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Review of Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University

Dave Ramsey claims to teach people how to manage finances, get out of debt, save money, and make good investments. He is the author of a number of books on personal finances and has a syndicated prime-time radio show in which callers describe their financial situations and get free advice. The first website linked above is the home page of what is surely becoming an empire. I’ve tried just one little fiefdom in the Dave Ramsey financial advice empire: Financial Peace University (FPU).

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It’s a 13-week course, complete with textbooks, homework, and class sessions. The class meets one night a week for two hours and teaches the basics of money management. FPU’s main claim is regarding the past success of its 300,000+ students:

On average these families have paid off over $5,300 in debt and saved $2,700 during this 91-day program!

I was skeptical. But my money management skills are those of a 12-yr-old (ooh, something shiny! Me buy now!) and I have the debt and saving rate to prove it. In short, I had little to lose. So if I could just meet the advertised averages of savings and debt reduction, that would help a lot. And I just might learn something. So I paid my $90 and enrolled in what is certainly the cheesiest-sounding university I have ever attended. The first class was last night (check back later for pictures of the materials and my first impressions). I’ll keep you posted.

Update 1 | Update 2

104 thoughts on “Review of Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University”

  1. Liz, FPU is more of a behavioral modification course than a financial course. You’ll get out of it what you put into it..and what you are willing to change about yourself. You aren’t forced to do anything.

  2. Joe,
    We don’t want to buy anything else…we were not in debt until about 3 years ago. When we financed the truck and the house my husband and I were making good money. We had over $20,000 in saving at all times and money was not an issue. With my loosing my job, at the same time just had a baby, and economy we fell fast and it just kept on going down hill. We had to use saving just to pay our bills, keep our home, and our truck. I hope that is taken into concideration with FPU.


  3. MM,

    Thanks for that…I know it is possible I just need to learn how and Financial Peace seems to be the way. I just finished school to become a teacher, but I have yet to pass the test. I am trying to budget the $120.00 it takes to take the test again. I missed it the first time by 2 points…so I could have been hired on this year, but I guess that was not God’s will. I am praying that I can take it in Feb. and pass…there are a few schools that want to hire me for the Fall of 2009, but I have to pass that test first. Passing and getting hired will be the difference of me bring in $1200 a to bring in about $3000 a month (after taxes, childcare, and monthly payment for school). Thanks for the support! Liz

  4. Liz, I wouldn’t sell off your truck unless you had to… getting out of debt is not about selling everything you own and starting over, it’s about changing the way you use money.

    When you were ‘young and stupid’ money likely meant different things to you – and you used it differently due to that meaning.

    You should have a reliable vehicle, and a safe home… your emergency fund (once you build it) will be for those emergencies that come up… everything else you budget for. That may mean you ‘accrue’ things during the year for when you need the money – like holiday gifs or clothing or ‘non-monthly’ expenses.

    All that being said, and regardless of what anyone says, your ability to EARN will always exceed your ability to save. Once you reel in your expenses seek out ways to increase your earnings… better job, more education (to get a better job).

    It’s not a quick fix, it will likely take YEARS to dig out of the decisions you made in a moment – but you will do it if you and your family stay focused and have the desire to do it.

    Sacrificing a few years for a better life for yourself and your family is worth it… it’s not fun, but it beats living in bondage to your creditors and not being able to see a realistic retirement.


  5. Dan_Fan
    It not that I am worried about having to get rid of our truck. It is that our truck is the mode of transportation we have. I resently lost my job and started substitute teaching, because it fit better in our family life. I am happy I lost that ohter job it was in retail and the hours with having a child were not working. Nobody would watch our child during my night shifts and odd hours during the day. We are just scraping by with being able to pay our house payment and car. I just thought that everybody in the program had to sell off everything they own. My husband and I will have the truck paid off in 2 more years. We want to take the course to help us budget better and if it comes down to it we will sell off whatever we have to if it make financial since. Our major debt issues are what we did in our past when we were young and stupid and we have just left all those bill alone. We want to be able to clear all that debt to improve our credit.

  6. As Mike says, nothing that Ramsey says is new or unique. What I think he is great at is motivating people to believe they can win with money. He is an awesome motivational speaker. He also says things in a way that make them seem simple (which they often are). FPU is entertaining and enjoyable. It’s also an accountability thing….it’s 13 weeks of focusing on something on hoping that those 13 weeks are enough to change your behavior moving forward. The results are often fantastic for the people doing it. Do you need FPU to do this? No. Mike said he changed his behaviors, but it took him years to do so. FPU is often that “I’ve had it” moment for people. I will admit to being a bit biased. I’ve coordinated FPU 4 times. I’ve seen remarkable, life changing results. And I’ve seen people that it didn’t help a bit. It’s not a magic cure. It’s not even a financial course. It’s a behavioral modification course. Just today, I received an email from someone that went through it back in the fall of 07. Here is her email (and in my opinion, what FPU is about):
    Hi Dave,

    Good to hear back from you. I hope things are going well with you and your family. I really just wanted to check in and thank you once again. And if I can have a Drum roll, please….

    We finally did it! We are officially debt free as of January 1st 2009. (Well, except for the house…)

    We had a little help in the end, I was laid off from SonyEricsson at the beginning of Oct, but was one of the lucky ones who found a job before my severance ran out. (Hello Visa!)

    Because we were so close to paying everything off, I was able to make a job decision that I don’t think I would have made otherwise. I had 2 offers come in on the same day. One with a stable well known company doing some fairly boring stuff, and the other a risky position with a small company that does human factors work – a step up from my dream job that I just lost. And the people there are amazing. I took the risk and words can’t describe how glad I am that I did.

    Again, I have you (amd Mike and Scott) to thank. Changed our life! Oh and you should hear my daughter Chelsea when she sees credit card offers. Seeds are already planted for the legacy to continue.

    If you find my story useful for others, you have my permission to share it. If there is anything I can do to help you spread the Dave R word, please let me know.

    …..Snoopy dance !!!

    I have received plenty of emails with other stories like this as well. That’s why I believe in this program so much. Again, nothing new or earth shattering (although some information was priceless, such as the insurance lesson). But since my wife and I started following the program, we don’t ever fight about money. I never worry about what she will spend, because we both agree to spend only according to the budget we both had input on.

    But if you are concerned about the cost, you can check his book out from the library, or listen to his radio show and get the majority of the information for free. If you need the accountability and structure that a class offers, take FPU. It’s well worth the $100 in my not so humble opinion.

  7. ncsu95,

    Exactly… “get people to deal with the underlying problem (which isn’t the debt)”


    The patterns that drive us to debt will drive it to other distructive behaviors. I completely agree.


  8. Dave giving away FPU for free – who are you kidding?

    I may not love this guy – but I completely respect Dave’s marketing machine and ability to make money. His information works and he absolutely diserves to be paid.

    I just don’t understand the thought process of a person who wants a handout in this area? Is this the same thought process that leads one to think they diserve to have a $400K home on a $40K salary? I guess it does?

    Well, read this… time to stop whining and starting winning. The first steps are recognizing you are a grownup now and the ‘victim’ of your decisions – GOOD and BAD.

    In the ‘real world’ mistakes cost you MONEY, always will.

    Getting into debt is SO SO SO easy… and SO SO SO SO hard to get out of, becuase it calls for a LIFE CHANGE. Some are willing to make this, some are to stubborn.

    Honestly, debt is like an unwanted pregnancy… a split second decison can have life long consequences. It’s scary… but true.

    This should be THE YEAR to get out of debt – at all costs – due to the recession. For some, it’s going to happen, for others it’s not.

    I am not a FPU person, don’t need this map to find my path… but I can share with you that it took YEARS to change my habits and the way I used money. I am much less stressed today than I was years back when I was carrying debt and looking like I was living the life. I realized I really wasn’t doing anything but servicing debt.

    Make the sacrifices and live below your means, it’s the only way. Because as we all know, things can change in this economy faster than in your income – almost always will.

  9. Dave has been doing this for over 20 years. I’ve been doing it for over 10. We’ve seen a lot of you rogue bankers and the like make comments like yours to try to steer people away from FPU. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news but it never works. FPU is a solid class with Christian principles. Even if you think you know it all, you’ll learn something in FPU. Nice try though.

    BTW, Please give us the name of any banker who offers any services for “free”. I want to make sure you get full credit for the referral.

    I’ll continue to pray for you.

  10. Mike, Ramsey has talked in detail about his bankruptcy. They didn’t just take the easy way out. They fought it for 2+ years and were forced to file because his creditors were suing him. If a creditor wins a judgment (and multiple in his case), they can garnishee wages making it impossible to do much of anything. He even tells people this on the radio…you might be forced into bankruptcy at some point, but fight to not go through it until you are forced to. Also, he went back later and repaid every one of his debts. He didn’t do it out of obligation, he just felt led to do so. I think he is just trying to get people to think and not look for a quick and easy solution. If you file and wipe out the debts, but don’t change the behaviors that got you into the mess to begin with, you’ll end up right back where you are. That is what he is trying to do…get people to deal with the underlying problem (which isn’t the debt).

  11. I am signed up to begin the course this week. From everything I have read about it though I am really not looking forward to attending. The financial steps that Dave teaches is all VERY common sense! I am doing all of this already. I was hoping for a course that would actually help me in a practical way to save for retirement and teach me about money markets, IRA’s, Roth’s, etc… This course is Finance for Dummies. For those who have no clue about spending or basic money matters.

    I also REALLY have a problem with the fact that Dave Ramsey wants you to pay for a course on how to save money!! And buy all of the extras on his website. Aren’t we supposed to be saving and not buying things in order to get out of debt. I can go to the bank, open a savings account, and talk with the financial advisor there for FREE!!!!

  12. Liz- If you’re worried about the cars already then chances are they need to go. I had to sell mine, too. It wasn’t easy but it was the right thing to do. Get gazelle intense about FPU and you’ll be driving another nice car in no time, AND it’ll be paid for. Good luck!

  13. My husband and I will be attenting the FPU program through our church starting this month. Our only concern is will we have to sell off everything we own to get out of debt? Like our car that we are making payments on? Or does the program take that into consideration?


    • It depends. If the car payments are reasonable considering your income and other obligations, it might not make sense to sell it. The class itself won’t look at your situation in that much detail. It will teach you how to evaluate whether your car makes financial sense. And it will strongly insist that you don’t go into any more debt, including for cars.

  14. I am a FPU graduate. My wife and I completed the class in Nov. 2007. Thank God for Dave Ramsey and the FPU program. We have paid off $24k in 11 months. We will be debt free (besides our home) in 8 months!
    We approached the class wanting to learn how to take controll of our financial life. We put our pride aside along with all of the advise we recieved from broke people! Thanks be to God, we will never be the same again. We are living like no one else, so later we can LIVE like no one else.

  15. Thanks Dave fan and Joe for the info and comments! My husband and I are Christians, but he grew up in a Mormon household and had religion “shoved down his throat” until he was about 13. I mainly wanted us both to take the course so we can be on the same page with our finances. I’ve always been the one to pay the bills and keep up with everything paperwork related. But if anything happened, he wouldn’t know where to start, or even find the checkbook! Since this is such a huge aspect of life, we need to be a team like other things in our life. I am excited about taking the course, it’s starts this weekend already! My husband is in the National Guard, so he is going to have to miss some of the classes unfortunately.

  16. I am a loan processor for a mortgage co. in which I deal with many issues with credit, money, debt and trying to get into a home or refinancing with bad credit, etc. I try working with people all the time in helping with their credit – some will listen and change their ways of living, others don’t want to hear it and still want the moon.
    If you file for bankruptcy it stays on your credit it seen forever and even when the 7 years are up – it is still there. Many times in buying a home the lenders want the paperwork of your bankruptcy and they view it very heavy. With the new bankruptcy laws it isn’t as easy as it use to be to file for bankruptcy and get it granted. You still have creditors hound you and then there is the psychology aspect of failing.
    Take the bull by the horns and talk to creditors, ask to have a lower payment, interest rate anything to help you pay off the debt. Take one debt and day at a time and keep plugging a head. I know what I am talking about because we were so in debt with medical bills, it took years to pay off – but they received a few dollars each month and they worked with us.
    THERE IS NO FREE RIDES ESPECIALLY NOW WITH THE FINANCIAL WORLD MELT DOWN. It is just going to be more difficult in the future,so we have to change our ways, I even have to.
    Have a great day!!

  17. It’s not constant religion. There’s not so much that you can’t tune it out if you want to. My wife and I took it together last year and have our emergency fund and are paying off debt. It is the reason we are on the same page financially.

  18. Em,

    I’m a religious person so my opinion may be bias but I don’t think it’s too religious. I’ve been around Dave and FPU for a long time now and I’ve seen more people find God while going through this course than not. Is that a bad thing? I don’t think it is, in fact I think it’s great. Dave himself wasn’t always a Christian so he knows where we’re coming from (yes, I said “we”). I’ve been there, too. Just don’t say anything to your husband about it being bible based and see what happens. I can guarantee you this…and it IS a guarantee. If you and your husband go through all 13 weeks of this course together, your relationship will improve as well as your finances. By the way, it is my belief that you don’t need a financial counselor. They are only in the business for their benefit, not yours. While you go through FPU, Dave mentions a LOT of various books to read. WRITE THESE DOWN!!! The more you read the more you’ll realize you and your husband can (and will) accomplish anything on your own.

    Good luck and God bless!

  19. I signed up for Dave Ramsey’s FPU course to start Nov 9th. I knew he based his ideas on religion, but from these reviews I am afraid it’s going to be too religious. I know some of the basics of budgeting but not enough to make it efficient in my life. I am using this as a kick in the rear to make me sit down, figure all this out, and make a plan. Right now I just pay what’s due before the next pay check. I had a financial advisor with Ameriprise, and I would tell him how much debt I had, how much in savings etc. He never gave me any advice on how to pay my debt faster except to pay off debt first, then put money in my Roth IRA. He didn’t help me very much. But my plan is to use Dave’s course to set me on a path out of debt, then find a new financial advisor to help me once my money situation gets better. I’m just afraid that my husband will think the course is way too religious and want to quit when I wanted us to work on this together… We shall see, wish me luck!

  20. Carly,

    Every one with a microphone or TV camera in there face has a strategy to help you out of debt (put on the financial channel any evening) – Dave is not that special, most of his material is rehash of others. I am not throwing the guy under the bus as much as you’d think.

    Some people will respond to Dave, others Suzy, others Oprah others Jim, others Dr. Phil, others Maria – the list goes on and on.

    We, as a society will ultimately win by being debt free… or debt reduced…

    It’s EASY to be debt free if you file bankruptcy (as Dave did back with the laws were EXTREMELY favorable to do so.). It’s harder to be debt free when you sell all your things, take 3 jobs, eat beans and rice, sell your car and move in with your folks.

    I can tell you this – if Dave advocated doing it ‘his way’ he would not have the books and radio show. This is the only thing that disconnects with me.

    At the end of the day it’s about changing the way you use money, for some it takes a financial nuclear bomb of bankruptcy, for others the processess of the Dave Ramsey way is the answer. Dave does an excellent job of educating AND motivating people to change the way they use money – I applaud him for this.

    The future will belong to those who use little to no debt and invest for their future!

  21. He filed bankruptcy YEARS ago! How he rebuilt his life is what he teaches now. He does not say NEVER to file bankruptcy, he just tries to teach that there are other ways, other methods, not to file. It is silly to day he is a hypocrite because he filed long ago. The experience of his financial collapse and how he recovered is the REASON he has this knowledge. It is like saying do not listen to a recovering alcoholics advice because he drank at one time. The best teachers are the ones who lived the gloom and doom. That is how one learns… Far too many people file bankruptcy when there are other solutions that they do not know about. AND it is peoples responsibility to repay what they borrowed no matter what they have to do to repay it…He gives people hope and solutions! Solutions other than bankruptcy are much better than actually filing…Do you see anyone else with any solutions when yo need help? Try to find someone to help you when your finances are a mess and you lack knowledge on how to handle money. Unless you can afford a accountant or a financial advisor/planner, there is no one around to help you.

  22. I am much more effective that I have gone through this than if I hadn’t. Dave went through bankruptcy maybe because he thought at the time that it was the “easiest” or “smartest” way out. He found out for the next ten years that it wasn’t so smart. Should my son choose to take over my businesses I hope that it will be enough that he grow from my mistakes than to try out the same mistakes just to live by the “Do as I do not as I say” motto.

  23. I am about to sign up for FPU class and I agree with Dave on the Bankruptcy issue. I am 29 yrs old, currently have everything I own paid off and have only 6 years of 30yrs left on my mortgage. I have two businesses curently that are doing well and growing, but to get there wasn’t easy and I failed at my first one. I started a second business three months later and learned from my mistake of what caused me to fail the first time.

  24. Cool, we agree on one thing… DAVE IS THE MAN!

    I’d rather get advice from a person who’s actually been though it then one who hasn’t.

    “Experience is the name everyone gives to their mistakes.”

  25. Dave is not saving families, families are saying themselves, Dave’s program is simply the road map to getting there.

    People fall typically into two categories in this financial world… some have to be TOLD and some have to be REMINDED.

    Dave does a phenomonial job of TELLING folks what they need to be TOLD to manager thier money, or use of it.

    Dave’s programs and books do an EXCELLENT job of REMINDING those who know what they sould be doing with thier money and given example after example for what works, is working and can work.

    The only thing that bugged me, still does, is that the foundation of Dave’s financial success is filing bankruptcy and wiping the slate clean – 100% opposite what he teaches today.

    It’s a classic, “do what I say, not what I have done” situation…

    He delivers an excellent message – reaches THOUSANDS of hurting people and educates them on a daily basis.

  26. Mike, I love you brother. I will continue to pray for you. I’m sure Dave will, too.

    For the record, tithing doesn’t have to take place in a church. Give 10% to your local food bank, or use 10% of your income and buy your local parks & playground some new equipment, or do some covert research and “adopt” a single mom who may need some help putting food on the table or help her buy school supplies for her kids…anything, man! When you start giving away your money for the benefit of others, you will see major changes in your life. And, no it doesn’t matter if your life is “perfect” now. It WILL get better.

    I was lucky enough to find a church who does exactly that. Give away their money (and an awful lot of time) for the benefit of others. But I can promise you, it took years of looking before I found them.

    Dave Ramsey is saving families, marriages and lives every single day. None of us posting here can say that. Not one. Whether we think he’s great or we think he’s “slightly flawed” doesn’t matter. I’m pretty sure there were people during his 20 years of teaching FPU that told him he was doing it the wrong way. But when you know in your heart what you’re teaching is THE best way, then comments like that just don’t matter.

  27. I think what Mike is trying to say, is that bankruptcy is the best option for some people. I think What Dave is trying to curb is that many people file for bankruptcy when it’s not their best option or file for bankruptcy without really looking at their situation or the consequences of bankruptcy. But Dave’s stance that bankruptcy should never be an option is slightly flawed.

  28. No, he’s willing to default on HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS of debt but doesn’t advocate anyone else doing the same.

    His initial solution was, “File bankruptcy and start over with a clean slate.” Today it’s work hard, starve, work extra jobs but don’t file bankrupcy, don’t take the easy way out (like I did).

    Look I like is message – several need to hear it, just not my flavor.

  29. Mike, what do you mean? He talks a lot about his bankruptcy before starting to teach personal finance. Are you saying he’s been bankrupt again since then?

  30. Hey look, I don’t need Dave Ramsey to tell me what I know I have to do… tithe, save, spend less, work more and pay of debt. The only difference – I guess – I didn’t default all my creditors on HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS. (Why not work harder, get two or three jobs and pay this debt?)

    It doesn’t bother me he’s a hypocrit… I completely agree, only someone who’s truly been through that can relate… It’s something he doesn’t talk about.

    Maybe it help his credibility (with some) if he would remind his ‘fans’ that he is not perfect.

  31. Kitt, tithing was a big part of the course I attended because Dave Ramsey is a vocal Christian. He believes that tithing (giving 10 percent of your income) is a commandment from God. However, there are secular versions of Financial Peace University that don’t play so heavily on the Christian language.

    The concept of paying off large sums of debt? I don’t understand what you’re asking. The class shows you a system for gradually paying off all your debt and motivates you never to go in debt again.

  32. I just heard about this Financial Peace course. Excuse my ignorance but, what does this have to do with tithing? Is this a religious-based program? What is the concept of paying off large sums of debt? Help me understand! thanks to anyone who can help!

  33. It always makes me laugh when people say things like, “oooh, he wants you to tithe to scammy churches…he must be a crook”. Man, I’m sorry your church was bad but don’t place Christianity under that blanket. For every bad church, there are many more good ones. Do you stop buying groceries because a grocery store ripped you off? No. You shop elsewhere. If you placed your entire foundation of faith based on one church (or two or three…) then that truly is a sad thing. To throw away God’s love because your church had issues is even sadder.

    For everyone who posts on this site, here’s a news flash. Dave’s ideas aren’t Dave’s ideas. Everything you hear him say comes straight from the bible. He’d be the first one to tell you that. God is using him to help me and you understand His word. Dave Ramsey went through his struggles so you and I wouldn’t have to. People who try to discredit him or call him a hypocrite should look again. Let me ask you a question. Would you seek auto repair advice from a guy who’s never worked on a car? I know I wouldn’t. The next time someone tells you bankruptcy is a good alternative, ask them when was the last time they filed. I’ll bet it’s never. The fact that Dave went through bankruptcy doesn’t make him a hypocrite. It only makes him knowledgeable enough to give us good advice.

    God bless you Dave!

  34. Dave’s material is good – simplistic and fundamental – sure he’s a hypocrit, sure he defaulted on all his debts and filed bankruptcy do to a bunch of bad real estate decision, sure he play the system to wipe the slate clean and start fresh.

    But hey, do what he says, not what he did.

    If he’s the catalyst to save money and pay off your bills do it – millions listen to Oprah!

    People fall into 2 categories… they need to be told or reminded. Dave is a great person to TELL you what to do.


  35. I’m post a whole series about Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University right now because we’re taking the class as well.

    I think a lot of people take Dave to task for his “bad math” and because he is so brutally honest about some things. I think he is great at what he does, and that if people were to follow his program, they’d be better off.

  36. I think anyone could benefit form taking this course. It is a simple math class yes !! It should not be complex to do the right things with our money. It is basically run like a business should be. If you were to follow this course to the letter I guarantee you would be better off. In the class I was in out of 30 people I would say 75% were in debit in a bad way. I was not in debit but I wanted to get better a planning for my future and this class made me way more accountable to that goal and now I have no reason not to be where I want when I retire. As for the 10% thing, for those of you who are faithless or do not like God you should not do it just keep it, that is for us who do. But if you do believe them is a no brainier.

  37. I’ve read many financial books and Dave’s is very logical. If your in debt, stop spending,pick up a part time job. He tells you have a plan stick with it and you’ll make it.
    oh by the way I also do not attend church for my own reasons but the 10 percent tithing can be to anything that feels right to you. your church, the youth, the homeless, animal welfare, the abused. The list goes on and on. It is our responsibilty to make sure that we take care of ones in need. We must give of ourselves and be thankful everyday that we live in a country with so many possibilities.

  38. Just the fact the man tells people to give 10 percent to the scammy churches , is enough to tell me that his program is a financial program that is the mask of religious zealotism.

  39. Don’t get me wrong that is not what I believe, It is just something I read while searching the net. I think the class is great and I get to graduate next weekend from the course and it has really transformed how I think. I am handing out my kit to my younger brother and sister. As far as the critisisms, they were hacking on his debt snowball step, he says to start with the least amount and pay it off while some beleive firmly you should start with the one with the largest interest rate. To make a long story short he says to do that for the phsycological affect, hope I spelled that right, of nocking out some debt, and he knows about the interest rate thing, but like he says; if we were good at math we would’nt have credit card debt.

  40. I hadn’t heard those criticisms of him. I still think it’s a good class. In fact, I just paid for my brother and his fiance to take it. Let me know how it works out for you.

  41. Hello I am currently taking the Financial peace course. The factory I work at is sponsoring it for their employees. I have seen on the net that his “math is bad” or he is a “hypocrit” or he filed bankruptcy, just what ever. He might be off in some cases on some things, no one is perfect; But he gives hope to those who have messed up big time.I can see a light at the end of the tunnel from taking the classes and I am not going out in a bankruptcy in the end. I love the classes and think it is great work is sponsoring his course.


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