Treasure Valley gets advice from debt’s No. 1 foe: Dave Ramsey

Dave Ramsey’s financial advising career started with a radio show in 1992 that predated today’s nationally syndicated show.
Dave Ramsey’s financial advising career started with a radio show in 1992 that predated today’s nationally syndicated show. Provided by Ramsey Personalities

Dave Ramsey hates debt.

It’s the foundation of a career that’s made him popular. The Dave Ramsey radio show broadcasts on more than 500 stations across the nation, including Boise AM station 580 KIDO. Ramsey has written four New York Times best-sellers on financial planning.

He speaks with an evangelist’s fervor on each platform, an intensity that will be on display when he comes to the Morrison Center on Wednesday to talk about business leadership. On Thursday, Ramsey will speak at the Morrison Center in front of a sellout crowd as part of his Legacy Journey Live tour, which focuses on family financial planning. Ramsey’s daughter, Rachel Cruze, also will speak at Thursday’s event.

Ramsey answered a few questions for the Idaho Statesman to give a little preview of what fans can expect at the Legacy presentation.

Q: Have you spoken in Boise before? Are there any sights or spots you want to see during your stay here?

A: I’ve never spoken publicly in Boise before, so I’m excited to come up there. Unfortunately, we’re not there long enough to do much sight-seeing.

Q: You are an energetic, nearly evangelic speaker. How do you summon the energy for your events?

A: Giving people hope and helping them get control of their finances is my passion. So, when I get up to speak in front of a crowd of thousands of people, it energizes me.

Q: What’s the most easily avoidable financial mistake you see people make?

A: The biggest mistake people make with their money is they don’t bother. If you’re going to win with money, you have to be intentional. Sit down each month and create a plan — a written budget — for your money. Most people look up at the end of each month and wonder where their money went. When you have a plan, you’re able to control your money instead of letting it control you.

Q: Many credit cards have useful perks, such as air miles. How should people walk the line between taking advantage of such perks and avoiding any use of credit?

A: There’s no positive side to credit cards. Even if you pay your card off each month, you’re still not beating the system. Multiple studies have shown that you actually spend less when you use cash. When you spend with cash you actually feel the money leaving and spend less. You will spend more if you use credit cards. You cannot beat the system.

Q: Briefly, what is your experience with debt, and how has it shaped your career?

A: I started from nothing, and by the time I was 26 I had built a real estate portfolio worth more than $4 million. I was good at real estate, but I was even better at borrowing money. I had built a house of cards. The short version of the story is that over a three-year period we lost everything and eventually filed for bankruptcy. After that, I went on a quest to figure out how money really works. Learning the right way to handle money led me to help millions of others do the same.

Q: Much of your message deals with the psychological strain that comes with debt. How do you see that strain affecting the lives of the people you talk to?

A: Personal finance is 80 percent behavior and only 20 percent head knowledge. It’s not knowing what to do; it’s actually doing it. Too many people buy stuff they can’t afford to impress people they don’t even like. When people can get control of the person they look at in the mirror each day, they can begin to get control of their money.

Q: You talk a lot about sacrificing luxuries and spending only on “beans-and-rice” essentials. You often criticize callers’ money management. Yet, you come off as positive. How are you able to be both tough and encouraging?

A: When it comes to their money, a lot of people are in denial. People call my show looking for help and answers. I’m not helping anyone if I tell them what they want to hear instead of what they need to hear. But in most of these situations, I’ve been there. I’ve done stupid with zeros on the end. So it’s easy for me to empathize with people.

Q: Did the tenor of caller questions change after the Great Recession hit? Has that tenor changed again since?

A: The recession was a wakeup call for many people. A lot of people were caught with a lot of debt and little savings. Since then, we’ve seen people be a little more cautious and intentional about getting out of debt and saving money.

Q: Your daughter, Rachel Cruze, is also speaking at the event. How has working with family shaped your philosophy on financial planning?

A: My philosophies haven’t changed, but we have been able to better reach some areas now that Rachel has joined the team. Rachel travels the country speaking to high school and college students about how to handle their money and the dangers of debt. She also speaks to parents about the importance of teaching their kids about money. Rachel often says that I’m the emergency surgeon and she’s the preventive medicine, but we’re both helping people understand how to better handle their money.

Q: What is the single message you hope sticks most with those who see you speak this week?

A: I hope people leave with the confidence, understanding and tools they need to get control of their money and leave a lasting legacy for their family.