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For Financial Guru Dave Ramsey, Sour Economy Has an Upside

EDMOND, Okla. — In a gloom-and-doom economy, Christian financial guru Dave Ramsey fashions himself as a prophet of hope.
Part stand-up comedian, part economics professor, Ramsey built a multimillion-dollar business by dispensing simple financial advice: Live on a budget. Don’t spend more than you make. Start an emergency fund.
Get out of debt and stay out of debt.
One of his favorite Scriptures is Proverbs 22:7: “The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender.”
Now, with the nation in what Ramsey characterizes as “complete freak-out mode” over the recession, the faith-based approach he touts seems to be resonating even more, he said.
“I would not say that business is booming during the recession, but this economic downturn has made people realize that now is the time to turn their financial life around,” the 48-year-old money-management expert said in an interview.
As evidence of the significant interest in the one-time bankrupt real estate salesman who turned around his financial life based on biblical principles, consider the scene at an Oklahoma City-area megachurch on Thursday (April 23).
About 1,500 people showed up at Life Church that evening to hear Ramsey give a history of capitalism and explain why he believes the economy will survive the current woes.
But the crowd that saw the syndicated talk-show host in person was far from alone.
His free, nationwide “Town Hall for Hope” meeting was simulcast live to more than 6,000 churches, businesses and military bases — 10 times more venues than Ramsey initially thought might participate, he said.
“The one thing America needs right now is hope,” Ramsey said. “All we’re hearing in the news is how bad things are, and no one is talking about hope for the future. The truth is, fear is running rampant in America today, and people are making bad decisions based on that fear.”
Ramsey said he almost bought into the fear himself. But then he prayed.
“I talked to my dad and the fear left me,” he said, referring to God. “Fear is not a fruit of the Spirit.”
Ramsey’s message: “Hope doesn’t come from Washington. Hope comes from you and me. Hope comes from God.”
Three times zones and roughly 3,900 miles from Oklahoma City, Ted Manolas and fellow church members watched Ramsey on big screens in Chugiak, Alaska, northeast of Anchorage.
“You could say that I’ve joined the Dave Ramsey cult,” joked Manolas, director of finance and administration at The Crossing Church at Birchwood, before the simulcast began.
As a result of Ramsey’s teachings, Manolas said, he paid off all his debts — including his home.
The Alaska church has taught Ramsey’s “Financial Peace University,” a 13-week video series, to more than 150 families, Manolas said.
Nationally, 750,000 families have completed the course, according to Lampo Group Inc., Ramsey’s Brentwood, Tenn.-based company, which has more than 200 employees. Lampo is the Greek word for “light,” referring to the passage in the Gospel of Matthew calling for Christians not to hide their faith.
Ramsey’s fans — who swear off credit cards like alcoholics do beer– include listeners of his daily radio show carried by more than 400 stations and his nightly cable show on Fox Business.
Ramsey is not without his critics. Some financial experts take issue with what they consider to be his overly simplistic notion of becoming financially secure. Others question how he can charge people already in debt for most of his live events and online resources.
But Chris and Tami Burke of Edmond, Okla., said Ramsey’s common-sense approach helped them eliminate more than $23,000 in debt.
The advice they received from Ramsey was worth every cent, they said.
Now, the couple that attends Life Church drives used cars and gives more money to church.
“In the past, many people were just blowing and going, just spending a lot of money,” said Chris Burke, a hospital administrator who arrived more than an hour early to hear Ramsey speak. “Now, more than ever, you have companies downsizing and people losing their jobs. … So, now’s a better time than ever to really look at your finances and really buckle down.”
Organizers insisted that Ramsey’s 90-minute event was no political rally, nor an investment seminar.
Nonetheless, the self-proclaimed capitalist — an outspoken critic of the federal bailout of big business — spent considerable time railing against Washington politicians and offering his advice on everything from the real-estate market to the disadvantages of investing in gold.
Despite the serious subject matter, he sprinkled his comments with homespun humor.
“When things were going really good, any idiot could make money,” he said. “Even a turkey can fly in a tornado, y’all.”
Concerning President Obama’s call Thursday for a new credit-card law protecting consumers, Ramsey said he used “plastic surgery” to deal with the debt he racked up with Visa and MasterCard.
“I legislated the credit-card companies that were in my life with a pair of scissors,” he said.
c. 2009 Religion News Service
Copyright 2009 Religion News Service. All rights reserved. No part of this transmission may be distributed or reproduced without written permission.

  • nnmns

    “Others question how he can charge people already in debt for most of his live events and online resources.”
    Would a real Christian do that? Well duh, this guy does. If you can make Christianity work for you, you can do very well.

  • Tom

    Guess you’ve just taken the road less traveled, huh opto-atheist?
    Would a real one do what Madeline O’hare did (or her murderer Sam Walters)? Well…If you can make atheism work for you…

  • nnmns

    I read up on Madeline O’Hair. She started her activism very well, she ended it perhaps badly and certainly tragically. Yes, a real atheist would do that; she did. Many others would not. There are lots of versions of real atheists.
    Would you say there are lots of versions of real Christians, some better and some worse, some pretty good and some pretty bad? I’d say that about real atheists.
    Would you say Christianity can lead to a good living for several people? There being a lot fewer atheists and no hell to scare them I’d be surprised if atheism has led to a good living (financially) for more than a handful of people, maybe less.

  • Tom

    I watched a lot of Robert Tilton (Word of Faith) for entertainment back in the day. Yes, I’m afraid Christianity can be easily exploited. I used to listen to David Ramsey sporadically at my old workplace. Never purchased any online material (nor do I know anyone who has) so I can’t verify as to whether it’s worth what he charged. The radio show seemed fairly commonsensical somewhat like Suzie Orman yet so many listened to her. At least Ramsey wasn’t nearly as eccentric IMO.
    It’s hard to label when everyone has a different idea of what real Christianity consists of, so I guess the same applies to atheists. My friend atheist wasn’t able to sell very many books he wrote so his atheistic venture didn’t prove fruitful either in financial Es or converts. He seems to be fairly moral from what I can tell and didn’t attempt to put religion in the worst possible light the way many popular modern day authors tend to.
    Religious scandals tend to be more noteworthy in popular media seeing as how theoretically religion is supposed to promote morality. Therefore it comes across as ironic or newsworthy when scandal arises. I try to pray for my clergy and clergy in general when I remember as they’re human just like we are and subject to temptation.
    Did find it amusing that people were actually paying for ‘debaptism’ certificates simply for the purpose of making statements (I would’ve sold a few had I thought they were in demand 😉 One of my favorite scams was when college OU standout and NFL flop Brian Bosworth sold T-shirts that said ‘Ban the Boz’ on front with a red circle and a slash through the middle of his profile and made a bundle (buyers not knowing he was the beneficiary). Guess some swindlers just have that creative gift of innovation.

  • David Stillwagon

    I listen to Dave Ramsey every afternoon on the way home from work. I like the fact that he is very down to earth and doesn’t push his faith on people (at least on the radio)

  • Your Name

    One thing is for sure, he gives sound financial advise based on solid principles. Do I agree with everything? No. But since when did we start agreeing with people 100% of the time? By and large, he is doing more good for the average joe than most people out there.

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