- Series: The Total Money Makeover A Proven Plan For Financial Fitness
- Hardcover: 259 pages
- Publisher: Thomas Nelson Inc; 3 edition (December 29, 2009)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 159555078X
- ISBN-13: 978-1595550781
- Product Dimensions: 7.2 x 0.8 x 9.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 5,869 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #9,686 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Total Money Makeover: A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness Hardcover – December 29, 2009
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The "makeover" is a set of 7 baby steps, but before the steps comes the cornerstone of the whole program: a written budget and a cash envelope system. The book covers why you need a written budget, and boy, it was true for us. Sure, I had a mental idea of what our bills were. But writing everything out let me see ALL the little things I tend to forget about, and how quickly they add up. The book helped us make a "zero based" budget, meaning we earmarked every dollar coming in for a specific purpose (rent, groceries, gasoline, etc.) Then comes the cash envelope system, which helped us make an immediate 180-degree turnaround on our spending. The book covers why cash is better than plastic (debit as well as credit), as well as how to create cash envelopes for each spending category and stuff them with the budgeted amounts. No more accidental overspending!
The rest of the book goes over the baby steps, a systematic, do-these-in-order money tasks to kill debt and build wealth. Each step's chapter also includes personal success stories. Honestly, you can learn the steps without this book either from the Dave Ramsey website, or even better, from watching the metric TON of YouTube videos on his channel. He does a daily show where people call in with money problems, and he uses this method to solve them. That practical, real-world advice has taught me a lot about this system. But I like having this book handy on my Kindle as a reference, plus the info given about each individual step goes more in-depth than the website.
To sum up, if you own Financial Peace University, Dave's other money books, or are a die-hard YouTube viewer, there's likely nothing new here. But if you're new to the system or want a written reference to go along with his videos, this might well be the one to get in order to cover the basics. I was desperate and at wit's end, terrified of the retirement future staring me in the fact in the next decade or so. Now, I can see a bright financial future ahead, and we have a plan. I can't say enough about this program!
1. Save $1000
Pretty straight forward. You need a bumper for the small emergencies. Shit happens.
2. Debt Snowball
The debt snowball approach is something quite valuable that took reading about in this book to fully grasp and get behind. It’s quite simple in its brilliance actually. You make a list of your debts from smallest to biggest (excluding mortgage) and focus all of your financial effort on one debt at a time (making only the minimum payment on all others), working your way down. Once you cross one off, you divert all the money you were paying on that debt to the next, with the payment size growing at each step. We only had 2 debts (1 car loan and the consolidated student loans) so it wasn’t too complicated. Still, it was helpful. I had been focusing on building the savings but diverted my attention and resources to stamping out the car loan instead. I can see how this technique could be life-saving for people who are overwhelmed with debtors.
A main tenet of his book is that we can and should all be debt-free. There is a lot that resonates with me about living a debt-free life and this is a message I hope more people hear and get inspired by. Minimalism and debt-free are very good friends. Though I’m not dogmatic or militant about it. There are times when debt has been advantageous in my life but we don’t take it lightly, only entering into it consciously, with eyes wide open and a clear plan.
3. 3-6 Months Expenses in Savings
Building up and maintaining a savings of 3-6 months expenses is the next focus only after all debts are paid. Companies go under. Employees get laid off. Freelance work experiences a drought. People get sick. Life happens. You need an emergency fund to get you through the hard times. In today’s professional climate, this is even more essential than in the past because the old working model of clocking in at 20 and retiring from the same company at 55 is dead. (I recently read The End of Jobs, which I recommend if you want to read more about that.) 3 years is actually the sweet spot in terms of job satisfaction and performance for being at a company. If you’re changing jobs every few years, the transitions can be sticky. You need a buffer.
4. 15% to Retirement (401K, ROTHIRA, Mutual Funds Investing)
There is one line he hammers throughout the entire book over and over again: “If you will live like no one else, later you can live like no one else.” He means that if you live a shitty life in your prime, you might enjoy a nice life when you are old and retired. Most of his examples throughout the book glorify families in which the parents work 3 jobs and rarely see their kids but by golly, they might have a nice savings if they make it to old age running themselves ragged. This is the heart of his philosophy and it’s one I completely disagree with. My philosophy is definitely more in line with Tim Ferris in that regard who urges you not to sacrifice your present for a future that may never come in the 4-hour work week (Ramsey actually even throws shade at Tim’s approach in this book). Particularly when there are children involved. My kids would rather have us present and be happy, healthy, rested, and homeschooling with a student loan floating out there than have us be absent working 3 jobs while they are in school and daycare with no student loan. These years are so important and while being debt free and financially healthy is a priority (we don’t use credit, we snowball, we budget, we save, we contribute to retirement), it is not the priority.
5. College Fund (ESA funded in growth stock mutual funds)
I appreciate that he does include a bit about college not being a golden ticket. If you want to read more about our approach to college for our 3 kids, check out Sage Homeschooling: Wild and Free.
6. Pay off Mortgage
This is where I hop off the Dave Ramsey train entirely. I know someone who had 3 houses paid off and then the real estate market crashed and they lost everything. I don’t plan to stay in the same house my entire life and I am happy to purchase a property with a mortgage, fix it up with a tight budget and lots of elbow grease, and sell it several years later when we are ready to move on to a new adventure (freedom of mobility). Also, the nation’s average income ($50K) paired with the cost of housing in a major city ($710K in Seattle), don’t line up for buying a house all cash. Again, his mindset around this is painfully outdated. The person he is talking to gets hired by Blockbuster out of college, works there 35 years, then retires and dies in their rocking chair on the porch. Norman Rockwell called and he wants his financial advice back. That is just not the world we live in anymore.
7. Build Wealth (invest)
He claims the only way to get rich is to invest in the stock market.
Overall, it’s a book worth reading. The first 3 steps alone should be knowledge every teenager launches knowing. The philosophy is not my jam and I could certainly do without the patriarchal overtones and bible verses, but a quick and easy read that adds value nonetheless.
I was hoping for some budgeting inspiration but found none in this book. I’m presently trying You Need a Budget. We’ll see . . .
The baby steps are pretty straightforward:
Baby Step 1 – $1,000 to start an Emergency Fund - you'll find this way easier than you expect to.
Baby Step 2 – Pay off all debt using the Debt Snowball - this takes a LOT of patience, but you can do it.
Baby Step 3 – 3 to 6 months of expenses in savings
Baby Step 4 – Invest 15% of household income into Roth IRAs and pre-tax retirement
Baby Step 5 – College funding for children
Baby Step 6 – Pay off home early
Baby Step 7 – Build wealth and give
The rules are simple:
1) Live and breathe by your budget.
2) Attack your debt with a vengeance. Think about how your debt is holding you back and get mad at your debt.
3) Don't stray from the path.
4) As Dave says, "Live like no one else so you can live (and give) like no one else."
I listen to the podcast as well and it helps keep me thinking forward and remembering why I started my journey. Dave Ramsey's work can be life-changing, but you have to follow it to the letter. Don't try to do your own thing. That said, know that the rules are available widely online, and Ramsey didn't create this philosophy, he just made it easier to understand than anyone had in the past.