Updated on 04.22.07

I Think I Figured Out Why People Love Dave Ramsey

Trent Hamm

The Total Money MakeoverFor the longest time, I didn’t really “get” why people loved Dave Ramsey. I knew that Dave had a pretty serious following (due to some interesting comments and emails), but I didn’t understand the passion, even when I was reading and reviewing The Total Money Makeover. I found the book to be quite enthusiastic, but a bit simplistic.

Last night, I was doing some writing when I fired up a Dave Ramsey podcast. It’s a continuation of a habit of mine; if I read a book that intrigued me in any way, I try to find a podcast of the author so I can hear their voice … after that, it’s easy to hear them in my mind when I read more of their writings. I tuned in at that moment mostly because I was just looking for something financial in nature to fill my ears while I worked on a new series of posts (to appear next month … be patient!), but for some reason I kept pausing to listen to Ramsey.

After the hour was over, I followed up on a hunch I had and fired up a podcast by Christian evangelist Joel Osteen. I read his book Your Best Life Now at the recommendation of a friend and, much like my desire to listen to Ramsey, I eventually wanted to actually hear the speaking style of the author.

It turned out that Dave Ramsey and Joel Osteen have a lot in common and it finally occurred to me why Dave is so successful. It boils down to three main points:

He has passion, or at least gives the impression of passion. Regardless of how he treats his listeners, he comes off as being quite passionate about what he’s saying. Of course, anyone who is successful in public speaking needs to be able to at least sound passionate most of the time, but Dave is particularly good at giving off that vibe.

He taps into the innermost desires of people. Rather than sticking with the financial issues, Dave immediately tries to tap into people’s emotional cores to figure out what they really want. He goes right for emotional nerves and you can often hear the pure rawness in the emotions of his callers.

He makes achieving that desire seem painfully easy. Remember how I complained that Dave seemed overly simplistic? Once he’s dug to the center of a caller’s emotional core, he makes solving the caller’s pains incredibly easy. “Just pay cash for everything.” “Live like no one else so you can live like no one else.” These are bromides that seem really, really simple – and if you buy in wholeheartedly, they work.

Joel Osteen and Dave Ramsey have a lot in common because they’re both evangelists. Though Joel evangelizes the Gospel while Dave evangelizes sound financial planning, they’re both incredibly successful at it because they’re both gifted at digging into what people want and making the path to getting there seem easy.

So, is it a good thing? My general feeling is this: anything that gets people on a sound financial and emotional path is a good thing. I might disagree with Dave’s philosophies, but I can state that his plan will work and that it is very simple to follow. If that’s what it takes to break through, then it’s probably worthwhile to listen to Dave Ramsey.

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  1. ihomas says:

    I think you hit it on the head. I explained it to my girlfriend that Dave had not really told me anything I did not know, He just made me want to put it into practice. I had started to payoff my credit cards after taking out a cash advance and came to see that the big hole I had dug. I stopped digging and had started a plan before I had even heard of Dave Ramsey. He just happened to cross my path when I was a bit dejected at my progress. I agree that his plan seems simple , but it is much easier to get into a financial mess.

  2. Jim Kane says:

    Good review (and ihomas, my wife said the same thing: “I told you all that stuff already, but you never listened to me about it!” I would disagree with one statement though: that Dave makes acheiving the financial mountaintop seem easy. I think he even mentions in the book that it is “simple, but certainly not easy.” You did bring out his #1 draw up front, though: his passion for ministry.

    Full disclosure: I’ve been a Dave fan for about ten years now, and I have volunteered at one of his events and met him in person (he’s a real human and he loves barbecue). We don’t always agree, but I support his cause wholeheartedly.

  3. Jim Lippard says:

    I’ve not been exposed to Dave Ramsey’s writing, but I borrowed my parents’ Dave Ramsey CDs and reviewed them here.

    I agree with you that he simplifies, and I disagree with some elements of his program, but I think that his program works extremely well for a wide general audience. His “baby steps” are called that for good reason.

  4. Ann says:

    (1) Dave (and his advice) is not intimidating and speaks in terms most people understand.
    (2) Dave is blunt; for example, he chastises people who pay for cable tv but can’t keep the lights on.
    (3) Dave is compassionate and never derogatory.
    (4) Dave makes people BELIEVE they can do it, one baby step at a time.

  5. mary says:

    I will always be in debt to Dave Ramsey for getting my husband on board … he really appeals to men. Other financial counselors lecture in a dry tone “don’t charge balances on your credit cards that you can’t pay off that month.”

    Dave Ramsey gets out a big pair of scissors and starts a “plasectomy!” He starts with the credit card companies we hate but ends with Home Depot and Victoria’s Secret in a comic routine that has everyone laughing with tears streaming down their faces.

    He gets your emotion into it which makes you work your plan with a passion. I can’t sleep after one of his classes – you should see his DVD from Financial Peace University entitled “Retirement and College Planning.”

    Yeah – Dave! He’s my hero!

  6. April says:

    Dave Ramsey has it all . . . simple, direct, inspirational, authentic and a marketing genius. Listening to his program helps me put life AND money in perspective.

  7. boardmadd says:

    There are a number of Dave Ramsey vids from Financial Peace University (including the aforementioned “plastectomy cut-up”), and I agree, just watching these clips really lets you see Ramsey’s appeal. He’s engaging, pasionate, and he can also be quite funny in an almost stand-up comedy kind of way.

  8. deRuiter says:

    I love Dave Ramsey and his approach, he makes finance fun and easy. I always lived a frugal life, and am enjoying my frugal retirement, with lots of fun things like frugal trips to Europe all paid before I set foot at the airport. If people who are in debt listen to Dave Ramsey and do as he says, they will become prosperous. If you don’t like his folksy, evangelist approach, go elsewhere. For the average person drowning in debt, he’s a lifeline to dry land. Dave can show the way to financial freedom, BUT HE CAN’T MAKE YOU SWIM THERE!

  9. Pat Flanakin says:


    Real quick, Pastor Osteen is not an evangelist in the fundamentalist sense of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He communicates a gospel which is termed the Prosperity Gospel. He does not have an accurate Gospel message which if people believe will yield eternal life; he is a false teacher.

    I cannot say the same for Mr. Ramsey; however, I have emailed Mr. Ramsey at least once concerning his advocacy of tithing which is not applicable today and where he even told someone to continue tithing when they were unemployed! Tithing, by definition, was from the Jews increase; therefore, those with no increase did not tithe in the Old Testament. I never received a reply from Mr. Ramsey on this.

    I do not agree with Mr. Ramsey’s approach to lawsuits in most cases and his attitude many times on the air is to tell a caller that you need to get mean and nasty about that lawsuit and get them for everything they have. I heard this within the past month a few times. I do not think such advice should be peddled from someone who ends their show with something to the effect that the only peace is peace with the Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ (which I agree with).

    Just a few thoughts.

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