Remember the non-fiction book I mentioned? Of course you don’t; imagine my ego to assume that you would! The nerve of me.
Doesn’t matter. My grandparents gave me the book pictured left, which before cracking it open and reading a page, I thought, “That’s nice” and didn’t think much else.
Then I started to read.
In just two weeks I have become the biggest fan of Dave Ramsey’s teachings about money management. I’d already heard of another book by Ramsey, Financial Peace, because I have a coworker whose a big fan of it. I had already begun to enact some of those principles in how I spend money, for no other reason than because they just made sense. The Total Money Makeover appears to be the cliffnotes version of Financial Peace in shorter, broader strokes.
He begins the book by telling you what the book is NOT, which I love:
The book is NOT politically correct.
It is NOT a way to get rich quick.
It does NOT contain secrets (or even details) of investing.
It does NOT solve your problems without hard work.
What it does do, at least what it has done for me, was convince me that with a little sacrifice and a lot of effort and attention, my wife and I can be debt free in a few short years, and through rigorous investing thereafter, might retire as millionaires.
Again, no “get rich quick” schemes or gimmicks; he’s talking about spending years and years and years investing, and that’s only after you’ve freed up tremendous amounts of your income compared to the average American.
The steps themselves are simple, but most people just don’t exercise the discipline to put them into action.
1. Save up $1,000 liquid emergency fund.
2. Pay down your smallest debt. After that debt is paid, use its monthly payment as additional money for your next smallest debt. Use both those payments in your third smallest, and so forth.
There are more steps, but I’m going to pause right there because that’s the one that has me fired up and excited. Because it’s so easy if you just actually do it.
I’ve tried to talk to friends and co-workers about this, and as Dave predicts in his book, they just don’t get it.
“Imagine having no payments except your mortgage by 2012,” I posit.
My friends answer this as if I’d said, “Imagine having a flying horse by 2012,” and they answer appropriately.
“That sure would be nice. Keep dreaming.”
What? No. I’ve already done the math.
In our case (me and my wife’s), we attended an expensive private school (we didn’t know any better. We do now.) So our debt is going to take a bit longer to pay off: ~4 years at our current salaries. That may sound like a long time, but in my case, that’s roughly half the time it took me to go to school. Had we started the first year we were out of school, we’d be done by now.
It’s not magic, it’s not mythical, and it’s not hypothetical. It’s posssible.
But most Americans truly cannot even imagine living without debt, and dogmatically insist that it’s impossible to have no credit cards and no car payments, and no payments of any kind.
In the meanwhile, I’m convinced that most people have no idea just how much money they make because they throw quite a lot of it away. I’ve looked at the numbers in our budget, and without loans, we’d have a lot of spending money, even after rigorous investing. And I can tell you, we don’t make that much money overall. Neither of us pulls a salary I would consider even remotely “comfortable”. But when you look at where all the money is going, and how much of it is wasted on interest, it becomes clear there’s a lot more to be had than we thought.
If we manage it intelligently.
Step 3 is to save 3-6 months of expenses in some liquid form.
Step 4 is to invest 15% of your gross income. Which should be a cakewalk if you have no bills except mortgage and utilities.
Step 5 is to save for your children’s college eduction.
Step 6 is to pay off your mortgage. Entirely.
During all of this, you don’t charge ANYTHING to a credit card or loan. Ever. No 90 days same as cash. No car payments – you pay cash. No student loans; if you want to go to school, you pay cash.
People will insist you need a good credit rating. Why? If you aren’t borrowing anything, whom do you have to depend on for credit?
I’m sold, and I’m determined to be a millionaire by the time I retire, even if (god forbid) I never sell a single book. Not by some magic formula or get rich quick scheme. But by making the necessary sacrifices now to eliminate debt and keep more of my own paycheck.
I’ve done the math myself. There’s no reason it won’t work, except possibly lack of follow-through.
But by now, most of you already think I’m crazy for trying. That’s okay. I expected that.