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best selling author
on battling his own debt crisis and
lessons about money from the Bible
~ By John
Kapetaneas and Pavni Mittal - ABC News ~
pantheon of financial gurus, Dave Ramsey holds a
Known for his pull-no-punches, sock-you-in-the-mouth take on finances,
Ramsey is one of the most listened-to talk radio hosts
in America with 13 million listeners weekly -- trailing
only Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity.
He doles out his brand of financial discipline to people desperately in
need over 600 radio stations across the country. His
daily dose of tough love has also racked up more than
100 million views on his YouTube channel.
"Debt's not the problem, it's the symptom," the host
from Antioch, Tennessee, told "Nightline." "Debt
is the result of being disorganized, immature, buying
things I can't afford to impress people I don't really
In a year that has seen historic levels of household
debt in the country -- the average American has nearly
$30,000 in student loan debt according to the Federal
Reserve Bank of New York Consumer Credit Panel and over
$6,000 in credit card debt according to Experian's State
of Credit study -- Ramsey is an anti-debt crusader who
uses his platform to help Americans become debt-free by
any means necessary.
He said that currently, the American economy has no overarching theme.
"There are pockets that are doing worse. There are pockets that are
having the best years of their lives. There's pockets
that are taking control of their own destiny for the
first time ever," he said.
There's a lot of good happening, Ramsey said, but, he said, "All of us,
particularly those of us in the media, we're
experiencing and watching and walking in this toxicity
that's out there, too."
"There's this tremendous hatred and visceral stuff that's going on that's
not causing people to win and it's affecting their
money," he continued. "That sounds very philosophical,
not economic, but it affects the economics."
In today's polarizing political and cultural climate,
Ramsey isn't known for coddling his listeners.
"If you call me up and say, 'Well, I need to do this dumb thing, I
need to do this dumb thing,' I'm like, 'No, do this
instead, not do this dumb thing,'" he said. "I'm going
to increase the heat, but it's not for the entertainment
value, it's for the good of that person. Because if I
don't get through to them, they're going to do that dumb
thing. It's going to hurt them."
Sometimes, he makes an exception.
"I had a lady call me yesterday, her husband had just passed away. I'm
certainly not drill instructor with her. I'm going to be
right there with her and walk with this lady. Her
heart's broken. I just say, 'Hey, here's what we're
going to do with money for a little while. Nothing. You
need to just cry a little. It's okay,'" he said.
But when it comes to doling out his thoughts on the
government's finances, he doesn't hold back.
Ramsey, an Evangelical Christian, said he supports some of Trump's
"I support his policies, some of them. But as a person of faith, I can't
support his behaviors or sometimes his attitudes," he
said. "The tax law that passed, if you can just back
away from all the Trump part of it and just say, 'Look
at what has occurred,' as a small business person, I'm
able to hire a lot more people. I'm able to do a lot
more things to help people, because I'm not being taxed
He added that he doesn't spend time on "merging those two worlds."
"I don't care who you are. I don't care what your religion is, I don't
care what your politics are, I don't care what your
orientation is, I don't care what your race is. I'm
going to help you. That's who I'm for," he said.'
Battling his own debt crisis
One of the first people that Ramsey helped was himself.
Forced to declare bankruptcy after losing most of their money in real
estate, Ramsey and his wife hit rock bottom in the
"I was stupid. I borrowed money out my ears, man, and out my eyeballs and
everything else. We were so far in debt we couldn't
breathe. Ruined our lives and it made our lives," he
But Ramsey battled back.
And after lecturing about financial responsibility at
his local church, he tried his hand at giving financial
advice at a local radio station. His style wasn't
rooted in complicated financial equations or investment
strategies but simple, easy to understand principles
applied with ruthless execution.
"You go through something like that you have some 'no matter what'
moments where you say, 'I used to do that, but no matter
what, I'm never doing that again, it hurts. No matter
what, I'm putting myself or my family in this position
again,'" he said.
He added, "Every time I come up to the edge of borrowing money, or
lowering our level of generosity, or not living on a
plan... Those are all 'no matter what's' for us. Some
people talk about it like it's a negotiable principle or
something. When you've been through what we've been
through, it's not negotiable anymore."
His best-selling book, "The Total Money Makeover," breaks down his
philosophy into easy-to-learn "Baby Steps," as he calls
(It's currently #4 on the ECPA Christian
Booksellers Top 25 list while it's accompanying
"The Total Money Makeover Workbook," is #19.)
For instance, "Baby Step 1" is save $1,000 cash for emergencies while
"Baby Step 4" is to invest 15 percent of your income in
When asked about merging his faith with finance, Ramsey explained, "The
Bible talks about money a lot. Even if you're not a
Christian, what the Bible says about money is mostly
common sense. It's live on less than you make, save
An expanding family business
Ramsey's anti-debt empire, in suburban Nashville, is
expanding. Scattered over five buildings, he has a staff
of 750 people, which he said he hopes to increase to
around 800 by the end of the year.
Business, he said, was "very good."
walls at his headquarters are full of photos of him with
a diverse group of, what he calls, "Ramsey
"They're the brands out front. So Anthony's [O'Neal] in the youth
and millennial space. Christy [Wright] has a
number one bestseller called 'Business Boutique:
Equipping Women to Make Money Doing What They Love.'
She's in the women in leadership and business space.
[Ken] Coleman has a show on XM on careers, a
brilliant young guy," he explained.
The heir apparent to his vast empire is none other than
his daughter, Rachel Cruze.
"It is a family business," Cruze told "Nightline." "Thankfully
we're all loving it. And really called to each of our
positions. So I get to travel and speak and do my
YouTube show all while helping people with money. So
carrying on the legacy of dad's message but in my own
She described her style as "I'm your friend, I will walk beside you," as
compared to her father who she said was "more like
everyone's fun loving uncle, but will hit you with the
truth if you need the truth."
While the walls of his office are littered with success stories, some in
the financial spheres have criticized Ramsey for setting
unrealistic expectations for investing and debt
"I am one of those guys, if you asked my critics, that I ripped off a
bunch of poor people [by] selling them books. Those poor
people who got out of debt don't think I ripped them
off. We aren't ashamed of succeeding by helping," he
His message of helping people clicked with Julia Huellemeier and
her husband, Robbie Huellemeier.
After graduating college and graduate school and then buying their first
house, the couple found themselves swimming in debt of
Then, Julia Huellemeier stumbled across a book with Dave Ramsey's face on
"We actually found it at a yard sale for a dollar so we picked it up and
read it very quickly. Then we paid off all of the
student loan and the car within the first couple of
years," Julia Huellemeier told "Nightline."
The couple managed to pay off their home mortgage within five years - a
feat they credit Ramsey with.
"That was probably the best dollar I've ever spent," she said.
The couple recently went to Ramsey's headquarters to participate in "A
Debt-Free Scream," a tradition involving newly debt-free
people from across the country to visit the office and
shout their joy at their financial guru.
"One of the things we put on the wall around here, if you help enough
people, you don't have to worry about money," said
Ramsey. "So, the secret to our success is that we've
helped a bunch of people."
~ portions from
"The Money Answer Book"
The Money Answer Book offers
quick answers to more than 100 of your everyday financial
questions. Written in a Q & A format, these questions are the
most frequently asked questions on the Dave Ramsey Show. Topics
include budgeting, retirement planning, college savings,
spending, charitable giving, credit cards, debt, and many other
important concerns. This is a quick and easy reference when you
don't have time to do a lot of research. Paperback.
Want to get out of debt and stay out?
Financial Peace Revisited
gives you the tools to understand why you are in debt, create a
budget you can stick to, set goals you can achieve, and make things
right for you and your family emotionally, spiritually, and
financially, for good. Updated version of the bestseller Financial
Peace includes new chapters on marriage, singles, kids, and
Hear his live call in
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"The Total Money Makeover: Classic Edition: A Proven Plan
for Financial Fitness"
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"The Total Money Makeover Workbook,
The Essential Companion
for Applying the
this updated workbook, Dave Ramsey combines recent statistics
about debt, credit cards, bankruptcy, and wealth with a
straightforward game plan for completely making over your money
habits. The exercises will change your spending and saving
habits so that your mind and your money are working to make your
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your retirement investing, Prepare for college funding, Pay off
your home mortgage, Build wealth!
Dave Ramsey &
Raising The Next Generation
To Win With
and his daughter Rachel Cruze teach parents how to
raise money-smart kids in a debt-filled world in their brand new
Smart Kids. Starting with the basics like working,
spending, saving, and giving, and moving into more challenging
issues like avoiding debt for life, paying cash for college, and
battling discontentment, Dave and Rachel present a no-nonsense,
common-sense approach for changing your family tree.
Conference Live Event Experience Video
Take a front-row seat for the
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- right in the comfort of your own home!
The Ramsey SMART Conference
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These power-packed talks by Dave Ramsey, Henry Cloud, Les
Parrott, Meg Meeker, Chris Hogan, Christy Wright, and Anthony
O'Neal challenge listeners to break away from "normal" and
find a deeper purpose for your life. The SMART DVD set includes:
Two Smart Conference
Three DVDs with 4.5 hours of talks recorded at recent
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One copy of Dave Ramsey's personal story on CD (30 minutes) One
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"Dave Ramsey's Complete Guide to Money: The
Handook of Financial Peace University"
Covering everything on how to budget, save, dump debt, and
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