The Total Money Makeover: Live Like No One Else

This is the twelfth of twelve parts of a “book club” reading and discussion of Dave Ramsey’s The Total Money Makeover, where this book on debt reduction is teased apart and looked at in detail. This entry covers the thirteenth chapter, finishing on page 218.

ttmmThe Total Money Makeover ends with a very brief chapter that includes a few thoughts about what comes next once your finances are rolling along. Since this chapter is just a very brief coda, I’m also tying in my thoughts as a whole on the book, as well as links back to the older entries in the series.

Wealth As a Prison
On page 219, Dave hits upon the idea that it’s not a good idea to let wealth control your life:

The wealthy person who is ruled by his stuff is no more free than the debt-ridden consumer we have picked on throughout the book. Antoine Rivaroli said, “There are men who gain from their wealth only the fear of losing it.”

I think that anything in your life that fills you with more negative feelings than positive ones is a prison. It might be debt. It might be your job. It might be your wealth. It might be anything.

Whatever those things are, you need to eliminate them. If it’s your wealth, you need to give some of it away. Seriously. If it’s your debt, you need to get hard core about repaying it. If it’s your job, you need to focus intensely on a career change. If it’s your marriage, you need to face it and work hard on it.

If you don’t, it’s just another prison. People wonder how I can feel sympathy for famous people – I often do – when they have all of this wealth and stuff. What they don’t have is the freedom to go on a walk in the park. Is it their choice? Sometimes it is, but sometimes they’re trapped by their own fame and their only choice is to completely drop out of their career – and for some, that isn’t even enough (a la Britney Spears, circa 2007, when she was obviously trying to take a time out but kept getting hounded nonstop).

If it’s causing you more hurt than happiness, you need to do something to change it.

A Few Thoughts on the Book in General
Here are a few general thoughts I had on The Total Money Makeover from reading through it again in detail.

First, there’s more than a little “marketing flavor” in this book. Dave makes a lot of references to his other media properties – other books, his DVDs, his radio show, and so on. While I don’t mind it when those other resources are free (like the radio show), it seems a bit disingenuous to talk a lot about saving money while pitching other books and DVDs. I didn’t like this part at all.

Second, some pieces of the book have surprising depth. It’s easy to come away from this book just remembering the big points, like the “baby steps,” and Dave’s folksy tone often disguises things. However, if you peel away that stuff, you find lots of interesting things under the surface, ideas that, if you let them, guide you to reflect deeply on your life in ways you may not expect.

Third, the Christian overtones aren’t as strong as I remembered. On my original reading of the book, I had a perception that it was very full of Christian overtones. Reading it again, I realize the Christian themes are actually pretty sparse. He hits upon a Biblical idea perhaps once a chapter and spends maybe two sentences on it.

Of course, it’s not hard to see the connection between many of the other ideas and general Christian teachings, but if you study religions, you’ll find that many moral teachings are common from religion to religion. Why? I think they’re part of a moral code that exists in most humans, religious or otherwise. Dave’s book calls to the good side of our morals.

Finally, the central theme of this book is obviously “intensity.” If you’re going to do something big in your life, you have to hit it hard. You can’t do it half way. I find this really true in my own life: the things I’ve been successful with (getting my money in order, getting a writing career launched) were things I did with a deep passion and focus.

Do You Want to Know More?
Here are the previous eleven entries in this “book club” series on The Total Money Makeover. Please, dig back into the earlier entries – there are tons of good ideas and comments there.

The Challenge … and Denial

Debt Myths

Money Myths

Two More Hurdles

Save $1,000 Fast
6. The Debt Snowball

Finish the Emergency Fund
8. Maximize Retirement Investing

College Funding
10. Pay Off the Home Mortgage

Build Wealth Like Crazy

Do you have any other thoughts on this chapter of The Total Money Makeover, the book as a whole, or on how this book club went? Please share them in the comments – and feel free to respond to any of my impressions as well. After all, a good book club is all about discussion!

Trent Hamm
Trent Hamm
Founder of The Simple Dollar

Trent Hamm founded The Simple Dollar in 2006 after developing innovative financial strategies to get out of debt. Since then, he’s written three books (published by Simon & Schuster and Financial Times Press), contributed to Business Insider, US News & World Report, Yahoo Finance, and Lifehacker, and been featured in The New York Times, TIME, Forbes, The Guardian, and elsewhere.

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