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on August 20, 2014
I have read dozens of finance books and this is one of the best. I would put it up there with Automatic Millionaire, Rich Dad Poor Dad, and Pirates of Financial Freedom. It isn't perfect though which I will talk about later.

Who is this book for? Everyone can benefit from it, but it is great for married couples and those in their late 20s, 30s, and early 40s. Young adults could benefit tremendously from it, but I'm worried it might not be exciting or fun enough to hold their attention. It's not really meant for retirees.

--- The Good ---

* He says financial freedom is 80% behavior and 20% knowledge which is so important, and he emphasizes this by pointing out there are a lot of broke finance professors.

* There are many real-life success stories of real people which shows his method works, and they also provide inspiration.

* He lays out his seven Baby Steps and makes them simple to understand. He points out that living right financially is not complicated. It may be difficult, but it's not complicated.

* I really liked the quote, "If you worked for a company called YOU Inc. and you managed money at YOU Inc. the way you manage your own money now, would you fire you?"

* The book includes helpful budget forms and worksheet in the back of the book.

* He isn't all gloom and doom. He wants you to have fun and even approves of buying a $30,000 watch, but only after you reach step seven and can afford it.

--- The Not-So-Good ---

* He doesn't go into a lot of detail on how to increase your income. Dave Ramsey is rich because he is a business owner who can make money from his radio show, books, seminars, programs, etc. It would have been great to get his advice on that, but he probably didn't want to overwhelm the reader with too many topics.

* I feel his previous bad experience with debt (he was over-leveraged with his real estate investments) has made him overly zealous on not having any debt. College loans can be very appropriate for some people, business loans can be great in the right situation, and his statement that you should put money toward paying down debt rather than getting the company 401(k) match seemed too extreme to me.

* The book wasn't super entertaining. I found a few parts to be a little dry and repetitive. While it certainly wasn't boring, I wish more money management books would be like the new personal finance adventure novel, but I guess that isn't this book's purpose. Still, there were a couple parts that made me chuckle and he did have some interesting stories.

* He stressed putting 100% of your investments in stock-related mutual funds. First, I feel ETFs are probably better than mutual funds because they are cheaper and won't underperform the market. Second, recommending a 100% stock portfolio to everyone regardless of age, financial goals, or risk tolerance seems risky to me. Plus you wouldn't experience the diversification benefit of owning non-correlated asset classes.

* He doesn't talk about the benefits of setting S.M.A.R.T. goals or having an accountability partner, which have been shown to greatly help people achieve all kinds of dreams.

--- Conclusion ---

Overall it is a very good book with a lot of good advice and inspirational case studies. You certainly won't regret reading it.
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on February 28, 2004
I enjoy discussions about my finances about as much as I enjoy talking about my weight. I certainly need to work on both, but I'd prefer to avoid the topics if at all possible, thank you very much. Can I get an "amen"?
Dave Ramsey, radio talk show host, author and all-around financial guru, is no stranger to this ostrich routine. After his own bankruptcy he came to the conclusion that the key to financial (and physical) fitness isn't knowing all the tricks of the money trade; it's being honest with yourself. "If I can control the guy in the mirror, I can be skinny and rich," he says in his new book THE TOTAL MONEY MAKEOVER.
In other words, you have to get your head out of the sand. Okay, I have to get my head out of the sand.
Leaving the skinny to other books, Ramsey is a prophet to those who want to be rich but would settle for being financially stable. It's clear that this is a large group, given the popularity of Ramsey's radio show and books. After reading THE TOTAL MONEY MAKEOVER, I can see why they flock to him for advice.
Ramsey's principles are simple and straightforward. Pay cash. Pay off debts from smallest to largest. Create an emergency fund. He provides easy-to-understand answers to many seemingly complex questions about budgeting, retirement funds, saving for college education, and more.
Large pullout quotes scattered throughout the book offer bite-sized financial advice and factoids in Ramsey's typically direct manner:
"A new $28,000 car will lose about $17,000 of value in the first four years you own it. To get the same result, you could toss a $100 bill out the window once a week during your commute."
"Looking to spend $100 per month on life insurance? You could pay $7 a month toward term insurance and invest the remaining $93. But go with a cash-value policy if you'd rather have someone else earn interest on your investments."
"49% of Americans could cover less than one months' expenses if they lost their income."
"If your mortgage payment is $900 and the interest portion is $830, you will pay that year around $10,000 in interest. What a great tax deduction! Right? Otherwise, you'd pay $3,000 in taxes on that $10,000. But who in their right mind would chose to trade $10,000 for $3,000?"
All of this advice is helpful and eye opening, but what Ramsey really excels at is presenting inspirational tales of those who were once, but are no longer, in financial disarray. Their stories make up at least a third of the book, and the cumulative effect is that of a published pep rally designed to get people pumped up about saving money. And it works.
This is a must-read book for anyone whose looking for a little basic financial information and a whole lot of courage to finally put away the ostrich suit.
--- Reviewed by Lisa Ann Cockrel
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VINE VOICEon February 3, 2010
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
"The Total Money Makeover" by Dave Ramsey, is the 3rd Edition of his popular book outlining personal finance advice and his "Baby Steps" method of righting your financial ship. I'm assuming that if you actively searched here under his name, you already know who Ramsey is - he and Suze Orman are probably the two most prominent personal-finance show hosts in the US. They have somewhat different styles - both can be pretty blunt to their callers when needed, but Ramsey tends to lean toward advising people to take more-drastic measures to get their debt down (`beans and rice, rice and beans' and his mantra of `Live like no one else, so you can someday Live like no one else') as opposed to Orman's "People first, then money, then things". She's a bit more empathic, but maybe he's a bit more hard-line because, at least from what I've seen (and I've watched both for several years), his audience generally seems to get themselves into bigger financial messes in the first place. If you think you've got it bad, tune into his show (on Fox Business Channel on cable) and you'll hear some REALLY bad stories of situations people have gotten themselves into, that will probably make you feel better about your own finances. Many of the `true stories' contained in the book are of people who got themselves in trouble by: 1) getting married/divorced too young, to/from someone who was as equally inept at handling money; 2) having lots of kids at a very early age (they're expensive, big surprise); and 3) appearing to have no education beyond high school, or majoring in something that is unlikely to yield a living income.

That said, the Ramsey book is a somewhat easy read - it runs around 250 pages, but the print is actually larger than I'd have expected, and the language is pretty colloquial, so it reads pretty quickly and is easy for even the financial newbie to grasp (I read it in around 4 or 5 sittings). The book is a codification of a lot of the advice you'll hear on his show on an ongoing basis if you watch regularly. His strong points are that he's no-nonsense in cutting to the bottom line, and debunking commonly-held `myths' of personal finance. If you're a loyal, diligent watcher of the show, though, this book may be redundant if you've been paying close attention, but for new initiates, it's an informative, if limited-in-scope, read that might provide a jumping off point for further reading. If you're totally behind the 8-ball financially, though, by all means get and read the book, because you've got to start somewhere, but if you've got your act together, and are facing more-advanced issues (such as trusts, estate planning, elder care issues, etc), then really you'd be better off reading Orman's books, which are more substantial and confront the more esoteric/complicated issues of personal finance. I've noticed from watching both, that Ramsey seems to specialize in getting people `back to zero and then on the right path' when they've really dug themselves into a hole (i.e. to get out of debt in the first place) - his advice is basically pretty on-the-mark and keeps it simple (if you're not averse to Bible verses sprinkled in there). I am an accountant, and while I can't say I agree with everything he says (he seems a little TOO wrapped up in the `pay cash for everything' mindset, to the point where I think he's not being realistic about effective ways to use credit in today's world, but I also think his recommendation of a 6-month emergency fund is not enough, given today's rotten economy - you really need 9 mos to a year), the bulk of the info he provides is pretty good (such as the "Debt Snowball" method of attacking your debt), if you can do the most important thing in following it: you need to impose self-discipline to break bad-spending habits. His methods require almost crash-financial-diet measures (such as taking on extra jobs, ceasing any and all unnecessary spending to the point of maybe not having much fun, selling your possessions, etc.), but if you can stick to it, it will probably yield results. There are some simple-to-use worksheets in the book, which you can copy and fill out, to start getting the lay of your finances and create a plan to address problems.

I DO have to say, though, that there were at least two ideas in the book that I heartily disagree with, to the point where I think they're maybe outright bad advice: 1) he says that if you're paying down your debt, you should stop contributing to your 401k plan altogether, even if you're being matched 100% up to a certain amount, in the interest of the psychology of paying the debt - this is questionable advice, because the match is free money that probably works out to an earnings rate far in excess of your interest rates on your debt - on the other hand, if you have oppressive debt, you might be better off paying the debt off, so you need to work the math in `real dollars' on that before you leap; and 2) on pgs. 39-40, he basically dismisses the `worth' of a good FICO score (saying it's an "I Love Debt Score"), and says that ideally you should have NO score - that sounds good on paper, but it's simply not workable in real life, as no bank will loan you money without one, for any purpose - and his entire philosophy is predicated on paying cash for everything, which is much easier said than done (unless you get a 15 year mortgage, which he recommends, but surprise - you'll need a high FICO AND down payment for that). Contrary to what he'd have you believe, it IS possible to have a very high FICO without incurring tons of debt. The FICO stance is where Ramsey and Orman diverge markedly (she preaches the virtues of having a high score, earned by prudent use of credit). And i won't even get into the fact that many prospective employers today WILL check your credit score before offering you a job, and jobs aren't easy to get nowadays in this economy. Nuff said.....

So, in my opinion: if you're REALLY in a hole financially and need to right the ship, then get one of Ramsey's books (this one is a good start); if you've got your act together, and have succeeded in getting out of dire financial straits, check out Suze Orman's books.
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on February 12, 2008
Dave Ramsey is not interested in your excuses. His Total Money Makeover begins with planting the responsibility squarely on your own shoulders for rescuing yourself from the debt addiction most Americans carry. He doesn't ever try to make it sound easier than it is, but the book does outline in wonderful detail the steps to go from paycheck to paycheck worry over bills to saving and retiring without financial worries. As Ramsey puts it "If you'll live like no one else today, you can live like no one else tomorrow". The book is so compelling I read it in a day, something rare for me. You will go from building an emergency fund to paying your debts, increasing your emergency fund, paying for new acquisitions with cash, establishing savings, investing, building college funds and finally paying off your home and retirement. Dave Ramsey has truly thought of it all. As he points out, there are a whole lot of broke financial experts, he himself has been a self made millionaire twice. His words will work if you follow them.
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on November 30, 2013
Dave Ramsey has created a successful career out of telling people what to do with their money. I’ve listened to his radio show several times, and I can see why he is so popular. He has a no-nonsense demeanor, and his moral universe seems to have few or no gray areas. You’re either right or wrong, smart or dumb. His personality is perfect for getting people motivated to get out of debt and build wealth. But the ultimate goal for Ramsey is not just to build wealth; it is to become generous and leave a legacy to one’s family and community.

The Total Money Makeover: Classic Edition is the fourth edition of Dave Ramsey’s most well-known book; the most recent update before this one was 2009. There are a few minor differences between this edition and the previous one, but they are largely the same. In it, Ramsey takes readers through his baby steps for getting out of debt and building wealth:

1. Save $1,000 fast
2. Pay off your debts in order from least to greatest (the “Debt Snowball”)
3. Finish an emergency fund of 3–6 months of expenses
4. Maximize your retirement investing (15% of household income)
5. Fund your kids’ college education
6. Pay off your home mortgage
7. Build wealth and give

Popular as he is, Ramsey has received criticism from various quarters. This criticism ranges from his specific financial advice to the way he talks about poor people. While I think Ramsey could certainly be more nuanced than he is, I think the criticism of the latter misunderstands who Ramsey’s audience is and what he is trying to do. Ramsey is a motivator. He wants to get people fired up about getting out of debt. His comments about being poor are not intended to be nuanced, taking into account every reason why people might be poor. I think, for example, that he is wrong to generalize that poverty due to oppression is not a first-world problem.

In his moral universe, poverty is something to be escaped. When he talks about poor people, he is not talking about the poor in spirit who will inherit the earth. He is not primarily talking about people who are poor because they are oppressed by people with more power than them. He is talking about the kind of poor people—people who waste money on frivolous spending and servicing debt—that his primary audience doesn’t want to be anymore. His advice to that demographic has helped many of them escape debt and build wealth, and he is (rightly, I think) beloved by them. Ramsey is at his best when he is counseling people to resist a culture of overconsumption. He is at his worst when he makes generalizations about the causes of poverty—as are we all.

Note: Thanks to Thomas Nelson for providing a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
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on August 29, 2003
If you're thinking about passing on this latest book from financial guru Dave Ramsey because you've already read his first New York Times bestseller Financial Peace, think again. Financial Peace is "what to do." Total Money Makeover is a step-by-step, nuts and bolts "how to do" kind of book. Dave takes the seven key principles of a healthy financial plan from Financial Peave and gives them a shot of adrenaline and a ton of muscle! He walks with you through each of the seven "baby steps" and shows you exactly how to accomplish each one. Along the way Dave shares dozens of stories from people who are working on or have completed their own Total Money Makeover. The result is a book that could replace all others on personal finance. Reader beware: If you're looking for the next "get rich quick" book from a guy with a calculator and no experience, this is not the book for you. But if you want an uplifting and encouraging book that will show you exactly how to build true wealth and will give you loads of stories from people who have done just that, pick this book up today! Dave knocks it out of the park with Total Money Makeover, and your personal finances could be doing the same very soon.
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on June 15, 2014
I wish every American would read this book and change their lives! Husband and I became debt free at age23 and 24 after attacking debt for a year. We sold over priced cars for modest budget friendly cars, budgeted with cash envelopes and changed our lives. This book is a must have If you want to suceed with money. Slams sales pitches to the ground and gives you all the info on how to be smart with money and take control so you don't have to be broke anymore. dave is right "debt is dumb cash is king! driving expensive cars is nice if you can afford it, and no America making payments on stuff is not "affording it", ITs called being in debt!!
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on September 2, 2005
I discovered this book last year and was so impressed with the material within that I have given it as present and loaned audio copies to many people. I have read many good financial books, but this book presents the basic principles of how to handle your money more clearly than any other I have read. This book contains simple concepts. However, they are concepts that very few people are ever taught and even fewer actually practice. Dave Ramsey lays down a concrete plan to get people out of debt and into good financial position. If you follow it, you will succeed.

If you are in debt and want out, get this book. It is also helpful for people without a lot of debt - my husband and I only had mortgage debt when we read the book, but we have greatly increased our retirement and college savings as a result of reading it, and are now focused on paying off our house early.

Finally, many people in poor financial shape are afraid to read this book - afraid it will depress them. However, Dave is not condemning (he's been there), but instead is very engaging and motivational as he explains that it IS possible for you to get out of even the biggest financial messes. Great book!
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on August 15, 2005
Finally, a book that speaks to everyone, from those who are complete financial disasters to those who pay their bills on time, but overpend and need to reduce their debt load. Too many books about debt focus only on paying your bills on time and reducing your interest rates, while ignoring the people who have too much debt and are too smart about it, never paying a late fee and keeping it all at low interest.

I have never heard Ramsey's radio show, but this book was a huge wake-up call for me. It is motivational and it will get you pumped to get intense about reducing your debt load and living only with the cash you have today. The strategies are excellent, the advice is solid, and people have turned their lives around under Ramsey's guidance. There are a lot of testimonials in this book, perhaps a few too many, but I enjoyed seeing the success stories and seeing the different kinds of people who turned to Ramsey's method.

This book has wide appeal and everyone should check it out once to give their finances a good sanity check.
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on September 21, 2005
I have been listening to the Dave Ramsey show on talk radio for about three months and was sooo impressed I bought this book. Dave has a great way about putting things into perspective for those of us who are in denial about our financial situation. His "baby steps" are simplistic and the debt snowball plan is a must for anyone trying to swim out of the dark hole of credit card debt. The book contains practical information, is easy to read and contains many testimonials and examples of other individuals in situations just like your own. Reading this book has literally been a life changing experience for my family. Thanks Dave! My recommendation...if you have debt, get this book!
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