It could be argued that Dave Ramsey has become the most influential financial voice of this generation. His radio program draws nearly 8 million listeners every week, placing him third in the talk radio genre behind Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity respectively. Clearly he has developed an enormous following and has helped millions of people develop restraint, follow a plan and get their financial lives back.
Despite his influence and popularity, I continually read of people skewering Dave Ramsey for the message of hope that he brings. I’ve tried for the life of me to figure out why someone who has been so helpful would be the target of such outrage. In some cases, I’m sure it’s simply people taking a contrarian opinion to draw some attention to themselves. However, I think the main issue is much bigger than that and it’s something everyone says when it comes to the area of personal finance.
The Reasons People Hate Dave Ramsey
As I read and listen, here are the main reasons I find for people’s dislike of Dave Ramsey:
Reason #1: He’s confrontational
There is no doubt about it – Dave Ramsey confronts people about issues they’d rather not address. Confrontation turns many people off for two reasons: 1) we simply don’t like controversy and 2) we don’t like change. Couple these two issues together and people turn him off.
Reason #2: His stance on debt
Dave Ramsey has developed a program called The 7 Baby Steps, the main focus of which is to develop patterns of saving and to get out of debt. One of his main strategies for getting out of debt is to abandon the use of credit cards. In our credit driven world, people are simply unwilling to do this and call him foolish for ignoring the benefits responsible use of a credit card can bring (i.e. higher credit score, reward points).
Reason #3: He’s unrealistic
This issue centers mostly on Dave’s advice about investing. He has continually advanced the idea that investors should look to receive 12% annual returns from mutual fund investments they make in the stock market. Hoards of financial advisers and market leaders have called him out on this one, saying he is misleading investors with those high numbers, which should be scaled back to the 7-10% range.
Reason #4: He’s too religious
Dave often brings his faith into his writings and radio show, sharing the teachings from the Bible about money and the proper use of wealth. For many, just like prayer in public schools, God and money don’t mix. “Get God out of the discussion!” they say “Keep your theology to yourself!”
Reason #5: He’s a slick marketer
Naysayers here claim that Dave Ramsey has only been successful because he is good at marketing. He has made a fortune by repackaging (maybe stealing) common sense advice and is taking advantage of people who can’t think for themselves.
Reason #6: He’s in it for himself
“Have you seen Dave’s house? Seems disingenuous for a man to preach about wise stewardship of your money and giving to others then live in a mansion like that.”
All of these reasons pale in comparison to what I believe is the biggest reason people dislike Dave Ramsey:
Reason #7: He’s arrogant to assume his methodology is the best way to win with money.
Personal Finance Is Personal
“Personal finance is personal.” I’m sure you’ve heard that saying if you’ve spent anytime reading advice on how to manage your money. It pops up in personal finance literature, on radio shows and on many sites around the web. I’ve even said it here before on this site.
Basically it means that each individual situation is different, and what a person decides in relation to their money should be based on their own circumstances. In other words, I have to do what’s best for me and what works for you might not fit my situation. This is generally viewed as positive, although I’m sure there are some who use the “personal finance is personal” slogan to justify financial habits they would rather not change.
So when Dave Ramsey comes along and proclaims, “Hey, I have a simple method that is proven to work for everyone,” people get offended. It rubs them the wrong way to think there could be one, singular path to financial independence. As a culture, we generally don’t believe in absolutes.
What people fail to see is that Dave’s methodology doesn’t remove the “personal” from the personal finance equation. Yes, there are the seven stages that you move through sequentially before proceeding to the next step. And to go wholeheartedly on the plan would require giving up the use of credit cards, which is a huge step that requires adjustment.
However, the formula still allows for other variation depending on what is happening in your personal life. Anyone who has listened to Dave’s radio show knows he advises people based on what they are personally going through. He doesn’t give cookie-cutter answers to every caller. That’s what makes his program unique and special. It addresses real people in real life situations, and analyzes what would be best for them within the framework.
His Passion, His Message
I’ve read two of Dave Ramsey’s books, (Financial Peace Revisited and More than Enough) seen him speak in person once, led FPU and taught his personal finance course to my high school students. He is extremely passionate about his calling and his message stays consistent day in and day out. Based on the feedback he receives from listeners and the research his company has gathered over the last several decades of running their program, his formula seems to be working very well.
Shouldn’t that be a good thing? Whether you agree with the methodology or not, isn’t it great that so many people have turned the corner and now have a sense of destiny with their money?
And why shouldn’t he stick with and promote a message that he has seen is successful? You or I would do the same no matter what other people thought. Just because it’s an anti-cultural message doesn’t mean it’s wrong.
In my opinion, it’s unfortunate people demonize a man responsible for focusing people’s attention and inspiring them to change their poor behaviors. For those people whose lives have been changed he was a godsend. It’s time to quit being so negative about a message that is leading countless people to win.
Questions: What other reasons have you heard as to why people dislike Dave Ramsey? What positives do you take away from his methodology?
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