Why I’m not a Dave Ramsey Fan

by Erika Torres

I read a lot of personal finance blogs and I frequently hear references to Dave Ramsey as if he’s some sort of God.

Being an Oprah fan–yeah, I admit it!–I’ve always been more into Suze Orman, and worshiped like it was my bible because hey, I was young, fabulous and broke!
But after seeing Dave Ramsey splashed about everywhere, I thought, maybe he’s the new best thing? I need to get up on his grill, pronto! So I checked out his book from the local library–I don’t remember which one, they all sound the same–and started reading.

And every night, before bed, I would dread seeing that book on my bedside table. It became a chore…he sounded so pretentious…the type was so big…and he spoke to me like I was a naughty little child who had just stolen a 5 cent piece of candy and he was slapping me on the hand. You naughty little girl, how dare you think you can use credit cards and get away with it!

I know I got through at least a third of the book and never once did I feel like I read something of substance. I kept waiting for the damn book to start. Ok, tell me what I need to do Mr. Ramsey! Ohhh…give up my life and live like a pauper so that I can get rid of all the student loan debt, my car loan, and credit card debt…But after those how-ever-many years, it takes to pay it off, I can actually live my life? Awesome!

Now, don’t stone me. It’s not like I’m standing at the VMA’s and telling Taylor Swift her video sucked.

I get that some people who are living way beyond their means need a serious reality check in how they can appropriately live within their means. And I understand that a lot of people, especially in this economic climate, are having to shove a strong dose of reality down their throats and undo all the bad spending habits they’ve acquired since being fooled into believing they could have the American Dream for the fantabulous prize of 10% interest for the rest of their lives.

Maybe if I had been 10 years older, I would have been one of those people. But I’m not.

I’m grateful that while we do have to make some sacrifices, we aren’t at the point that we worry about how we’re going to eat. And maybe Mr. Ramsey would look at my budget and say “You can be completely debt free in TWO years if you forgo so-and-so and this-and-this, etc. etc, and if you decide to never have children, you can build your retirement account by THIS much…”

I understand not wanting to be in debt. I understand wanting to save for retirement. I get all that. But what’s the point of saving and living like a pauper if I’m only going to be old when I get to enjoy it?

What good will it do me to have $5 million dollars when I’m 80 if I’ll be using a walker to get around and wearing diapers? I have a 401K and get the full company match. I plan on opening ROTH IRAs for Eric and I next year. I understand the importance of being secure for retirement (especially considering our Social Security system…but that’s another post).

But I think we have to find a balance. When is “enough” enough? We’ve already learned what overspending does to us, what about over saving? What about focusing so much on being completely debt-free that you start to forgo living life? Yeah, maybe I would get out of debt faster if we didn’t buy so-and-so or go on vacation or get rid of our dog, who is a budget-sucker like no other…

And I get his train of thought when he says we need to ‘save’ money to pay for college and before we buy a car so we can pay for it in full. But let’s face it–most of America’s parents can’t pay $80,000 for four years of college. So we graduate college, and we start in debt to begin with.And then we start at the bottom of the food chain and work ourselves up to medium-entry level jobs. And then we also need a car to get to work. And maybe you don’t buy the Accord but you settle for the Civic…used…and you still are scraping by month to month.

I just don’t think he’s very realistic.

I’m fine living with my car loan and student loans a little bit longer if it means I get to take vacations and eat at restaurants more than once every six months. Does this make me a bad person?

I haven’t jumped on the Dave Ramsey bandwagon because of a) I think he’s condescending b) I think I can manage my finances better than he can and c) I just don’t like him.

Okay, by way of a side note, if you want to learn about your personal finances and don’t want to deal with Dave Ramsey condescending to you, check out Eric Tyson’s Personal Finance for Dummies.  It is a no-nonsense bread and butter approach to personal finance – just without the moralizing. The book is always popular and sells for something like 14 bucks. Get it on Amazon or go to your local public library.

Finally, tell me why I’m wrong–what do you think of Dave Ramsey?


Dan August 7, 2018 - 12:10 pm

I don’t think his method is a one-size-fits-all, but it has helped a hell of a lot of people. Some people are completely clueless about finances and need a complete overhaul in their lifestyle. Others can take a much more moderate approach and incorporate many of his ideas and still see a significant improvement without slumming it for their kid’s entire childhood. While I’m not personally a “fan” of his, I’m glad he exists, and I do watch his videos on occasion.

Matt December 15, 2017 - 11:39 am

I am 27 years old and have been using Dave Ramsey’s plan for 10 years, my house is paid off, my masters is paid in full and I am currently on baby step seven. I can guarantee that I have more retirement saved away right now than most 40-year-olds. His plan works and you can live your life just fine once you’re out of debt. I have seen many people do it. “I won’t be able to enjoy my money once I’m old” is one of the most selfish things you can say. Proverbs 13:22 “A good person leaves an inheritance for their children’s children, but a sinner’s wealth is stored up for the righteous.” Stop being selfish and change your family tree.

Xerex Tofi September 10, 2017 - 9:12 am

“Leave like no one else so you can live and give like no one else.” Boom!

Renzo September 12, 2016 - 10:50 am

I am glad to hear I am not crazy.
I just started the Dave Ramsey program and I really want to get out of debt, but credit card debt. I can not put myself and my wife thru years of this restricted life.
If you think about it, first you are tightening your belt to save for the emergency fund, then to pay debt, then to save more for emergencies, all good thru here.
But the problem for me is that then you continue to live like that to save for a car, then perhaps the wife needs to change her car so keep saving, the to pay your home, and always saving “as much as you can” for retirement, and so and so.
That is not the way i want to live my life. Always saving.
I want to be debt free and stay debt free, but i don’t want to live not enjoying the great things that life has to offer like a great meal at a fine restaurant, good wine, well made and beautiful clothes, concerts, movies, plays and trips… how can you do that with the Ramsey way, before you retire? Please someone?

Jon September 17, 2011 - 10:13 am

I have to agree with you about Dave Ramsey.., I find him to be somewhat condescending in his attitude in dealing with people. Here’s a guy who trashed his own credit years ago, BIG TIME with all kinds of lawsuits against him, at that time. Now, he wants to tell me how to live on rice and beans, while he lives the rich boy lifestyle on all these clueless people who actually pay him for his advice. DUMB…. Plus, I find it tacky to be running his “Financial Peace: through churches, and making a profit from that. I thought that churches were supposed to help the poor, NOT CHARGE THEM!! However, if you think that I am going to let you get away with your Suze Orman adoration/plug, then you are mistaken; she is just a female version of Ramsey. They’re both just stating the obvious, to varying degrees nothing more than actors on a stage, to get you to pay for their dog and pony show. Here’s some financial advice for you- live your life to YOUR satisfaction and not Ramsey’s (or Orman’s), keep the money that you would’ve paid for their ridiculous shows/books and spend the money on yourself and your family!! BTW, that is free advice.. .

CaitlinO April 8, 2011 - 6:16 pm

We were lucky enough to realize in the summer of 2007 that the economy was headed for a pratfall. We had a level of debt that was comfortable for us but, realizing that jobs might become really scarce over the coming years, we decided to eradicate it. Our total debt was just over one year’s gross household income, with more than half of that the mortgage on our home which we built in 1990.

In September, 2007, we constructed the first budget of our lives, organized around paydays so we knew every bill that would be paid with every check. It’s 3 and 1/2 years later and we have paid off all our debt – including the house, 10 years early. We took no vacations but always set aside the cash to let our kids fly to see their grandparents every summer, fly to Washington D.C. for a week long tour with their middle school, and do scouts and sports camps as they like. We rarely ate out but learned to love picnics and dinners at home together. The kids still got to wear the brand names they love but I shopped for them carefully, often on e-bay, buying them in lots that were sometimes new with tag and sometimes very lightly worn. We continued to make improvements on the house, but only did it with cash set aside for that purpose.

About 8 months after we started on our debt odyssey, I saw Dave Ramsey on a documentary and decided to learn more about his program. I discovered that, on our own, we had stumbled onto the major pieces of his approach. We didn’t follow his plan in two areas – we never stopped our retirement savings or college savings for the kids and we put our home and car loans higher on the list than his debt snowball would have suggested. We thought, with the economy headed for hard times, we would feel more secure knowing that shelter and transportation couldn’t be taken from us if the worst happened and we decided to keep saving because of our age.

I think the major advantage I gained from Dave Ramsey was to listen to his radio program from time to time. I don’t find him condescending and, for me, the discussion he has with callers is often motivating. His investment advice isn’t the best, though. He continued to insist that there was nothing wrong with the economy for a long time after it should have been obvious to anyone how bad it was. We saved ourselves a huge loss by ignoring that advice and moving all our equity investments to bonds in January 2008. Also, he continued to tell people to hang onto their homes and ride out the price drops. Terrible advice for many parts of the country, really.

I think his best advice has to do with working together with your partner on establishing and realizing financial goals. I have friends who are or whose spouses are involved in financial infidelity (i.e. hiding purchases, lying about spending, etc.) and I’ve seen the terrible damage that does to trust and love. To me, Dave makes good sense in that area.

I think the most important thing for anyone who wants to improve their financial situation is to make a written plan with real steps and objectives and then stick to it, whatever it is. It wasn’t always fun or easy, but we stuck to it and watched our total debt drop by $21,000 every six months. To whatever extent Dave helped us along the way, I’m grateful.

Dominique March 12, 2011 - 6:38 pm

First, I want to say thank you for writing this blog. I read Dave Ramsey’s book a little over a year ago. It helped me pay off over $10,000 of debt in less than a year. Now that I am debt free at 21 years old (expect 2,000 student loan) I kind of feel stuck like what should I do next. I want to take an awesome summer vacation and not feel guilty about doing something fun that’s for me. I love shopping and treating myself to things! Thanx for showing me I’m not a alone : )

Kim February 6, 2011 - 6:24 am

I just read your blog and wanted to say that I used to think just like you. I saw Dave Ramsey live yesterday and I feel much differently today. I think his basic premise is to delay gratification until you can afford it. It may not always be the fun choice at the time but the reward of being able to live debt free and be able to indulge in anything you want afterwards is a pretty tempting thought. You don’t have to subscribe to all work and no play but the idea is to find the balance so that you don’t spend all your resources now in your youth only to wind up broke and unable to retire and live in financial peace. I think that most people in our generation (I’m 29) are uninformed and will end up in great financial despair based on their lack of education on this topic. We are a generation of credit card chargers, shoppers, spenders, new car buyers, vacation goers, etc. All of that is fine if you’re working and have the money to do these things but if you’re doing all of that while living in oceans of debt, it would make a lot of sense to reassess your financial situation in such a way that you don’t sacrifice the future of you financial health for you, your spouse, children etc.

I’m on board with his theories. I still believe it’s not all work and no play, as does Dave but our generation needs to get a grip that play comes at a price and too much of it can really hurt your future.

Janice January 23, 2011 - 5:20 am

I think the people who have the hardest time with him are the people he’s talking about when he’s giving his advice. He’s talking about the people who have car loans or credit card debt because they can’t afford to pay cash or don’t want to becaue it’s more important to go out to eat and buy new toys, clothes, go on expensive vacations, etc. It’s simply about where your priorities are. Let’s be honest, it’s never fun to be convicted and our natural response is to defend ourselves by disagreeing with what we’re hearing and making excuses for why we live the way we do. I know my kids will have loans to pay off after college but we’re teaching them to get it done quickly and to let that be the only debt they have. This is a lifestyle choice we make. No car payments, no credit card bills …. how do you explain to someone how liberating that is? How do you explain to someone that because you’ve been blessed you are able to be generous with organizations who depend on that generosity. We live in a “it’s all about me” and Dave Ramsey has the character and integrity to speak out against it and try to teach us through his own experiences and others. “What if the people turned to Jesus, stopped asking Oprah what to do?” – Casting Crowns

Stephani Sawyer December 2, 2010 - 8:50 am

Just found your blog, and am excited to read more. As far as Dave is concerned, I am a big fan, but can see your points. I did want to point out though, that his two books are for different purposes. “Financial Peace” is more of a “what you need to know,” while “The Total Money Makeover” is the “this is how you do it” book. So, if someone is more interested in the step-by-step approach to recovering from debt and handling your finances based on Dave’s system, then you should check out “The Total Money Makeover.”

Serenity November 24, 2010 - 8:17 pm

Ah, Dave and his brusqueness. To me, it’s refreshing to hear someone talking straight about finances to a generation of people who are in debt and generally clueless on what to do about it, but condescending?

While I agree that his tone probably sounds like that to you after just reading the book, if you’ve listened to Dave’s radio program, he’s generally talking with people who are at their wits’ end and about to file bankruptcy. They have no idea how to get out of their situations or haven’t done anything to do it. Those are the people who need to hear “hey, buckle down and get rid of your credit cards and cable TV.” That kind of tough love is necessary in those situations, really. But for those of us that are managing ok and don’t need a crash course in reality (and it sounds like you are on the right track – congrats!), it’s unnecessary. Understandable.

I’d listen in to Dave’s show sometime. It amazes me just how much he knows about finances in terms of laws in some states and what you can do to ensure your estate is taken care of, and things like that.

Fabulously Frugirl November 21, 2010 - 5:38 pm

I haven’t read any of Dave Ramsey’s books, however, I used to sign up for his newsletter/RSS feed which I have cancelled since it seems to be all “buy my book/ take my course” propaganda.

I’ve read several other personal financial self help books, and as the name suggests, personal finance is personal. The way that Dave does things will be different than how I do things.

The most important thing, is to be creative and flexible about how to meet your goals and still enjoy life. I agree – what good is having everything paid off and having several extra 000’s in your bank account when you’ve sacrificed your youth? Out time IS money.

So what if it takes you a bit longer to pay off your debt. The important thing is to realize it (and you have), and make that conscious choice, instead of just assuming things will work out.

So, I’m with you. Forget Dave Ramsey and focus on your life 🙂

Jenn November 20, 2010 - 4:18 pm

Just found your blog and I’m really enjoying reading it. I agree with you on several points about Dave Ramsey. I’ve read a couple of his books and feel like he gives some good advice, but I never really bought into the extreme rice and beans approach. I never found his advice condescending, but do feel like it is often too cut and dry and doesn’t allow for flexibility. His advice to save up only a $1000 efund while throwing every other extra penny at debt was something my husband and I didn’t agree with. We felt we needed a much larger efund to feel comfortable. We did not have high interest or credit card debt, so while we were willing to make some sacrifices to pay off a car loan and student loan, we also didn’t feel the need to go to extremes to pay things off a little more quickly. His advice has no doubt really helped many people, though.

Erin November 20, 2010 - 10:00 am

My husband and I are in Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University course at our church. We signed up because we thought it would be a good way to learn together and get on the same page about our finances. We’re 3 weeks away from finishing this 12-week course, and I’ll just say, it’s been a huge disappointment. I agree with you that he talks to you as if you’re a child. And his projections on how you can be a multi-millionaire by the time you’re a senior if you save a certain amount of money every month are based on unrealistic interest rates. His approach is an emotional one, so people get excited about things without realizing that what he’s promising isn’t exactly going to happen.

His approach is probably good for those who have no idea what to do with their finances and really need a basic education. But for those of us who are more aware of our finances, it’s not worth the time to read his books or attend his class.

IntrigueMe (Quarter For Her Thoughts) November 19, 2010 - 10:16 am

To be honest, I’ve never even heard of the guy!

I do think it’s riddiculous though to be so tight fisted that you can’t live. Some people (usually those with money) don’t understand that. I’m not willing to be miserable for the next 40 years so that I can be a millionaire when I retire. NO THANKYOU!!

Jenn November 15, 2010 - 7:13 pm

I agree with you in some points regarding Dave Ramsey, but not all of them. I like to listen to books on CD because I have one of those jobs where I’m not home very much and I have a long commute. So I listened to one of his books, like you I can’t tell you the name of it, and like you was waiting to get the the substance of what he was trying to tell me, while trying to get around him yelling at me…anyway…rabbit trail. I have also listened to his radio show and he has some really good and financially sound things to say. Especially when asked about buying or selling a house, or going into business with a friend. I really do value his opinion. Having said that…I also don’t think his practices are for everyone. My husband and I are attempting to use the “snowball” approach to paying off our debt, but sometimes, you just can’t throw every little dime you have into one pot and let the others simmer…. I agree with you that I don’t want to live off of “rice and beans,” I think that’s how he puts it for another two – three years and miss this time I have while I’m still in my 20s. All in all, my husband and I try to take to heart some of what he says and use those principals, but for the most part, we do what we know we can do financially and what we want to do so we don’t live like homebodies, all without breaking the bank….

Not sure if any of this makes any sense at all…..

Kaitlin November 15, 2010 - 6:04 pm

First time I’ve visited your blog, it looks great.

How do you figure up your budget? Do you use a program, or just sit down and do some old fashioned math?

My fiance and I are getting married next month, and with student loans while he’s in graduate school we’d like to come up with a budget to keep us on track, but I have NO idea where to start. The idea of math makes my brain shut down, so I need a little advice. Did you start small and work your way up or just jump in with both feet?


Shannon November 15, 2010 - 9:43 am

I’m just going to throw out an AMEN! on this one.

Sarah Soon-To-Be November 15, 2010 - 8:56 am

I loved, LOVED this. You make so many valid points and I loved the hand-slapping part. I read it yesterday on my phone, and natch BB won’t let me comment, so I emailed myself a reminder to do it this AM once I got to a comp. 🙂

Happy Monday! PS is your header pic different? I’m a little obsessed with it, and now I want some bubbly.

brandt @ New House on the Blog November 15, 2010 - 5:28 am

I’m with you on the Dave Ramsey thing. While I didn’t find him condescending, I did find him unrealistic.

I think we all can agree that going into debt to “live in the now” is probably a bad thing. As a matter of fact, one of the best lessons I learned was maxing my first credit card out within 4-5 months of receiving it because it seemed like “free” money, and gosh darn it, I wanted to do fun stuff!

I don’t agree with him though when it comes to “paying cash” for everything. I totally bought into what Ramsey was saying for a long time until I took a look around and had the same thought you did, Erika, namely, it’s nice to pay cash for everything, but sometimes its next to impossible.

I have my quirks, and believe me, one of my big weaknesses is spending on impulse and justifying to myself WHY I bought that new high speed router when my old one worked just fine. And he does preach some good things, like the baby step program and establishing savings programs early. He just has an unrealistic view of the rest of the world outside of his cash machine that he personally has. I could keep going on how, from a financial standpoint, he’s only preaching about 1/2 of good financial practices, but I’ll stop for now.

Red November 14, 2010 - 5:39 pm

Nice post! Personally, I’ve never read Dave Ramsey’s stuff. I know that sounds weird, but I’ve read enough ABOUT him that I feel like I get it already. So I can’t comment on your opinion of his book itself, but…

I think the idea that you should save money before going to college is a good one. I went into school straight after high school and took out loans to pay for it. Luckily, I rejected the idea that I needed credit cards (paid them off and closed them all a year and a half ago) and that you SHOULD take 10 years to pay off your student loans. So I’m ahead of the curve. But I could have just as easily taken a full-time job at the office I’m currently working in, saved up cash and paid for school in cash. In fact, I may have appreciated the first couple years of my education more if I did. Like they say, youth is wasted on the young. I don’t know if Ramsey is saying that YOU should save for college or that your parents should, but most financial pundits preach that parents should NOT sacrifice their retirement for a child’s education.

Where retirement is concerned, I agree with you. I don’t care about sacrificing my life now just so I can have millions in the bank when I’m much too old to appreciate it. I want to travel and ride roller coasters and sky dive while I’m young enough to do those things. If that means working a few years past retirement age or even living a frugal life when I’m old enough to know better, I’m a-okay with doing that.

But I can also see the benefits of sacrificing big now to enjoy your life later. In my case, I’m sacrificing big now because I know I can be debt free by 2013 if I do. If we’re talking about a decade of major sacrifice, that’s one thing. But going out a little less often, making food at home, making my own detergent, checking out books and movies from the library instead of buying them… These are all things I’m perfectly happy doing if it means being debt free sooner than I would be otherwise. I don’t think you should sacrifice your entire life. If you love being a dog owner, definitely keep your dog. I have two cats, and I would never consider giving either of them up to save money. But pedicures, hair cuts, and restaurants? So not worth the price of living in debt longer than I have to.

Jennifer November 14, 2010 - 2:35 pm

I read one of his books as well. I didn’t really find him condescending at all. But, I (like you), was kind of wondering….ok, when is the substance of the book actually going to start? The book did make me take a second look at my savings habits and credit card use, though. I now have zero credit card debt, nor do I own a card now either…and I’m okay with that.

Jessica November 14, 2010 - 2:05 pm

this was a really interesting post! I have to admit, I haven’t read any Dave Ramsey books.. even though I did see his “Baby Steps” program and though they were helpful. Hmm… I’m with you. I don’t appreciate being talked to like a child either, just because I have some credit card debt and a car loan. It is all about balance and just living within your means! I’m totally going to check out Suze Orman’s book because my hubby and I are young, fabulous and broke too! Thanks for the awesome post!!


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