The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey
Overall Rating: 5
Quick Summary: Dave Ramsey offers concrete steps individuals and families can take to organize their finances, pay off their debt, and invest money for their future. In what Ramsey calls “baby steps,” he outlines seven steps people should take for their financial health. Ramsey is not necessarily interested in saving you money—his snowball debt method prioritizes the smallest debts first which means you wind up paying more money in the long run on interest. His approach, instead, is much more about psychology and motivation. If you’ve tried other methods of paying off your debt and have failed, then this may be what you need to finally ditch your monthly payments.
What I love most about this book is how detailed Ramsey is in what you need to do. In each chapter he offers the general principal and then gives examples from the people and families he has helped. These examples are great in answering questions that otherwise might be overlooked. Having read other personal finance book, I’ve found that this is the hardest thing to do—figure out how the general principals apply to you.
Since I’ve read financial books before and we still have debt, I know that having the intellectual knowledge is not the same as being able to implement that knowledge. This is why, although Ramsey’s method can cost more money in the long run with paying off debt, I’m going to give it a try, because paying off one debt, no matter how small, is intensely rewarding. Just like seeing the scale go down by one or two pounds, seeing small successes really matter in continuing the long journey to financial health.
One thing I did not like was trying to find additional information outside of the book. Going to Dave Ramsey’s website looks like every other financial guy trying to sell merchandise with his name and logo on it. The website did not feel like the straight talking Dave Ramsey of the book and, in fact, made me uncomfortable. Trying to find the answer to a very specific question led me to other sections of the website that were written by other financial advisors, not Dave Ramsey, and they offered NO new insight. What I did like from the website were the transcripts from Ramsey’s radio show. Reading through those were helpful and it was like having access to hundreds of people’s stories, similar to what you find in his book.
As with all things, Ramsey comes at finance from a political and religious perspective. In my previous book review of his shorter book, The Money Answer Book, I mentioned that he is a Christian and presents his advice from that particular perspective. I appreciate how upfront he is about this, from the beginning of the book, and found some of his Biblical quotes motivational. However, what I find odd is his aggressive justification for Christian’s having wealth at the end of the book. I didn’t realize that so many people thought being Christian and being wealthy were at odds.
Additionally, Ramsey has certain political views that bleed through, particularly in regards to government run programs like social security and disability. If you are easily offended, just be forewarned that there are slight digs at the government. For me, Ramsey’s anti-government stance is softened by his exhortation to give charitably. Giving not just to whatever church you happen to belong to, but to organizations and people that you believe in. He emphasizes that wealth will not solve any problems in your character—if you’re a jerk, you’ll still be a jerk, and if you’re a giver, you will continue to be a giver, just with a bigger wallet.
In the end, while I’m not convinced of every single piece of advice (who would be since we all have our own opinions), I personally am going to try and implement his plan. If it works, I’ll update this book review. If it doesn’t, I’ll update this book review. But certainly his argument is compelling enough for me to give it a try and that’s saying something.
Is it worth buying? (Kindle $12.99/Hardcover $14.99)
Obviously if you do not have debt and have a clear financial plan, you don’t really need this book. But if you are struggling financially, it’s certainly worth a read. I borrowed the copy I read, which I thought was appropriate since the whole point of the book is saving money. If you’re the kind of person who likes to check back on his advice, look things up, and use the workbook pages that are included, then you should certainly purchase the book.
Something else you might enjoy:
I’ve read Rich Dad, Poor Dad and while I enjoyed it, it didn’t change my life. It’s still worth reading, since it’s a powerhouse in the personal finance genre.