If you listen to talk radio much, you’ve most likely heard of Dave Ramsey, the radio personality who talks about money, debt, budgeting, investments, and related topics Monday through Friday each week. His show is broadcast on over 500 radio stations throughout the country to an estimated audience of over 6 million people on a weekly basis.
On his radio show, Ramsey most often talks to people who have gotten themselves into debt and are seeking his help and advice to figure their way out of their respective situations. Others are not necessarily in financial predicaments, but are seeking expert advice on things like how to handle various career opportunities, where to invest for retirement or college savings, or to report their successes, occasionally doing their “debt free scream” in-person at his broadcast studio in Tennessee, where the celebration is aired on his show live.
Ramsey’s most popular and comprehensive offering promoted to his listening audience (in addition to books about leadership and similar reading and listening material) is his class for obtaining financial peace, fitly named Financial Peace University.
What is Financial Peace University?
During the course of his radio show, Ramsey often reviews one or more of what he calls the 7 Baby Steps, which include:
- Baby Step 1 – $1,000 to start an Emergency Fund
- Baby Step 2 – Pay off all debt using the Debt Snowball
- Baby Step 3 – 3 to 6 months of expenses in savings
- Baby Step 4 – Invest 15% of household income into Roth IRAs and pre-tax retirement
- Baby Step 5 – College funding for children
- Baby Step 6 – Pay off home early
- Baby Step 7 – Build wealth and give!
Financial Peace University goes beyond the 7 Baby Steps, although those steps comprise his a significant part of the methodology his program uses for achieving financial peace.
Financial Peace University (or FPU) is the program for accomplishing the 7 Baby Steps, including nine lessons that can be taken independently or with a group, access to a program coordinator, and a community of people who are also working their way through the 7 Baby Steps.
There are two different options available for those who want to go through the Financial Peace University program. One is referred to as simply The Class. The other is an annual membership in FPU. Taking the class only costs $99 currently. The annual membership is $129.99.
Access to The Class Only – $99
If you choose to access the FPU class only, you’ll get:
- The nine lessons included in the FPU class
- Access to an FPU coordinator, who acts as a point of contact and facilitator for the group. Coordinators schedule lessons among the members of an FPU class, track their attendance, and help them with whatever issues they’re having with making progress on their financial goals. You can learn more about what FPU coordinators do on the FPU Become a Coordinator page.
- A workbook that accompanies the
- Access to a local or online community. Other people who are taking the FPU course along with you provide a support network and are intended to help you find motivation.
Annual Membership in FPU – $129.99
If you want to pay $30 more and get the annual Financial Peace University membership, you will also get several other offers in addition to just the class. In addition to the items included in the class, the $129.99 annual membership gives you:
- EveryDollar Plus, the budgeting app created by Dave Ramsey’s technical team to help people more easily create and keep up with their budget. The EveryDollar software is free, but there is a $129 fee to upgrade to the Plus version, which allows you to connect your EveryDollar account to your bank accounts, auto-populate your expenses and income from those bank accounts, and several other perks. EveryDollar is available for both Android and iOS mobile devices, so it can be a very handy way to handle your budget while you’re on the go.
- Access to a financial coach to answer specific money questions you have
- Livestreams of Dave Ramsey Financial Peace Live events held typically one or more times each month around the United States.
- Debt Snowball Calculator, a tool that you can customize to track your progress at reducing your debt following the FPU training you’re receiving.
- The Legacy Journey course that describes how to build a family legacy, including generosity and giving based upon Biblical principles.
- Smart Money Smart Kids course for teaching kids how to manage money.
With all of the extras included in the annual membership, that seems like a better value. However, for people who are working their way out of a deep hole of debt, every $30 matters, so it may be better to just start by attending the course.
How Is Financial Peace University Different From Other Money Courses?
Dave Ramsey didn’t come up with most of the elements of his FPU program himself, nor are most of the individuals components of the program unique to him. There are lots of of financial advisors who have been talking about emergency funds, avoiding debt, and being wise with your money using most of the principles included in the Financial Peace University course.
In fact, many of the principles for managing money and avoiding debt are found in older pamphlets related to marriage advice, such as One for the Money Guide to Family Finance written by Marvin Ashton in 1975.
Financial Peace University is taught from a religious, Christian perspective. In fact, the majority of FPU classes are held at churches and other religious institutions. Although there are many other financial management programs that are also religiously based (especially since money management affects marriage and family success, topics that tend toward having more religious motivation than secular), there are also many programs that stick just to the financial principles.
Dave Ramsey’s personality and his own personal experience are expressed through almost every aspect of Financial Peace University. As one who went through a period of having to declare bankruptcy because of a lack of discipline and what he calls “earning a PhD in D.U.M.B.”, Ramsey’s Financial Peace University casts that same perspective, that humans are undisciplined and irresponsible generally, on almost everyone who would take his course. For that reason, he is strict about not having a credit card and on hedging against other types of spending that can become addictive. His approach tends to be more definitive than many other programs.
For instance, the approach taken by FPU is to not consolidate loans, but to use the debt snowball approach instead. Others disagree with this method, including the people who run debt.org, who criticize Ramsey for his “bad math claims” regarding debt consolidation.
In general, I’ve seen Dave Ramsey tend to be very negative toward people, often for no reason, as they come to him seeking financial advice. Financial Peace University is in many ways an extension of his personality. If you don’t like Dave Ramsey’s personality and don’t want to be a part of having that approach (he’s rude and calls people “stupid” way too often on his show) a part of your effort to become financially better off, you might want to look elsewhere
Alternatives to Financial Peace University
For those who are interested in getting better control over their money, getting out of debt (if they have any), building wealth, and preparing to retire,
You can find lots of online personal finance classes taught from major universities, Udemy.com, Coursera, and lots of other places. You can find
If you’re interested in a religiously motivated personal finance course, you can check with local churches in your area. The most developed of that type of course that I know of is the Personal Finances for Self-Reliance course that happens regularly at local meetinghouses of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. That course is highly based in religious principles (mostly LDS doctrine, although there is a large overlap with the teachings of other Christian churches), and has regular group meetings that typically last for 12 weeks. The courses are in many ways much more thorough and motivating from a spiritual perspective than the Financial Peace University program. I have taken this course and am taking it a second time to review what I learned before and re-commit myself to maintaining a budget.
If you’d like to take the LDS Church’s course as an alternative to FPU, you can find one by contacting your local LDS Church using their meetinghouse locator to find a church close to you.