“I don’t know what we’re yelling about!” I always think back to Brick Tamland (Steve Carell) in Anchorman, but in many cases people are shouting at the top of their lungs the famous Dave Ramsey phrase “I’m debt freeeee.”
A new article in Money magazine talks about how long-time money guru Dave Ramsey is building an almost cult-like following among millennials. For decades, Ramsey has used his platform as radio show host, author and speaker to help countless people eliminate debt. At the core of his advice are his seven baby steps and the “debt snowball.”
There’s been recent discussion surrounding the stardom of Ramsey, Suze Orman and others, who have become financial celebrities by offering hard-nosed, unapologetic advice. Many people have come forward with their success stories, attributed to following the strict rules (sell so much stuff the kids think they’re next) and seemingly silly tips (skip the Starbucks or else sacrifice $1 million).
But is this type of one-size-fits-all advice good for you?
It is undeniable that the financial scripture Ramsey preaches has had a tremendous impact on many of his loyal listeners. However, not everyone should blindly follow such broad-based advice like only have $1,000 in an emergency fund, don’t contribute to your 401(k) until your debts are paid, or expect 12% return on investments. (Each of these could elicit a separate article as a rebuttal.) Quite frankly, some of this stuff is more of the click-bait or entertainment variety.
The thing about financial planning is that it is not a one-size-fits-all arena. More often than not, things aren’t black and white. Sound advice can come in many forms, and recommendations can and often do vary depending on one’s particular situation. This includes the tangible things like account balance and income as well as the intangible such as risk appetite and feelings toward debt.
I wholeheartedly agree that one is better off without debt than with debt, because it is true that debt does limit you and can come to define you. But I can’t say that you should sacrifice saving for your retirement and give up years of investment compounding potential just to eliminate a loan sooner. Maybe, maybe not…there’s more to it than that.
Be that as it may, where Ramsey, Orman and others do deserve much praise is in their insistence on pushing people to make decisions that will give themselves a better chance at financial success. Decisions that can be as tough as they are zany, they force people out of their comfort zone and force change.
It all gets back to having a plan. It’s just that: a road map that allows for updates along the way. Because along your journey from financial distress to financial success, there are many obstacles and challenges. There are numerous factors that come in to play like income, expenses, life events, debts, behavior, and so much more.
The important thing is to first identify your goals, then set specific and measurable actions you will take to achieve those goals, then monitor your progress and make changes along the way.
It is hard work, but if you do that then one day you will be screaming, “Now I know what we’re yelling about….financial freedom!”