Dave, Dave, Dave…
I stumbled on a Reddit thread the other day that I found really upsetting. It brought me back to a problem that I had over a year ago, and I wanted to take today’s article to share what I needed to hear then; this Reddit thread had hundreds of comments and responses, and so it seems like there are people out there who need to hear this now.
The thread was for people who have been hurt by financial personality Dave Ramsey’s advice. If you’ve explored the financial literacy space online, I’m sure you’re familiar with Dave Ramsey. He’s been doing a radio show for decades where he gives callers advice on money questions. He’s famously anti-debt, to the extent that he sometimes advises against opening credit cards. And he tends to integrate conservative political views and Christian religious views into his financial advice. His show is quite popular, and he’s affected a lot of people. But not always for the better.
Here are some entries from the Reddit thread that caught my eye:
You are not screwed.
These comments brought me back to an issue I had with Dave Ramsey personally over a year ago. When the stimulus checks came out during the pandemic, Dave said, “I don’t believe in stimulus checks, because if $600 or $1,400 changes your life you were pretty much screwed already.”
I addressed this comment in Episode 4 of my podcast Money Rehab. In that episode, I told you how hearing a so-called financial expert say that people who could use a few extra hundred dollars are “screwed,” brought me back to my childhood financial trauma. It brought me back to those long nights where I couldn’t sleep because I was so hungry. It brought me back to being in credit card debt. It brought me back to wondering if I’d ever get out of the cycle of living paycheck to paycheck. When Dave Ramsey told people they were screwed, I had a visceral, physical reaction. I felt the hunger pangs. I felt the anxiety in the pit of my stomach. And I felt angry.
Advice is, by definition, given to those who need help. Financial advice isn’t consumed by those who have their finances figured out. Rather, it is for those who are struggling and today, during a global pandemic and recession, there are millions of Americans out there right now who are hard-pressed to make ends meet. That doesn’t mean that they are bad. It doesn’t mean that they aren’t smart. It means that they are in the middle of a battle, likely not for the first time and likely for a combination of macro- and micro-economic issues that won’t be fixed in time for the dinner they are struggling to put on the table.
This isn’t my first issue with Mr. Ramsey. I’ve watched videos where he’s addressed criticism and said, “I don’t care what your theories are about money if you’re broke. You’re just arrogant and stupid. You write a money blog. And no one cares what you think.”
Does this sound familiar to you? I think we all knew a schoolyard bully like this; someone who made you think that they were smart only by making you feel dumb. Also it’s easy for Dave Ramsey—who is a millionaire— to say someone’s stupid if they’re poor. But Dave, why don’t you pick on someone your own size? Come for the Rich Bitch and see how big and smart you are.
It gets worse.
Beyond the fact that it’s just plain cruel to call someone who is financially struggling stupid, it’s also irresponsible; because by nature of what Dave Ramsey does, people come to him when they’re vulnerable.
When I was broke and hungry, $600 would have made a big difference to me. And if someone that I looked up to, who called themselves a financial expert, told me I was screwed, I would have believed them. I would have given up. I never would have put myself on the track to financial freedom, if I thought that financial freedom was impossible. That’s what makes Dave Ramsey dangerous.
I’ve also been disturbed by reports of how he treats his employees at his company Ramsey Solutions, as evidenced by the several lawsuits that have been leveraged against him. For example, one former employee alleges that she was was fired because she told her supervisor she was gay— an allegation that Ramsey Solutions denies. The most infamous lawsuit was filed by former employee Brad Amos, who said that he was fired for following COVID-19 guidelines. According to Amos, when the U.S. was starting to lock down, Ramsey called 900 people to an in-person meeting at their office in Tennessee. As The Washington Post points out, this in-person meeting happened only days after Tennessee Governor Bill Lee declared a state of emergency.
And I will say, a spokesperson for Ramsey Solutions has denied all of Amos’ claims, and has said that the company followed all COVID-19 regulations. The company also denies that Amos was fired because he wanted to adhere to COVID guidelines. They say that Amos’ bosses told him he wasn’t a good fit for the company because he “displayed a lack of humility” and “would stand off to the side all the time.” I’m sorry— but doesn’t standing off to the side sound like social distancing?
One allegation Ramsey Solutions does not deny is that they fire employees for having premarital sex. Ramsey Solutions has said that that they’ve fired at least eight employees for having premarital sex— including a pregnant woman. And yet, when a Ramsey co-host Chris Hogan cheated on his wife, he was not fired. In fact, Chris Hogan stayed for three more years, until he got divorced. But Ramsey Solutions didn’t turn a blind eye to the infidelity. They did the opposite. According to Hogan’s ex wife, Ramsey Solutions demanded access to confidential therapy documents so that the company could ensure the couple was working hard enough to “fix their marriage.”
Don’t get it twisted.
Now, don’t misunderstand me here: I’m not here to rag on Dave Ramsey just for the heck of it. In fact, I love to support other financial experts. It’s not like the financial literacy space can only have one expert; this isn’t the Hunger Games. Experts who promote financial literacy should all be working towards the same goal: we should want to help people achieve financial freedom. And if financial experts are genuine in that mission, that means we’re all on the same team.
I know that Dave Ramsey has helped a lot of people. There are many fans out there who have gained more control over their financial lives because of Dave Ramsey’s advice, and that is of course, positive. But this article is for those who weren’t helped. The ones who posted on the Reddit thread. The ones who have been hurt, taken advantage of, and felt screwed.
So if Dave Ramsey’s advice isn’t a good fit for you, look elsewhere. There are other financial experts who once felt financially helpless too, who will meet you with extra kindness and compassion. Those who remember the pangs; who hold the pain of walking through financial flames deep in our sense memory. We are the ones holding buckets of water for those still battling them.
Here are some of my favorites:
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