Ever since I started reading American personal finance blogs and listening to money saving podcasts, one name has cropped up on numerous occasions – Dave Ramsey.
For a long time, I automatically assumed he must be America’s answer to Martin Lewis. It seemed as though he’s built a reputation as one of the United States’ most influential people in terms of personal finance.
So yesterday I decided to sit down and properly digest some of his stuff. I’d heard so much about him from other people but nothing from him. With his own website, podcast, radio show, book, and Youtube channel, I decided to start out by watching his videos.
The first video I watched was about car finance and instantly I was impressed. Unlike our Martin Lewis, who’s clearly passionate about offering people judgement-free money advice and a sympathetic ear, Dave Ramsey instantly came across as a straight-talking, no nonsense grump who won’t take any excuses. And at first, I loved it.
But as I continued to watch his videos, I started to see just how brutal he can be. A sexist joke about how women ‘only like cars because they’re like big purses’ almost made me switch off, but I persevered. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of Dave Ramsey:
Pro – He cuts to the chase and tells people like it is
Unlike Martin Lewis who always comes across as sympathetic and reassuring, Dave Ramsey isn’t afraid to speak his mind and tell you you’ve made a mistake. I like this about him.
After all, the concept of saving money is ever so simple. Spend less than you earn. It’s common sense. And yet so many people struggle to get a grip of their finances! Everyone knows how to save money but the problem is that very few actually put this knowledge into practice.
Rather than giving people a hug and feeling sorry for them, Dave cuts to the chase and tells people exactly what they need to hear, rather than what they want to hear. In his own words, he refuses to ‘endorse their stupidity’.
Con – He can be really rude and insulting
After watching a few episodes of The Dave Ramsey Show, I forced Jake to join me. We couldn’t help but laugh awkwardly every time he called someone ‘stupid’ and it wasn’t long before we invented The Dave Ramsey Drinking Game. Every time he yelled STOOPID, we’d take a sip.
Some people need to be yelled at before they’ll actually get off their bum and make a change. And so I can see how Dave’s approach works for so many people. He’s like an angry drill sergeant or boot camp personal trainer, barking orders at you and telling you what a piece of shit you are.
But he calls people ‘stupid’ so often that I wonder whether this approach has alienated some supporters. There’s a big difference between calling a person stupid and simply pointing out that they’ve made a stupid decision.
We all make stupid money decisions from time to time but just because we all make stupid mistakes doesn’t mean we are stupid.
Pro – He forces people to take responsibility for their circumstances
Millions of people around the world are in debt. Although it’s often as a result of overspending and trying to keep up with the Kardashians, it can of course be out of our control. Some people land themselves in debt because their essential living costs are greater than their income.
But there’s no point in sitting back and blaming the government and the economy and everyone else for your financial problems. Even if it is their fault. Sure, you can complain, but get up and try to do something about it at the same time! Ultimately, it’s up to you to change your life. No one else cares as much about your money as you do.
Far too often people drive themselves into dire circumstances financially and look for other people to blame. But by taking responsibility for your choices past and present, you can gain control and feel empowered.
In one particular episode of The Dave Ramsey Show, a guest called Julie talks about how she paid off $165,000 in just 32 months. She told Ramsey: “You told me it was my fault and that was the most hope I’d ever had because if you can associate that your situation is indicative of previous poor decisions, then you can alter your behaviour for a different outcome. And that’s so hopeful because I wasn’t a victim anymore.” YES, JULIE! YES!
Con – He doesn’t acknowledge that some people do have larger obstacles to overcome
Although I think it’s vital for each and every one of us to take responsibility for our lives and finances, I think it’s equally important to accept that some people need more help than others.
For example, Dave is strongly against taking out loans to fund cars. He says that under no circumstances should you get a car on finance. I do agree that if you can’t pay for a car in cash, you can’t afford it. It also bothers me when people are so desperate to impress others that they take out ridiculous loans so that they can drive a Mercedes.
But, I do think there are certain circumstances where financing a car is pretty much unavoidable. Most people can’t even afford to buy a used car. For these people, getting a cheap car on finance may make sense. In some cases, car finance could make it easier for a person to get a job or increase their salary.
Dave Ramsey refuses to accept that getting out of debt, saving money and building wealth is much more difficult to achieve for some people than it is for others. And this is incredibly frustrating.
Pro – His content appeals to those who don’t engage with their money
The fact that I managed to get Jake interested in The Dave Ramsey Show is absolutely brilliant. I’m definitely the saver in our relationship and although Jake’s not one to buy fancy clothes or cars on credit, he’s just not very engaged with his money. He just doesn’t pay attention to it – like a lot of people!
But when we watched a few episodes of Dave’s show together, he started to show an interest. It sparked money saving conversations that we don’t often have. And I obviously loved that.
We need more people to engage with their money and pay attention to it rather than sticking their head in the sand. Far too often, people in debt will lock themselves away and continue spending, ignoring the multitude of creditors pestering them for money.
Con – His solutions aren’t as thorough as they could be
Martin Lewis’ Money Saving Expert is an absolute goldmine for money tips and advice. Dave Ramsey’s website isn’t quite so thorough. The way I see it, Dave’s approach is much more theory driven. He tells you which direction your life needs to go down and why, while Martin gives you everything you need to make more financially savvy choices.
Dave’s like: “You need to get your shit together. Here’s why!”
Martin’s like: “If you want to save money, here are a few ways you can do just that”
So is Dave Ramsey the US version of Martin Lewis?
Well, no. I was wrong. Although they’re both incredibly influential in their respective countries, Ramsey and Lewis are not alike at all.
But that doesn’t mean one is better than the other. Although I disagree with some of Dave Ramsey’s beliefs and approaches, I do think he has a lot of valuable advice that can help people get out of debt and build a wealthier future.