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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Dave Ramsey

Okay, I'm going to have to take a position here - and it's not going to be a popular one. Dave Ramsey, the Christian evangelist for financial accountability and fiscal responsibility has blown it - in my humble opinion.

Twice in the past week I've been driving down the road listening to Dave Ramsey's show on talk radio. Listeners are calling in with questions about their financial affairs. And Dave is discussing and giving answers and opinions to those questions. Often it's in the form of advice.

Now I don't know if you are familiar with who Dave Ramsey is. He runs a vast ministry (i.e., financial empire) where he sells books, kits, programs, courses, and other tools to help people get their financial house in order. One of the most popular is called "Financial Peace University." It's a program that's offered in churches all over the country.

Now Dave is astute financially, and already had his fiscal house in order. I'm pretty sure that the commercialization of his own stewardship has made him a wealthy man. Go Dave. And most of his advice is solid, grounded in Biblical principles. But we run into trouble when we see that recently Dave Ramsey seems to have picked up the modern-day mantra being embraced ... and even preached in our country. I'm talking about debts.

The first time it happened last week, this guy called into Dave's show and said he was buying a house, and putting about $9,000 down. He was ready to close, when the mortgage company notified him that they'd found an outstanding judgment against him --- for an unpaid bill. He wanted to know what he could do (so he could still get his house). Dave asked him if he had any money, and how much. The man said that in addition to the down payment on his house, he had about $13,000.

So Dave Ramsey proceeds to coach the caller on how to deal with the creditor. He first said to contact them directly, and don't tell them that you have a home purchase pending. (You don't want to let them know how much you need to settle this debt.) Dave told the caller to be sure and "have an attitude" with them. He coached the caller to offer them "maybe 50% of what you owe them," as a settlement in full. But Dave said to tell them that offer "would only be good for 72 hours ... and then it would drop to 40%." Finally, Dave told the caller to tell the creditor that if they didn't except that, he (the debtor) would just "fade away and good luck to you in finding me."

Really, Dave? Is this how Jesus would handle an outstanding judgment for an unpaid debt? Was it not material to ask the guy how much of the debt he might be able to repay? Does the fact that the guy owes all of the debt, 100% of it (plus interest and collection costs), not matter here?

Just a few days later, I'm again listening to Dave Ramsey's show on talk radio. And he does it again. The caller says his wife is bipolar and won't deal with her creditors. The guy has good credit himself and no debts. He wants his wife to deal with her bills --- or let him deal with it. He says the creditors will call, but they won't talk to him because he's not signed on the debts with his wife. He's asking Dave what he can do (to get control of hi wife's debts so he can deal with them.)

Dave totally misses the opportunity that the guy has ... to just pay his wife's debts. You don't need the cooperation of your wife's creditors to mail them a check. You can simply look at the last statement they've sent and mail that amount in. Dave Ramsey never suggests this to the caller. Moreover, in talking to the guy, Dave says that "bipolar people always have financial problems." And he refers to the creditors who are calling the deadbeat wife as "turkeys who behave badly," and says that's why you can't blame the wife for not wanting to talk to them.

Really, Dave? The creditors who are being screwed by the wife's irresponsibility are the turkeys here? You think so? And we make no mention of the wife's responsibilities in answering this caller? Does the fact that she owes the money not matter? Does the fact that the husband calling into your show wanting to pay these debts not matter?

So I made a call to the Dave Ramsey show myself. Of course after pressing a couple option buttons you get a recorded message that says something like, "... over 3 million listeners call us and we can't take all the questions. So leave your question at the sound of the tone and maybe we'll deal with it on the air." And I do.

What question did I leave for Dave Ramsey, the Christian financial guru who is getting rich selling his Biblical principles for financial management to America? After referencing these two callers to his show, I asked, "Dave, when did shirking your responsibilities and screwing your creditors become a Christian virtue?"

Let's see if Mr. Ramsey will answer me on his show.

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