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An admission: There's a reasonably well-known money personality/expert that wasn't on my radar screen until I started running this site. I'm referring to Dave Ramsey. I've become curious about Ramsey as I've seen many mentions of his name, shows, books, or courses in answers here at Basically Money:

I'm assuming my ignorance was because Ramsey is popular in the U.S., but not so much in Canada. I'm aware that Ramsey has a TV show, but I've never seen it broadcast here and I regularly browse the TV schedule. (Whereas, I do watch the Suze Orman show, but that's easy because I get CNBC.)

My questions are:

  • If you had to start with one thing to get to know the Dave Ramsey "philosophy" about money, what would it be? A book, the show, something else?
  • In a nutshell, what are the main points Ramsey teaches listeners / viewers / readers about money?
  • Are either of his TV or radio shows available on the Internet? Free, or e.g. iTunes?

Thanks! I'll be using the answers to this question to help me address my ignorance. :-)

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up vote 13 down vote accepted

Start with his website, specifically his seven steps. Most everything else is around motivating people to actually do the plan. As he often says personal finance is 80% personal and 20% finance, by which he means that things that make sense financially (paying off high interest debt first) don't necessarily motivate action (so instead pay off the smallest debt first to get motivation).

Really the rest is details around those seven concepts. On his site there is a link to a free one-hour podcast for the iPod, and you can pay for the full three hours of his radio show on podcast. He started on radio, and it is probably his best format.

The reason Dave Ramsey has limited appeal beyond the US is that he is explicitly evangelical. He views his system as an extension of his Christian beliefs. That sells very well in parts of the US, but doesn't port very well. There is actually nothing religious in his program, other than the occasional reference to biblical verses in an attempt to tie his program into his religion, but people who are really interested and want to teach his program, not just practice it, are going to find they need to be an Evangelical (or at least a Christian) to fit in.

Addendum: I should mention that Dave Ramsey is changing the FPU program (and I expect it will trickle into other things) to be more explicitly (although apparently not overtly) religious and have a stronger emphasis on budgeting. See here.

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+1 Very good answer to the question. – jessegavin Feb 10 '10 at 19:34

If I had to start with one thing about Dave's Philosophy it would be: Zero Debt.

Dave Ramsey doesn't believe in going into debt for anything, except a house for residence (and he's conservative about how much debt there as well). This is his biggest differentiating feature from Clark Howard or some of the others.

His main points are (Some duplication of Yishai)

  • No debt.
  • Increase your earning power, it's your biggest wealth building tool.
  • Prepare for the future, with investment and emergency funds.
  • Use common sense.
  • Finance is personal, and your attitude matters as much (or more than ) the math.
  • Money matters in relationships. Bad finances can ruin a marriage. A bad marriage will ruin finances.

His radio show is available on many US radio stations with internet streams. I use WSJS, where he is available from Noon to 3PM Eastern.

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His books:

The Total Money Makeover - This is a very step by step approach to what he teaches about how to handle money.

Financial Peace - This is a more philosophical approach to the same topics. More idea and less application based.

You can catch his radio show online for free - or an hour podcast each day in the itunes store - this is free.

You can watch his TV show on Hulu.

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Actually, Trent Hamm of The Simple Dollar, wrote a "book club" series that basically reads like cliff notes for Dave's The Total Money Makeover starting with this blog post. So that might be a really good place to start.

Also of note is Trent's Article "Five Ways I Disagree With Dave Ramsey".

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My beef with day (and to ape Yishai's answer a little) is that his good advice is no different than anybody's good advice. The seven steps are on the home page, Clark Howard, Suze Orman and probably quite a few others all chat about spend less, save more, shop wisely and live within your means.

Anything specific is just motivation, and it sort of irks me that Dave Ramsey charges $100+ buck to go to a seminar about how to save money. A $30 book to read anecdotes and examples of how to follow the seven steps. (Probably, I won't buy his books)

I have no problem with somebody making money, but I doubt that Dave is just barely breaking even. I was stand corrected if he is, but I just don't suspect he is.

Clark Howard recommends that people go to the library and check out his book; he is a lot closer to practicing what he is preaching.

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Dave actually talks more about making more money (finding the right job, being debt free so you can build wealth, working for yourself, and investing wisely) than spending less. Given that I don't think your argument holds. – C. Ross Mar 31 '10 at 16:41
Sure, make more and spend less, but how can he say spend less and then sell his products? I understand he has to make money and cover costs too, I understand the radio show is free, but I see some hypocrisy in saying don't spend but buy my seminar if you are broke and learn the FULL way to save. – MrChrister Mar 31 '10 at 19:49
Some people need to pay to feel like they've invested in something. You can learn to read for free -- that doesn't make teachers a fraud. – duffbeer703 Sep 7 '10 at 23:47
Have to agree with @duffbeer703 -- the financial commitment from buying a $100 kit is a motivating factor and keeps people committed to coming to the classes and practicing the steps. – ranomore Nov 5 '10 at 18:03
A very late comment to add here about the motivation that comes from spending money. This is not good psychology. Sellers of diet supplements, miracle window washers, home fitness systems, financial plans for success, etc etc all depend on motivating you to spend your money. Period. What happens afterward is an entirely different matter. My guess is the vast majority of purchasers never follow Dave Ramsey's advice, and simply throw the book on the pile of other "life changers" they have bought. (This is not a comment on Ramsey's approach, btw.) – gef05 Jun 10 '11 at 11:25

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