yet by a long shot. Currently, instead of paying off debt at full speed I’m piling up cash for what may be more trying times ahead. I’m confident that if Dave evaluated my situation he would agree to my course of action.

    Of course, others will benefit more from rigid adherence to the steps. The bottom line is to be personally accountable for whatever course you plot.

    We all made our beds a long time ago, it is now time to sleep in them. Good luck to all and once again, great post!

  14. mel says:

    I agree with the 6 months cash as the very first step, before paying off debt or investing. One other issue that no one brings up is insurance- if you have a family, then life or disability insurance is absolutely necessary also if you want to protect their future.

  15. Pingback: Carnival of Personal Finance #182 is up! : Both Sides of the Pond

  16. Liz says:

    Liked the article. I, too, have thought Ramsey’s approach was a little inflexible. I’m definitely believe it makes more sense to be making progress on several fronts at the same time, especially if you have a match on your 401(k).

  17. Pingback: News and Blogs: Monday, December 8, 2008 - Consumerism Commentary: A Personal Finance Blog

  18. Don says:

    Paying down debt is my priority. If an emergency happens, I can charge the expense to my credit cards. In the meantime, I’m saving more on credit card interest than I could ever make on emergency savings account interest.

  19. Slinky says:

    Good article!

    I don’t think Dave Ramsey is an idiot, I just think he’s largely unnecessary. He caters to those who have no idea how to help themselves. His advice is very generic, but generally helpful. It encourages people with little self discipline or will power to succeed.

    Personally, I’m much better off developing my own strategy based on my own changing circumstances than following a generic one size fits all plan. I did just hold off on debt repayment for a month to bring my e-fund up to $1k though. Between that and the way I budget, that’ll do me for 2-3 months.

  20. Austin says:

    Excellent post;a good refinement of DR’s suggestions.I really like it. Incidentally, I do not follow DR’s approach. What helped me is not one approach. I studied the DR approach, the Carol Keeffe approach, the Mary Hunt approach and the John Commuta approach and found that all these approaches started with having an emergency fund. So I decided on putting away 10% of my take-home. That is, I focused on Mary Hunt’s suggestion and opened a Money Market Fund with Vanguard to keep my EF fund. Also, I formed a habit of reading the book by Keeffe to keep my mind on my goal (it is always good to work on the emotional part when focused on saving). When my old copy became unreadable I purchased another for $5 at Half-price books. Anyway, simply having that fund eliminated most of my financial worries. Every month, I saved something even if it meant paying the minimum on my cards. As the Vanguard MM fund grew I had choices on what to do. So far, I have paid off my mortgage, paid cash for Honda Pilot (brand new), and have a large MMF and freedom account. I still have CC debts, but they are no longer a concern, and my credit score is close to 770. All I am saying is that one should read up everything and choose what works best for that person. In sum, everything starts with saving part of your earnings no matter how small.

  21. I do agree that $1000 is getting a little outdated, but I don’t think there are too many new roof emergencies. You quick fix the problem, and then start saving to pay cash for a new roof.

  22. American Patriot says:

    If you live below your means you too will be free!

  23. John B says:

    Did the author actually read the book before she wrote this article? An important detail from the horse’s mouth, as stated on pp 146-147 of the Total Money Makeover book, was completely missed by this author:

    “Let me be perfectly clear. There are some baby step clarifictions. Joe asked recently if he should stop his snoball — step two — to get his emergency fund finished. Joe and his wife have twins due in six months. Brad

  24. John says:

    Having gone through Dave’s Financial Peace course, there are some great things in there to take to heart. I do feel, however, that his premise of basing investment returns on a 12% level are somewhat misleading to most people. Given the news today of the Madoff debacle is proof that fishing for a high return is not only difficult but risky at best.

  25. Gail says:

    If everybody commenting on this thread had started applying Dave Ramsey principles 5 years ago, they would undoubtably have their emergency fund in place, much credit card debt paid off (becuase of doing everything possible to raise funds to get and keep the snoball effect going), their home would be that much further paid off and they most likely would already be saving for the next sized emergency fund.

    The problem here as I see it is that most everyone seems to be looking at his advice as something to start NOW. He has been ‘preaching’ this message for years and those following it are in a much better position to handle any economic crisis than those that didn’t bother or who are arguing about whether he is right or wrong in his suggestions. The main thing is get a plan and stick to it! For those who live paycheck to paycheck as many Americans do, $1000 in the bank will be very welcome to those who lose there jobs and may have to wait a couple of extra weeks for unemployment to kick in.

  26. Slinky says:

    RE: Gail

    We’re not all looking at starting his plan now. A lot of us are looking at not following his plan at all. Most of us seem to already have at least a grip on our finances. We have our own plans.

    There’s nothing terribly wrong with Dave Ramsey’s plan, but a plan tailored to your own situation and priorities will always be better. It’s also inevitable that some of us will disagree with some of his ‘rules’. And it’s never a bad thing to reevaluate a plan as circumstances change.

    There are also things books can’t tell you. How much reliability and safety in a car are you willing to give up to save some money? How much efund do you really want? Should you skip Christmas with your family just to pay down debt? Should you not have children because it will interfere with your debt payoff plan?

    DR’s plan doesn’t cover everything. Life goes on. Things change. There’s nothing wrong with taking his advice, but I take issue with those who follow him blindly and think everyone else should too, regardless of whether or not it makes sense.

    And for the record, if I had started following his plan 5 years ago, I’d be in pretty much the same place I am now, except I’d be taking the bus around town. Yesterday was 5 degrees and windy. Today it’s 8 degrees. I think I prefer my plan thanks.

  27. Gail says:

    Slinky: As I was reading the tense of the notes, many were writing as if this is what they should be doing now although quite clearly had known of DR program for longer than that. All I was saying that instead of arguing whether his plan would work or not and what the first point should be and how much, that if those who had heard of his plan and instituted it 5 years ago should be in a better place to handle the current hard times. I am not saying I am a cheerleader for DR or not, but any good financial plan that allows for emergencies, paying off debt and saving is a plan to be followed. Sometimes it is easier for people to quibble about what to do rather than doing something. Each time I see an article about the DR program, I see so much quibbling about whether it will work or not and how to change the points for your own situation, instead of seeing it as a foundation to financial peace as any well thought out financial plan can do. I know that after several rough years, to finally have a $1000 e-fund in the bank relieved my stress levels immensely while at the same time I was paying off bills as fast as possible. Do we slavishly follow his plan, not exactly. The only point I was trying to make is that rather than quibble the fine details–DO SOMETHING to pay off your bills and get money in the bank.

    I have a hard time believing that 5 years of working to improve your finances as DR suggests (or any basic budgeting program that calls for spending less than you earn) should have left anybody in a worse condition than they would have been. But you know your own finances.

    And as regards to your first post where you said “He caters to those who have no idea how to help themselves.” You are precisely right. He is and has helped many people who had no idea what to do and where to go in their financial misery. I’m sure he does not think everyone in the world should follow his advice if their financial house is already in order but is giving a helpful hand to those who do need his advice.

  28. Slinky says:

    Gail, I was left with the impression that most people were implementing plans already, just not DR’s plan. I definitely agree that any plan is better than no plan! I’m just one of those stubborn independent people that do things their own way. 🙂

    And I do believe I would be worse off if I had started following DR’s plan 5 years ago, but that’s mostly due to my age and place in life. Most people would have been better off.

    In my case, I was just starting school, courtesy of student loans, which I believe DR doesn’t approve of. I worked 1-3 jobs at a time to support myself and pay for books going through school. If I hadn’t done student loans I would have had to just take a class or two at a time and work full time. It would have cost more overall and taken several years longer.

    I now make more in two days than my two week paycheck was then. I will pay off my student loans AND my new car loan before I would have even finished college (about 3 years). I got a new car because my 17 year old beater died on me two weeks after graduation. There are a lot of reasons I didn’t just scrape together enough for another beater, but mostly it was due to being a petite girl in a high crime city. I’m not comfortable driving an unreliable car if I have other options.

    And in regards to your last bit, yes exactly. He’s excellent for people who don’t know where to start. I just get all bent out of shape when those people figure things out and then think everyone else is an idiot for not following him too.

    And with that, I think I’m done quibbling about things! ^_^

  29. Gail says:

    I was fortunate enough to go to college in the era when you could work your way through college in 4 years. Mine actually owed me $100 when I graduated. But mine was a very special circumstance. Meanwhile my younger husband had parents that paid his way except for him having to work in the summers and my sons both have taken out school loans. The one has a plan for paying it back, but I worry about the other as he is only taking enough classes to be eligible for the loans which he and his (nonworking) wife live on them while he works 7 days a week and goes to college parttime. When he told me that they were in the habit of paying the most urgent bills first, I was appalled as I can see the handwriting on the wall for those two. But that is their chosen life. If they ever ask for financial advice I’ll be glad to give them some but they haven’t asked. I can’t imagine not being able to pay current bills and then taking on more. Whatever he gets his degree in, if he gets to that point, will never be enough to pay off these loans he has.

    I first read DR books when I was married to a husband who had gotten us into over 40K in cc debt plus car loans, and house debt. I finally had to say enough. He wanted to live like people who made 3 times our income. I’m much happier and stress free with current husband who would like nothing better than being completely out of debt including the mortgage and we should be there in about 7 years barring in disasters. We live a simple life and go by the easy principle of spend less than you earn. I have used many sourcebooks to clarify my thinking on how to live a financially intelligent life and DR has been only one of them. On our honeymoon we had a chance to attend one of his televised seminars–it gave a great base to see and talk about our financial life as it was starting out and to be on the same page from the get go. It wasn’t easy as I promptly got sick and had to go on disablity so down from $35k a year to about $12k a year plus thousands in medical expenses yearly. Having knowledge helped us through that very hard time.

    I just have always found it interesting reading some comments (in this and various other blogs)that people seem to act like DR is trying to send them to the poor house when in reality he is trying to help them succeed. Some peole no matter how much they will give lip service to the need to save will always have a reason for not doing it this week and then when calamity comes, that becomes an even bigger incentive for not putting your house in order as it is easier to argue about the fine points than to do any of them. This is not meant as an arguement of any kind but an observation of many years or reading about frugality, saving money, etc. Whoever is the current crown prince of frugal living, gets bashed because his methods aren’t workable for whatever reason. Yet the testimonials and common sense alone tells you that it is a good plan, so what is the problem? People don’t want to change or admit that they have been living higher than their income allows and they want to keep doing it.

  30. Slinky says:

    Dave Ramsey is a good plan. I think some people just think there are better plans and that’s where that attitude about him “sending them to the poor house” comes from. In comparison to the better plan they have in mind, his plan would hurt them financially. Of course, that’s not to say their plan really is better or worse, only that they think it is better.

    There’s also the people who disagree with just some of his points for personal reasons. A suggestion to follow him may come across as a personal attack, that what they are doing is wrong and that they should change.

  31. Sawyer says:

    Major, major problems with this revision of the DR steps. First and biggest: keep investing in 401K even if you are still in debt. As a manager of nearly 40 employees, around every two months at least one of those employees will attempt to borrow or hardship withdraw 401K funds for an “emergency” of some sort. This is because they are of the mindset that they must continue to contribute to that 401K no matter what, and have done so to the detriment of their personal on hand cash.

    Also, Dave Ramsey often advises in his radio program to increase the $1,000 emergency fund if there is a potential job layoff, impending childbirth, or other situation which may result in increased expenses during the short term. However, please bear in mind that for individuals heavily in debt without a large income, creating just $1000 in an emergency fund can be an arduous task. If your roof leaks, you can temporarily patch it for under $1000. If you car breaks and the cost is over $1000, you can buy a beater for less than $1000 to replace it.

    For those who do not actively follow DR’s program, it is about behavior modification. Not logically following a mathematically correct progression of debt reduction. Because if you were logical about math to begin with, you wouldn’t have gotten into debt!

  32. Theresa says:

    I would save 3-6 months if all our money wasn’t needed for life.

  33. wealthguy says:

    Interesting how many people defend DR as if he is some guru. For the record DR’s plan is just fine for those looking to get out of debt. But it isn’t a plan to build wealth. I know he suggests investing in real estate, but he also thinks one should do it with no debt.

    Here is a fact: real wealth can’t be created without risk.

    In my professional life I have seen literally thousands of peoples’ financials. And you learn something from all data. Yes, you are better off not spending more than you bring in the door (duh), but amount of debt has nothing to do with net worth. Some of the most indebted people I know, have the largest net worth.

    So, if risk scares you, listen to DR and you will be better off. But don’t confuse building wealth with debt reduction.

    Wonder what all those folks who thought investing in mutual funds was not risky and a way to a comfortable retirement think now?

    Peace out,

  34. Tabitha says:

    Hey, DR didn’t know that this would happen, so it’s not really fair to go trashing his work. And I don’t understand why you think repaying debts wouldn’t be the best thing to do in this economy. I’ve taken an economics class in college, and that’s how we got into this mess in the first place:people not paying their debt or only paying the minimum. If everyone paid off their debt, then more money would be freed up to invest in the economy, therefore the economy would begin looking up.
    Seriously, do your research before you give “advice”.

  35. Pingback: A Life Without Debt: You Can Be Debt Free and Still Use Credit Cards - SavingAdvice.com Blog

  36. D fine says:

    The 1,000 is for for small emergencies. Besides, 1,000 is far better than the zero you have now. You will never get a $15-20k fund with the debt. If you keep investing and paying debt you will never gain anything. The interest on those cars and credit cards is costing more than you investments and those credit cards will be there for 40 years. Bad economy? Well if you were out of debt you would not notice. So therefore it is more important to be debt free. You won’t have extra money with debt, Get rid of it, then invest and have money for fun as well.
    DR uaed debt to make millions. He learned debt is stupid. He went broke. The he did his system, he is now a Muilti Millionaire again with no debt and lots of property and cash. So the question is…You have debt,,,,Hows your quest to become millionaire going using your method?

    I have used your idea’s, it does not work. It should, except there is a flaw in your thinking and mine at the time.

    Focus! Your method has no focus, it is looking at investing, pay debt but not getting rid of it, no real emergency funs etc….your doomed.

    Focus on the problem to your investments…that is the debt. Focus on getting rid of the debt then focus on investments and life.

  37. lori says:

    After listening to the “Dave Ramsey Show” I can’t believe that there are a mass of people that are financially disable. Using Jesus to sell book? WOW, that is not good.

  38. IndianaTeacher says:

    I have watched Ramsey’s show for a while and came to these conclusions:
    1. People with a little sophistication and self-discipline don

  39. Jeff says:

    Ramsey is on our local radio station. 90% of his financial advice is just common sense. But when someone calls in who has financial problems because of illness or death in the family, or because of the loss of a middle class job, he is pretty clueless and not really helpful. I would say that I live what he preaches for the most part.I just don’t understand why people pay him good money to learn that acting responsibly is good. He is a great marketer. He ties Chrisitanity into his message, and from what I can tell is heavily marketed among church groups. Well, good for him, I guess, but there is no need to pay someone to have them tell you that you should live within your means.

  40. Jeff says:

    Oh, and an earlier coment was absolutely correct: Dave has way too much faith in a 12% return on investment with only little risk. This is unrealistically optimistic.

  41. Emilie says:

    I have always approched dept repaiment aggressively withought savings and obviously it as backfired in my face when we started our family. But now I started saving for everyting I buy and also putting money in my saving account every month. I don’t even have a month expense saved but I make it work somehow. I do have a goal to save up 3 months expense in the next 2 years. Thanks for the article.

  42. Pingback: Going Into Debt to Have Kids - SavingAdvice.com Blog

  43. Ali says:

    DR’s one size fits all approach really targets lower to middle income america. He has been a tremendous resource to numerous people who didn’t/ don’t know where else to go for advice. That being said, aggressively building savings is a key component of any financial plan–regardless of the economy. 3-6 months of income is a bare minimum to protect oneself and one’s family. Then, eliminating debt and accumulating assets becomes more important.

  44. Pingback: Dave Ramsey Financial Peace University: Week One - SavingAdvice.com Blog

  45. Annie says:

    I agree with you 100%. I often watch his show and wonder how people have the willpower to sacrafice their entire paycheck to debt. I like to manage my money and pay everything on time and be responsible to save everytime i get my paycheck. I still paydown on debt and in this economy savings is big for me. I have the utmost respect for Dave Ramsey but he went bankrupt and couldn’t manage his money to avoid that. The only way people that go through bankruptcy see a wealthy future is to be debt free. I have nothing against that and promote it but who in their normal mind would pay off their mortgage, pay cash for cars, have no credit cards, only savings and retirement and build a wealthy life there. I don’t see this in this century unless your totally blind to live a depressing life. I actually feel blessed to get a loan from a bank, maybe it’s becasue i am from India and know what money can do to make a difference in a persons life but there is no way what he is saying will work for me.

  46. Boris says:

    This guy is absolutely correct in what he’s saying and I’d advise people to listen, especially with the rumors going around about a “double-dip” recession in the second half of 2010. This exact scenario happened to me recently . . . having already gotten laid off during the meltdown of Sep-Oct 2008, I was led to believe that my new position was more secure and so I had been aggressively paying down debt using DR’s snowball method. Unfortunately, my second, completely unexpected layoff left me swinging in the wind, and I had nowhere near enough in emergency savings to survive an extended layoff. Fortunately, I landed contract work within six weeks of the layoff, but unfortunately, I don’t get paid until the client pays my firm, and so I’ve been contracting for over two months without seeing a penny yet, and by the time I do, I will have gone 4 months without any incoming cash flow except for two very small unemployment checks (which I had to stop filing when I took the contract position). If you’re in this position right now, put your debt paydown on the back burner for a little while and SAVE UP FOR THE RAINY DAY. It will come, and you’ll have a much greater peace of mind if you do.

    Another thing . . . and when I DO resume debt paydown, my plan is to immediately pay off the $12K of outstanding student loans before anything else, regardless of the lower interest rates, reason being that if things continue to get progressively worse in this country, then student loans are one of the only debts that cannot be discharged in bankruptcy. I’ve been laid off three times since 2007, and I’m not a blue collar manufacturing worker . . . I’m a software consultant with an MBA degree and almost 15 years of experience. And the reason behind my debt load is not excessive conspicuous consumption, but caring for my terminally ill mother during the last years of her life. Life happens in spite of our best laid plans, unfortunately. I think Dave Ramsey gives good advice generally, but I do agree with this author’s suggestions for reordering of priorities in this difficult time, with layoffs rampant.

  47. M says:

    Hey Mr High & mighty ……. I know you don’t have a clue who I am BUT I ( and Karma) WILL catch up to you!!!

    You ARE a FRAUD and only care abou making money at the expense of people who don’t know better. SHAME ON YOu !!!!!!!!!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *