Why You Should Read "The Total Money Makeover" - A Review
One of the best personal finance books I have ever read is “The Total Money Makeover” by Dave Ramsey. First published in 2003, it has sold over five million copies and is currently the best-selling book in several finance categories at Amazon.
Ramsey’s goal in writing this book is to help individuals gain an understanding of how to efficiently and effectively get out of debt and attain their financial goals. If you follow his advice, you will be debt-free, fund your own retirement, pay off your home, pay for your kids’ college expenses, and build wealth.
If it sounds too good to be true… it’s actually not. His methods to achieve financial success are solid, and they really work. According to Ramsey, tens of thousands of people have successfully used his strategies. Quite a few of their stories are included in the book. To take a closer look at "The Total Money Makeover", click on the link. (As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.)
The bulk of this book explains Ramsey’s famous “7 Baby Steps”. Follow all seven baby steps, he says, and you will achieve “financial fitness”.
These baby steps operate on the idea that a person in terrible financial shape will be completely overwhelmed if you were to tell him to build an emergency fund, save for retirement, pay off your debt, donate to church, and save for your kids’ college expenses all at once.
It’s just too much. Many people would just say something like, “I can’t even pay my phone bill on time, let alone do all that!”, and they’ll just give up.
So Ramsey’s Baby Steps give the reader small goals to accomplish so the individual constantly makes progress and builds confidence in gaining control of their money.
The Baby Steps involve such goals as establishing a $1,000 starter emergency fund, paying off all debt using the “debt snowball” technique, building a fully-funded emergency fund, and paying off the mortgage.
Ramsey writes if you do the Baby Steps correctly and in order, you will succeed at money. Guaranteed.
Be warned though, if you’re looking for an instant-fix to your finances, this book is not it. You will probably take at least a few years to complete the 7 Baby Steps, though you will see constant progress in your finances.
His method largely revolves around common sense and developing a good bit of self-control when it comes to spending and saving.
Ramsey doesn’t beat around the bush or mince words. Indeed, he is so confident in his system, he writes, “This isn’t theory. It works every single time… It works because it gets to the heart of the money problems: You”.
So there you have it: You are to blame for your money troubles. Not your boss. Not the economy. Not the government, and not simply bad luck. You are experiencing money problems because of your actions and your spending habits, so says Ramsey.
A bit hard to take, but I actually like this approach. After all, someone who believes that everyone else is to blame for his money problems will probably just wait around for everyone else to fix them for him, while someone who takes responsibility for his financial decisions will be more likely to take action to fix his situation.
Beyond the 7 Baby Steps, there are a couple other major themes in the book.
Ramsey constantly tries to dissuade you from taking on debt of any kind. He writes that too many people believe that debt is a useful tool that everyone uses. Instead, he says that debt just introduces considerable risk to a family’s finances, not to mention a lot of stress.
The only kind of debt he is comfortable with is a 15-year mortgage.
He also urges you to stop comparing your lifestyle to everyone else’s. He explains why with one of his many sayings: “We buy things we don’t need, with money we don’t have, to impress people we don’t like.”
While Dave Ramsey has many fans- he was the third-most influential radio talk show personality in 2019 according to “Talkers Magazine”- he also has quite a few detractors.
The most common complaint I see about his system is that he says the stock market has averaged close to a 12 percent return throughout its history. Critics say his math is wrong, and that the return is much lower. They also don’t like that his “debt snowball” strategy focuses on paying off the debt with the smallest balance first, even if it has a lower interest rate than another debt.
While these are valid complaints, I don’t think they are significant enough to invalidate his ideas. Sure, you might only get a 7% return on your investment instead of 12%, but if Ramsey inspired you to start investing for retirement, that’s a good thing! 7% is a lot better than the 0% you were getting when you weren’t investing at all.
If you want to finally get your finances in order, I highly recommend you get a copy of “The Total Money Makeover” and follow his advice. It has worked for thousands of people, and it can also work for you.