As I said the other day, last weekend I read The Total Money Makeover: A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness by financial guru Dave Ramsey. Two days ago I posted three things I like about Dave Ramsey. Today, three things I DON’T like about Dave Ramsey:
Qualification: Read my first post if you haven’t…because I do like quite a bit of Ramsey’s approach. And, the things I like or don’t like are not about Dave Ramsey as a person. I know nothing about him as a person, just the ideas as presented in the book I read and his website.
(1) Ramsey sees giving and generosity as something to do from a position of SECURITY rather than a posture of SUBMISSION. Problem is, most people never feel secure and satisfied with their finances…meaning most people will never be generous in their giving. I appreciate that Ramsey sees giving as one of the three things to do once you have wealth (along with fun and earning more money), but Jesus’ call to total discipleship and submission in the area of finances is not just directed at people who have an emergency savings account and an investment portfolio. To “submit to God” in finances is to recognize that “the earth is the Lord’s and everything in it,” making giving and generosity a much higher priority.
Waiting to be generous until you feel like you have “enough” will leave a hungry world unfed, kids unclothed, villages thirsty, diseases uncured, and the waiting wealthy enslaved to their investment accounts.
(2) Ramsey understands money and finances to be almost exclusively personal and private matters. Yes, you must work with your spouse. Yes, you can talk to an investment team…but that’s about it, from what I gathered. In the last post, I said that budgeting financially has been one of the best practices that we’ve done in our marriage. The second best thing we’ve done is to work through our budget and finances in community and relationship. We have a group of people who we practice “open finances” with. They know what kind of money we have where, what we receive as income, what we are doing with it, etc. They don’t have power over how we spend our money or access to our bank account, but we seek their guidance, input, and wisdom in big and small decisions we make about how best to be people of integrity and character with our money.
It’s okay for some things to be private, but I am not convinced that finances are one of them.
(3) He operates uncritically from a first world/capitalistic perspective seeing money as everyone’s main means to happiness and security. This may rub some people the wrong way, but I think Ramsey’s financial perspective could be helped by a more global perspective. He’s thoroughly entrenched in American capitalism. I’m not saying America or capitalism is the devil (I can save that for another post), but I do think it’s important to realize the (a) uniqueness of the American situation and (b) the unfortunate realities of the American situation. Ramsey knows America is not perfect – he takes frequent shots at the government’s inability to do much of anything – but he doesn’t seem to take the same critical eye towards the American capitalistic system. There’s been lots of debate, in Christian circles and otherwise, about the place of wealth and affluence (see Schneider’s The Good of Affluence for a provocative theological perspective on wealth, capitalism, etc.) and…
I just wish that there was a bit more willingness to recognize that the world we live in is, possibly, one in which our highest priority (or our only priority) should NOT (or NEED not) be ourselves, our retirement, and our kid’s education.
To be clear, I don’t hate Dave Ramsey or think that his principles are terrible. Like I said earlier, I agree with a lot of his assumptions and conclusions. I do think there is some push back needed, though, particularly on the areas listed above particularly as churches across the country sign everyone and their brother up for a Financial Peace seminar without thinking about modifications that might be necessary to some of Ramsey’s financial philosophy.
Push back, though, and let me know what you really think.