In the past, I reviewed Dave Ramsey’s The Total Money Makeover and, surprisingly to me, I quite liked it. It laid out a simple, straightforward plan for getting people on a reasonably strong financial path, and it’s wonderfully constructed to give the person following the plan a lot of psychological reward for following through.
To follow up, I decided to go back and read the latest version of Dave’s earlier book, Financial Peace Revisited, to see if it is as good as The Total Money Makeover. Financial Peace Revisited, along with the radio show, really put Dave on the map as a personal finance guru. Let’s walk through the book and see what we can find.
37 Footsteps (Dave Calls Them “Peace Puppies”)
Most of the book revolves around a list of thirty seven basic principles that Dave refers to as “peace puppies.” What follows is a list of these principles, coupled with my thoughts on it codified into one sentence.
1. Avoid “stuffitis” – the worship of “stuff” In other words, don’t buy stuff you don’t need and soon you’ll find yourself breaking free of the desire to buy lots of unnecessary stuff.
2. Plant seeds – give money away to worthy causes Dave is very much into charity and it comes through strongly here; I find that I agree with his viewpoint on charitable giving, though.
3. Develop your own “power over purchase” Develop some willpower when you go shopping and simply don’t buy stuff that you don’t need or that you didn’t intend to buy when you went into the store.
4. Find where you are naturally gifted – enjoy your work and work hard I agree with this; even if your main job is not suited to your natural talents, find time to follow them and build them up into something you can enjoy while working hard at it – success always follows this.
5. Live substantially below your income This is the key to financial success summed up in five words.
6. Sacrifice now so you can have peace later The same sentiment is worded better by Dave when he says, “Live like no one else so you can live like no one else,” which basically means spend some time living as cheaply as possible so you can build a truly strong financial base.
7. You can always spend more than you make Spending on credit is extremely dangerous over the long haul.
8. The borrower is the servant to the lender, so beware! Debt is also extremely dangerous.
9. Check your credit report at least once every two years Doing this ensures that there aren’t any nasty surprises if you ever need to use your credit report to secure a loan, or even something as mundane as securing lower insurance rates.
10. Handle credit report corrections yourself If you find a mistake, call up the credit reporting bureau yourself and find out what you need to do to get it fixed; you’re the one with the interest in getting it right here, not anyone else.
11. Realized that the best way for delinquent debt to be paid is for you, not collectors, to control your financial destiny This means that if collectors are calling you, it’s time to get a backbone and get some debt paid, even if it means selling off a lot of your stuff and trimming things down to the bare minimum.
12. You must save money (the power of compound interest) Compound interest is an incredibly powerful thing, and you can easily harness that power by investing and saving money now rather than later.
13. Use the “keep it simple, stupid” rule of investing Don’t invest in anything complicated unless you have a serious amount of time to learn about it and maintain that investment.
14. Only people who like dog food don’t save for retirement Start saving for retirement as early as possible, because this lets the power of compound interest do most of the work.
15. Always save with pretax dollars – it is the best deal the government gives you For most people, this statement is the gospel truth – it reduces your tax bill now and gives you a steady income later.
16. Learn basic negotiating skills for great buys Don’t hesitate to make low offers, ask for add-ons, and so forth when buying anything of significant value.
17. Learn where to find great buys (the treasure hunt) Dave doesn’t directly list places; instead, he encourages comparison shopping and asking around for places to find good buys on specific items.
18. You must have patience to get great buys Comparison shopping takes time, but over the long run it can save you substantial money.
19. Singles get self-accountability from the written plan If you’re single, you likely don’t have anyone that you’re accountable to for your own money, so create a written plan and make yourself accountable to it.
20. Singles should look for a money mentor for advice and accountability This is often difficult for single people to do – in a way, this is why I started this site – but if you have someone that you can ask financial questions, don’t be afraid to tap that resource.
21. Singles beware of the impulse monster; he will eat you alive Impulse buying can quickly undo even the best-laid financial plans; instead, make shopping lists and stick to them, and don’t let yourself get caught up in a momentary desire.
22. Men and women view money differently, so be sensitive to differences When you’re in a couple, be aware that the other person likely has very different perspectives on finances.
23. Opposites attract in marriage, so work together for maximum wisdom When you have different money perspectives, use them in concert to maximize your gains – spend the time and talk about money and plan your finances together.
24. When you agree on spending, you will experience fabulous unity in your marriage Again, work together to determine your spending and saving goals.
25. Teach children to work, spend wisely, save, and give Dave seems to think an allowance directly tied to work tasks is a good idea.
26. The most powerful legacy you can leave is wise, competent children Spend time with your children – guide them and teach them all that you know.
27. Giving loved ones all the money they request may not be best for them Don’t mix adult relationships and money outside of marriage – all money does is damage relationships.
28. Making decisions based on fear of reprisal can be a sign of codependence Codependence is a very bad thing – if you feel that you can’t make a decision based on your worry of how someone else will act, there’s a fundamental relationship problem at work.
29. Be strong enough to help others and strong enough not to Help others by giving them advice and support – don’t help them by giving them money.
30. Listen to your spouse’s counsel (women’s intuition) When you don’t know what to do, talk to your spouse about it in detail – he/she will often have a perspective that never occurred to you.
31. There are few “old” fools – seek experienced counsel I agree with this very strongly; I often use parents and grandparents for advice on what to do.
32. You must keep your checkbook on a timely basis This shows the age of the book a bit, as many people do many financial transactions without a checkbook; however, the principle still stands – keep track of every red cent that comes in and goes out, no matter your system.
33. Lay out the written details of a cash management plan This means make a budget, in not so many words – it doesn’t have to dominate your life, but it needs to be done so you can see where you’re at and where you need to improve.
34. Commit to your plan for ninety days After ninety days, it will be clear which parts work and which ones don’t, so you can use your experience to rework the plan a bit and find that sweet spot in your life.
35. Take time to prioritize your life daily Every day, take a moment or two to figure out what you really need to do and what’s really important.
36. Keep your spiritual life healthy Dave is a devout Christian, but you don’t have to be – just spend some time regularly making sure that your life is in tune.
37. Take baby steps – prioritize your plan and move slowly At the very end of the book, he gives a rough outline of the plan described in The Total Money Makeover, a plan that most of these tips fall right into.
Buy Or Don’t Buy?
As I read Financial Peace Revisited, I couldn’t help but compare it to Dave’s later book, The Total Money Makeover. I kept realizing that specific points in Financial Peace Revisited were exactly the same as points in The Total Money Makeover, and I felt that the later book was more concise and plan-oriented than the earlier book.
By the end, I was able to put in a nutshell my feelings on this book: Financial Peace Revisited is basically a first draft of The Total Money Makeover. The books are very similar, but the thought process in this book is rougher and less cohesive than in the later book.
That’s not to say that Financial Peace Revisited isn’t worth reading; it is a pretty good book, especially for someone who is in dire financial straits and needs a plan to help them start to get their finances in shape. However, The Total Money Makeover is basically the same book, except written much better.
In a nutshell, don’t buy this book unless you’ve already read The Total Money Makeover and you want much of the same material told in a somewhat different fashion. The two books don’t completely overlap, but the meat of both is identical, and The Total Money Makeover is simply a better read with a more complete and concrete plan.
Financial Peace Revisited is the twenty-fifth of fifty-two books in The Simple Dollar’s series 52 Personal Finance Books in 52 Weeks.