Dave Ramsey talks faith, finances and fame in exclusive Q&A
Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
Editor's note: In the question and answer sections of this article, questions have been edited for length and clarity.
Twenty-five years ago, Dave Ramsey turned the hot water up and stood in the shower, the stream blasting into his face, mixing with his tears and the terror of financial ruin. "We were so scared we didn't know what to do," he said. "I would just stand there and cry."
Ramsey was a hotshot real estate investor and had borrowed his way into about $4 million in properties in the Nashville area. Then it fell apart. He signed the bankruptcy papers on Sept. 22, 1988.
Now, more than a quarter of a century later, Ramsey walked onto the stage in Salt Lake City's Abravanel Hall, greeted by a sold-out crowd that jumped to its feet in a standing ovation before he said a word. It was one stop of his "Legacy Journey Live" personal finances event and came on the heels of a grueling promotional tour for a new book, "Smart Money Smart Kids," that he wrote with his daughter, Rachel Cruze.
The atmosphere in the crowded concert hall had a revival feel. Ramsey takes the role of the itinerate preacher coming to town to preach the word. Except the salvation sought isn't freedom from sin, but debt.
In a way, the event reflects Ramsey's personal journey; a journey rooted in biblical principles and applying them to modern money problems.
For some, adding faith to finances might sound like mixing oil and water. And the combination has its critics who believe it skews too closely to the much maligned prosperity gospel and contradicts some religious ideals against accumulating wealth. But for Ramsey fans, the connection between faith and money management is seamless.
Among those fans is Michelle Singletary, a nationally syndicated personal finance columnist for The Washington Post, who finds money is one of the most talked about topics in the Bible: "How do you deal with your money? How do you stay out of debt? Don't co-sign. Be a cheerful giver. Be careful about making money your god. All of those kinds of things which apply to everybody whether you are religious or not,” she said in a telephone interview. “It just has a deeper meaning for those of us who are believers."
The mix of faith and finances seems to be resonating with many others, too. Ramsey's nationally syndicated radio show is heard by 8 million people every week on more than 500 stations. He has had four New York Times best-sellers. His video seminar on finances, Financial Peace University, has been presented to more than 2 million families at nearly 45,000 churches and other organizations.
"I'm blown away at the scale of what has happened in our lives," he tells the enthusiastic crowd.
Before he took the stage on the evening on May 14, he and his daughter sat down with the Deseret News National Edition to talk about finances, faith and leaving a legacy.
Deseret News: Was your journey toward God simultaneous with getting your financial life back in order?
Dave Ramsey: For me it was a key element, in my particular walk. I always laugh and say I met God on the way up and I got to know him on the way down. And so as I'm crashing and losing everything, a lot of people run to God when they are struggling. And I was no exception. I already knew him, but I ran and got closer. I started reading the word and learning what the Bible says about all kinds of things, money being one of them. And since money was the pain point, I really wanted to know what it said about money. And so it drove me into that. In that sense, our faith was the saving grace; the thing that got us through the hard times. So, in my particular case, the biblical finance and being tied into my faith walk was my recovery. Not only my financial recovery, but my emotional, marital and everything-else recovery.