Dave Ramsey's FPU Class Review

I have worked in the finance world for several years now and have been frugal my entire life; I got that from my mom. Regardless of how much money (or lack of money) I have in my checking account, I still seek the best deal I can find. It's just good business sense and something I will always do.

I am, however, human and an American and a lover of nice things: nice homes, nice cars, good food, pretty clothes, hair appointments, decor... the list goes on. I mention being American because I recently learned that Americans, on average, save just 4% of their income. We save less than almost all other developed countries. In comparison, an average German saves 20%! I am also educated, but education comes at a price, at least in this country. So, I was sitting with a student loan and a car loan.

My husband, thank the heavens, is debt free and shares my fairly financially conservative mindset. Well, at least he does now. The first time we went to the grocery store together when we were dating, I realized I had forgotten an item when we got to the register. I handed him a stack of coupons along with my shopping list (which matched the sale prices and coupons, so I could ensure things rang up correctly). Justin looked at the coupons now in his hand and said, 'what do I do with these?'. A typical, young bachelor he was accustomed to running into the store, grabbing what he needed and a few things he didn't, and getting out as fast as possible, without a second look at prices or sales. He's come a long way!

As I mentioned in THIS savings blog post, we want to be 100% debt free. I have full faith we can accomplish this, but it's still important we STAY motivated. So, I enrolled us in Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University course this Fall.

I wasn't sure what to expect. I enjoy hearing and reading about all of the success stories of people who have completed his course. I was worried though, that we wouldn't have anywhere near the results other folks had. Of the reviews I found online, it seems that a lot of people take his class as a last resort. They enroll when they are up to their eyes in debt, when arguing with their spouse about money is a regular occurrence and when they don't know where else to turn. I realize this is a broad generalization, but I couldn't find many, if any, reviews that were written by people who did not have $25K+ in credit card debt, 2+ car loans, thousands in student loan debt etc. I wanted to hear from people, like us, that took the class, not as a last resort, but more for continued motivation in their debt-free journey.

I thought I would share our experience, for anyone in a similar situation or has considered taking this course. It is a 9-week course, which is taught in churches throughout the US. I was surprised how many classes were offered nearby. I was also surprised that we had 31 people in our class. The class size is not a bad thing at all, all discussion is done in a small group setting anyway. I was just expecting a smaller group for some reason. I won't do a weekly play by play but an overview of the class.

The 1st Class
Our first class lasted 2 hours and 10 minutes, not the 90 minutes stated on the website. When we walked out, I was surprised that it had been that long because it did go very fast. The majority of the class is watching a DVD that Dave Ramsey leads. When you enroll in the course, you get a kit that includes CDs of each lesson covered in the 9 weeks, a workbook, envelope system and a copy of his book. I was very impressed with the materials and packing. Although I had already read the book, I gave it to my husband to read and am glad to have a copy to refer back to should we need to.

The lesson that week focused on an overview of Dave Ramsey's famous baby step program, with a heavy emphasis on the first stage; building up a $1000 emergency fund. It is highly motivational and very relatable. We then divided up into small groups, about 8 people per group. Our group leader asked several open ended questions, like: what made you take this class, what areas are you hoping to improve in financially, what are your biggest financial struggles, what do we constitute as an emergency (again, financial-wise). You do not have to respond in any way and no personal information is asked or divulged. It was healthy discussion and it was interesting to learn about others' perspectives. One couple owe an incredibly large amount in student loan debt. One lady was facing a bankruptcy and simultaneous divorce. One man, a business owner, is retiring in a few,short years and wants to be as prepared as possible.

Although we all come from different backgrounds, different stages in life and facing different battles, I felt a sort of connection between everyone. No judgement, just support. In fact, we walked out feeling more grateful and appreciative of what we have (a strong marriage, no harassing creditors breathing down our neck and a comfortable house to come home to) than I have felt in a very long time. It was humbling. We realized, as well, that we are a health emergency or layoff away from a much worse situation. Our plan is to payoff the debt we do have and continue saving, so if we are faced with one of us being out of work for any unforeseen reason, we would be ok.

Each week focused on a different lesson covering topics such as savings, insurance, mortgages, dumping debt, retirement planning etc.

I can't say that I personally learned a ton of new information, however I have read several of Dave Ramsey's books previously and was already making monthly budgets. Justin and I were on the same page when it came to our financial plan as well. However, I am very glad we took this course and would recommend to anyone. I think it would be especially beneficial for high school/college students, as well as anyone that doesn't feel like they have a good grip on their finances.

Also, this is a somewhat Christian-based class. I say somewhat because Dave does reference the bible frequently and one lesson is dedicated solely to tithing. However, I did not find it to be overly preachy. I thought it was a very good blend of financial facts with some religious methodology that supports the importance of not being a slave to the lender and other biblical references to money. Regardless of your religion or perhaps lack thereof, I believe anyone would be comfortable taking this course.

Money is something that is such an important part of our lives, whether we want to admit it or not. Financial Peace University does a very good job of breaking down all aspects of personal finances in a easy to understand and relatable manner. Another benefit of taking this course, is that you are able to retake the course as many times as you need for free. Justin and I plan to attend the insurance lesson again before we renew our insurance policies next year.

If anyone has any questions, please feel free to email me at suburbanspunk@gmail.com.

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