Trouble at Dave Ramsey's Company?

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josh p's picture

They have been saying this about his company for quite a while. It does seem to be very much a brand built around one guy. I listen off and on. Definitely not somewhere I would go for spiritual advice but I do think being out of debt is a good goal for everyone, as difficult as that is. I've been on the journey for years and am only now finishing up (besides my house). 

Bert Perry's picture

....but "we named the ministry after its founder" seems to be a reasonable shorthand for "there will be problems."  

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Mark_Smith's picture

knows its his way or the Long Island Expressway. Why are we surprised?

The Ramsey "ministry" is promoted heavily in churches. Debt. We should get a handle on it. It is NOT in my opinion as "big a deal" as most make it. We make debt sound like sin. Churches seem to promote getting out of debt more than dealing with abuse, or adultery, or pornography, or drinking, or cursing. Makes me sad.

When was the last church that had an 9 week seminar on spousal abuse? Or getting rid of pornography?

I sense a lot of judgementalism in the church concerning debt. And Ramsay, while offering one lifeline, promotes that culture.

Just yesterday I happened to be in an office with Fox News playing on the TV. Mike Huckabee was being interviewed. He rattled off a list of Republican characteristics. The second one was "pays debts on time"... It caught my ear. Is paying debts that high on your character list?

As for the article's details, nothing in there surprises me one bit. You simply cannot control people like this in a business. Keeping an eye on church leadership is one thing, monitoring the "credit habits" of your employees is creepy. Enforcing your anti-COVID views is concerning, and then the hypocrisy of covering up your rich best buds sexual affairs is all too common.

T Howard's picture

DISCLAIMER: I have neither used Dave's financial peace program nor have I worked for his ministry business.

In our current climate, I always try to give the benefit of the doubt to the subject target of articles like this. Given his on-air personality, I imagine Dave can come across as harsh and direct in person. That is part of what makes him successful: giving no-nonsense rebuke and admonishment to people who've made foolish financial choices. In other words, Dave is very paternalistic, and this tendency carries over to how he treats his employees. I don't doubt that his paternalism and his harsh, direct communication are offensive to some of his former employees. But here's the thing, no one is forcing you to 1) go to work for Ramsey Corp. or 2) continue to work for Ramsey Corp. If you don't like the terms of employment (and you know them upfront), don't work for Ramsey Corp. If you don't like the terms of employment and don't find out about them until after you work there, don't continue to work for Ramsey Corp.

That being said, there is a difference between being paternalistic and being a cult. And, there is a difference between being blunt or brusque and being abusive. In the era of victimization, it's often hard to discern the truth about these differences. If someone gets their feelings hurt, they often claim they've been emotionally abused and that the perpetrator is an abusive bully. That is why I am hesitant to always "believe the victim" in situations like this.

To address Mark's comment above, I would just say that Scripture tells us a lot about how one should handle their finances. Scripture also is clear that one's finances are often related to one's spiritual condition / maturity. In other words, someone who is constantly in debt and living above his or her means has more than a financial issue that needs to be addressed.

Mark_Smith's picture

Heard it for years...

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control, a balanced check book and a healthy savings account. Most people make a strong emphasis on the last 2 imagined components and very little on the others.

I see the NT talking about giving... I missed the part about debt.  Most of the OT references are in the civil law. Proverbs is general wisdom, not prescriptive. Where is all this discussion about the spiritual indicators of our debt?

*But I don't want to hijack the thread, so don't bother answering.*

Oh, and if God rewards you with your first child and a $100,000+ medical bill that you are still paying, does that mean your spiritual condition was weak? Be careful about debt assumptions brother.

Bert Perry's picture

I've used his seven steps--not quite sure if he got it first or if Crown did--and I value a lot of what Ramsey does.  I applaud the fact that his ministry also (around 2014-5) started teaching a lot more about contentment.  I'm an eager reader of his newspaper columns.

What gives me concern, beyond him naming his ministry after himself, is keeping the offices open for employees who could have worked from home in the height of COVID, the public (and not anonymous) evidence of something of a dictatorial management style, employees in finance taking huge pay cuts while the boss is sitting on tens of millions of dollars, and of course Ramsey's 13000 square foot house.   It's a disconnect with the lives and concerns of his readers/followers that does not bode well for him.  As I noted before, naming your ministry after yourself is a warning, though certainly not a guarantee, of upcoming problems.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

T Howard's picture

I made no assumptions about debt other than if it's caused by constantly living above your means...which, btw, is the cause of most debt (i.e. both revolving and non-revolving debt). Approximately 32% of American workers have medical debt, and of those only 11% owe >=$100K. Consequently, most people are in major debt today not because of medical bills but because they lost a job and/or are living above their means.

To those constantly living above their means (i.e. most Americans in debt), the Scripture has plenty to say.

 

I cut my financial chops with Larry Burkett and Christian Financial Concepts (now Crown). CFC's materials taught me as a newly married 20-something making $28K annually how to create and track a budget and live within my means, the importance of an emergency fund, and the blessing of giving.

 

Jonathan Charles's picture

I really don't get what's so great about him and his business.  To me, getting out of debt is just about contentment and discipline.  I'm not sure why it takes buying a book and taking a course to do it.  As far as his investing advice, he just passes common investing knowledge.  I think some Christians think his material contains some secret way out of debt and into wealth.  

T Howard's picture

Jonathan Charles wrote:

I really don't get what's so great about him and his business.  To me, getting out of debt is just about contentment and discipline.  I'm not sure why it takes buying a book and taking a course to do it.  As far as his investing advice, he just passes common investing knowledge.  I think some Christians think his material contains some secret way out of debt and into wealth.  

Jonathan, I would guess that Dave Ramsey is so popular because he provides hope to those drowning in debt and a simple process to pay off that debt (i.e. the debt snowball). One of my coworkers was featured on his show a couple years back as an example of how a young couple can pay off over $100K in student loans and $25K in consumer debt if they are disciplined and stick to Dave's baby steps program. She and her husband are now proudly on baby step 6 (i.e. paying off their home early), and they are still in their 20s.

To folks who have little financial experience or knowledge, Dave's process is very simple and straightforward. Plus, he provides numerous case studies on his program of people in dire financial situations who were able to succeed because they followed his process. Hope is a powerful thing.

Larry's picture

Moderator

I agree with T Howard. The strength of Ramsey is simplicity with tough love. He has a simple and repeatable plan for people who have no idea where to start and he doesn't have time for excuses and he won't let you make them. Some people don't need that, but a lot of people do.

In response to at least one thing Bert said, I remember Dave at the beginning of the shutdown saying that leaders have to take paycuts first. You start at the top not the bottom. 

Mark_Smith's picture

or any other system, if you make more than your basic minimal need. The more you make the faster you get ahead. Ramsey says stupid things like "work a second job" to make more... well, I appreciate that, but not everyone can do that. Or "get a clunker car" to save money. But then the clunker breaks down and you can't get to work that day and you lose your job! On and on and on... It sounds good, and it works for some. But it is my no means a fool proof plan.

If the waves of challenges keep hitting your beach, it can be tough to make headway on large debt...

It MAY be discipline that is your problem. It can be other things.

Bert Perry's picture

In my view, he's got three things that make him a superstar.  First of all, he's got a personal magnetism that draws people to him.  That can be good or bad, and it might have something to do with the issues that Julie Roys' team is bringing up. 

Second, Ramsey understands the importance of psychology in a way that those at Crown have not historically done--you've got his enthusiasm, and you've also got the importance of "how do you get started paying off debt?" and how it's a psychological boost to get the smallest one paid off first, then the next smallest, etc..  

Third, Ramsey understands historic norms and just how "poor" one can live and still remain in the land of the living.  A famous example is when he'll tell a caller that it's "rice and beans" time, which really draws the picture that we don't need to have a lot of meat and sugar to have a decent dinner.  We can cut costs really low and still be OK.

There are limits--see Mark Smith's comment from 3:31 for examples--but all in all, I'm very grateful for guys like Ramsey and Crown, and I would mourn if misbehavior in his company took him out.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

T Howard's picture

Mark_Smith wrote:
You can only get out of debt in Ramsey's system or any other system, if you make more than your basic minimal need.

While true, the definition of "basic minimal need" needs to be accurately defined to be helpful. Does cable TV and Netflix fall under "basic minimal need"? Does eating out once or twice a week fall under "basic minimal need"? Does getting coffee at Starbucks on a regular basis or going to the movies fall under "basic minimal need"? I've found that people who struggle financially because they live above their means often conflate luxury / comfort (i.e. discretionary spending) with "basic minimal need." For example, they come to a church asking for financial assistance, but when one of the requirements to receive that help is a review of their monthly budget / spending, they often decline the help or refuse to make the necessary cuts to discretionary spending. To them, all their spending is necessary.

That is why someone like Dave Ramsey can be helpful / needful. He is able to see through the charade and call out people for their foolish financial behavior / attitudes. Tough love.

That's not popular today. It's easier to be a victim of bad circumstances or bad people. "The reason I can't get ahead in life is ... [something out of my control]."

My wife and I lived on $28K our first couple years of marriage. We ate lots of mac&cheese and ramen. We had no furniture. We ate our meals on my briefcase (a Christmas present from my parents), which served as our dining table. We slept on the floor of our one-bedroom apartment; we couldn't even afford a mattress. We drove an 86 Dodge Aries that we had purchased for $500 while in college. The year was 1997. So, I know it's possible to live within your means making very little money. It's definitely not easy. It requires self-discipline, sacrifice, and contentment---three characteristics most young Americans don't possess.

Now, looking back almost 24 years, I can testify that God was always faithful to provide for our needs, and sometimes even our wants.

Bert Perry's picture

In the New Testament,  Romans 13:8 comes to mind, and we can also infer something from Matthew 18:21-35, although it's not the main point of the parable of the unmerciful servant.

But that noted, is not not enough to note Old Testament passages like Proverbs 22:7, which notes the hazards of debt?  Now we might--as many have--note that Ramsey's position is fairly hard-line, while Scripture does not outright condemn debt, but I feel comfortable noting, as does Ramsey, that the general tone in Scripture is negative.

Mark does have a good point about the "clunker" car, and I've long felt that this is one of the weaknesses of most financial ministries.  People get pressed into the shorter lifespan and lower reliability of beaters when the used car market has really already priced in the wear and tear they've already suffered.  They then end up paying for a portion of the luxuries/options that the original owners wanted, have trouble getting to work at times, and end up paying more transaction fees than they would have if they'd bought relatively new and driven it 200,000 miles or more--what I've done with three of my cars now.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

T Howard's picture

Bert Perry wrote:
In the New Testament,  Romans 13:8 comes to mind, and we can also infer something from Matthew 18:21-35, although it's not the main point of the parable of the unmerciful servant.

Bert, much of the average American's consumer debt is caused by a lack of contentment, a lack of self-control, and envy (aka "Keeping up with the Joneses"). Even our unsaved world recognizes this. Are there not numerous passages in both testaments that address these issues directly? Absolutely.

Bert Perry's picture

Tom, this is the thing I was responding to--not seeing much in the NT about debt.  Mark's point that debt is not THE huge issue in the NT is well taken, but there is something there, and as you also note, the OT witness is also crucial.  Once again, I think that the one thing where Ramsey may go overboard is that while Scripture details how debt can derail one's life, it is not outright prohibited.  We might put it in the same category as things like rich foods and wine--OK in moderation, a curse in excess.

Mark_Smith wrote:

Heard it for years...

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control, a balanced check book and a healthy savings account. Most people make a strong emphasis on the last 2 imagined components and very little on the others.

I see the NT talking about giving... I missed the part about debt.  Most of the OT references are in the civil law. Proverbs is general wisdom, not prescriptive. Where is all this discussion about the spiritual indicators of our debt?

*But I don't want to hijack the thread, so don't bother answering.*

Oh, and if God rewards you with your first child and a $100,000+ medical bill that you are still paying, does that mean your spiritual condition was weak? Be careful about debt assumptions brother.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

dgszweda's picture

Bert Perry wrote:

Tom, this is the thing I was responding to--not seeing much in the NT about debt.  Mark's point that debt is not THE huge issue in the NT is well taken, but there is something there, and as you also note, the OT witness is also crucial.  Once again, I think that the one thing where Ramsey may go overboard is that while Scripture details how debt can derail one's life, it is not outright prohibited.  We might put it in the same category as things like rich foods and wine--OK in moderation, a curse in excess.

Debt is perfectly fine in my opinion.  The issue is not debt, it is living above your means.  I think people equate the two as the same, because when you are living above your means, it requires debt.  But if you are living below your means, debt is fine in my opinion.  I have a 2.86% interest rate on my mortgage.  It would be stupid of me to try to pay that down quickly.  Not only is the interest rate tax deductible, but everywhere else you could possible put your money would earn you more if not magnitudes more in interest.  I carry a large mortgage and move my money elsewhere.  The equity continues to grow in the house, at even a greater rate than the interest rate on the mortgage, and my money is growing almost 5x faster in other vehicles.

I also don't agree with the philosophy of building wealth for generations that he espouses.  It is part of the reason we are in the problem today because people don't know how to work.  I don't believe in building generational wealth and I can't fathom why he espouses this idea.

T Howard's picture

dgszweda wrote:
Debt is perfectly fine in my opinion.  The issue is not debt, it is living above your means.

Agreed. Debt can be a powerful tool to generate wealth, but it can also be a terrible master.

 

dgszweda wrote:
I also don't agree with the philosophy of building wealth for generations that he espouses.  It is part of the reason we are in the problem today because people don't know how to work.

I'm mixed on this because I certainly understand the concern about encouraging laziness in future generations. I would, however, like to be a blessing to my kids and my grandkids (Lord willing) and help them with specific financial needs that they have (e.g. college, down payment on house, braces, etc.).

 

Bert Perry's picture

David, the way I'd phrase it is that debt is, for a huge portion of Americans, the "canary in the coal mine", the indicator that tells us that covetousness has gotten out of hand.  I might also note that it appears that without armed troops protecting one's family's prosperity, multigenerational prosperity appears to be a pipe dream beyond a few generations unless one cares for the character of one's descendants. You can't store up wealth, but through debt, you can store up poverty, so to speak.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

dcbii's picture

EditorModerator

dgszweda wrote:

I don't believe in building generational wealth and I can't fathom why he espouses this idea.

I don't really believe in generational wealth either, but neither do I believe in generational poverty (or basically sending my kids out with absolutely nothing and telling them to work hard) if I can do something to avoid it.  Between summer and other vacation jobs for me and sacrifices from my parents, my college education to B.S. level was paid off as I finished (and my parents were not wealthy at all), and I was able to work myself through grad school and have it paid off when I finished.  Looking at the rise in college education rates my children experienced, my wife and I determined, if God allowed, to also pay for our children's college educations (both in fields that actually will result in income).  There was literally no way for them to work enough to make any significant contribution to their education expenses, and both of my kids had been working summer jobs and after school jobs since age 14.  Through both a job for my wife, a small gift from my parents, and sacrifices on our part (and once a decent stock windfall) we were able to make sure our kids' college education was paid off, so they wouldn't start with big debt.

Now they are both married, neither wealthy, but doing reasonably.  I'd be willing to help out with a large unforeseen expense they might have, but I'm not planning to have a large inheritance for them.  In fact, we pretty much call their education their inheritance.  They might have something when we are gone, but we're not planning for it to be large.  Hopefully God will allow us to be a blessing to them when they eventually have kids or something comes up.  My parents have also planned well, but they are aging, and I have told them multiple times that they should continue giving to charity as they do, and spend what they need on themselves rather than worrying about me.

The point to all this rambling is that while I would agree that there's no need to create large amounts of generational wealth, good financial planning can also result in us not saddling our children with more debt or disadvantage than they need either.  The conditions today for starting with nothing and still "making it" do exist, but not in the same measure that was true when I was my kids' age, thus increasing the need for better financial planning.

Dave Barnhart

Mark_Smith's picture

You are all assuming debt is "I want that 55 inch tv." To me debt is "your kid needs oral surgery, $2500." Then 3 months later, the transmission in the van goes bonkers, $1500." Then you need to go to the ER, $5500. Or, your planned third child is twins. The deductible and co-pays for all the deliveries and wife's care is $6500 more than you saved for... The basement floods every time it rains. After 5 years you have to deal with it, $6700."

Am I the only one with these issues? My savings dried up a decade ago. I go from crisis to crisis...

 

josh p's picture

I see the concern about laziness but does it necessarily follow that leaving your children money will make them lazy? If they have character, it seems like they will use it wisely and be a blessing to others in ways that taxes are not. 

Bert Perry's picture

If you want a picture of how easy money can ruin a person, think of Paris Hilton or the "trust funders" you may have known in college--the guys or ladies who had the nicest cars and hosted the spiffiest parties.  (OK, maybe this forum won't have that experience, but I saw it at secular colleges!)  I was told that the Hilton heirs actually involved in the business restructured the inheritances of those who were not to be more or less an annuity--they could do what they wanted with that, but they'd have to meet a budget, and they'd not be able to burn out their funds and raise a ruckus.

And regarding Mark's comment, sometimes it is true that the difficulties of life do play into this.  I've also wondered "where on earth did all this money go?"  Looking through card and bank statements is a big help.

 

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Bert Perry's picture

My take is that whatever happened, a lifetime of easy money, and presumably a lack of accountability, generated a person who could not be trusted with open access to the trust fund.  Thankfully she hasn't totally self-destructed.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

dgszweda's picture

Mark_Smith wrote:

You are all assuming debt is "I want that 55 inch tv." To me debt is "your kid needs oral surgery, $2500." Then 3 months later, the transmission in the van goes bonkers, $1500." Then you need to go to the ER, $5500. Or, your planned third child is twins. The deductible and co-pays for all the deliveries and wife's care is $6500 more than you saved for... The basement floods every time it rains. After 5 years you have to deal with it, $6700."

Am I the only one with these issues? My savings dried up a decade ago. I go from crisis to crisis...

This is one of the growing challenges with wealth inequality.  Some individuals are stuck in a rut, while others move forward.  Growing up we didn't have much at all.  I remember sometimes having to eat mayonnaise on bread some nights because that was all that we had.  My parents were tight with money.  I never visited a restaurant until I had gotten to college.  My parents never bought any pre-packaged food.  All food was made to scratch and made so that it could be reused and stretched.  My mom was a good cook, so it wasn't that bad.  My dad worked two full time jobs of 80+ hours a week my entire life, and he still had time to spend with us.  We made it and we never went into debt.  Mostly because we did not a debt vehicle available to us.  Today, I don't need to worry about this stuff.  Partly because I had a good work ethic and I was able to put distance between my past.  But it wasn't because my parents were able to pass down money to me (they are both alive).  I don't need to worry about health care costs or costs associated with any vehicles breaking down.  I feel for people who do struggle with this.  While I am a Republican, I do support some of the Democrat platforms like government run health insurance, because this kind of debt is crushing for some people.  I pay a lot in taxes.  And I mean a lot.  And I am actually okay with paying more so that other people can get access to some of these items.  I don't want free money handed out, and I know there will be abuses.  But the wealth gap is becoming a serious problem that needs to be addressed.  If not, and given enough time it will contribute to a collapse of the American society (in my opinion).

josh p's picture

The average American lifespan is 78. Women live a little longer so, in most cases, people don't inherit until their second parent dies when they are in their fifties and already nearing retirement themselves. I would think that by then most people have had to work pretty hard for themselves. 
 

If my parents live to be 80, I will already be collecting my first pension. Too early to say regarding my kids but I hope to help them out a little. Also Proverbs 13:22: “A good man leaves an inheritance to his children's children" seems to suggest that inheritance is a good thing. 

Bert Perry's picture

I understand this to some degree, but in other regards, I don't.  And one note here; this is about my experience, and I'm saying nothing about Mark.

The place I am is that as the owner of a pickup, I get invited to help people move from time to time, generally people with less income/wealth than I have.  What I've noticed is that most of those I help move have a lot more stuff than I do, be it food, clothes, or furniture.  I also should note that I'm not some monk with only three brown wool robes in the closet and a single bicycle, either.  Tons of books, good furniture, and my garage looks like a bike shop with all the bikes I've got for the family.  

And along those lines, it strikes me that there is a tremendous amount of financial ministry can be done by helping people understand the difference between having clothes and having a wardrobe, between having a lot of (generally packaged) food and having a functional pantry, between having vehicles and having transportation, and between having furniture and having a well-laid out house.

A big part of the barrier to that is that people don't want you coming in to "judge" their lifestyle--it takes a certain openness to say "I've got to get help here" and say good bye to things they've spent a lot of time and money procuring.  Also a barrier is that for many of the poor, they've never learned to see abstract concepts like bank accounts as indicative of prosperity.  So you've got a big mindset challenge to overcome, one that really doesn't budge well with showing a few hours of Crown or Dave Ramsey videos.

My take, anyway.  

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.