Finding, then writing 'Financial Peace,' Ramsey now sees thousands of changed lives

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)--"If you will live like no one else, later you can live like no one else," says Dave Ramsey, author of "Financial Peace" and, new this fall, "Total Money Makeover." It's a motto Ramsey repeats often during his radio show, in his live events and in his books. But it's a lesson he had to learn the hard way.

At 26, by all appearances, Ramsey was living like no one else. With a net worth of more than $4 million, Ramsey had accumulated in four years what many take a lifetime to achieve. His knack for buying and selling real estate had catapulted him and his wife, Sharon, into success and riches beyond their wildest dreams. They were living the good life. They had traded in the old Pinto for a Jaguar.

But 15 years ago, the bottom dropped out of the real estate market. Banks started calling in his loans and, within three years, the Ramseys lost everything and were forced to declare bankruptcy. The future looked grim.

Sharon, a stay-at-home mom for their three children, remembers those days well.

"You realize that you can give up, or you can stand up and say 'this is a period of life that's difficult but you can do it,'" she said. "Your prayer life definitely goes up. You have to have hope; you just have to know it's not going to be like this forever."

Ramsey was faced with a choice: be controlled by money or learn how to control money. By studying biblical principles for money and following the examples of others, Ramsey turned his family's financial situation around. He worked 18-hour days. They shopped consignment shops and garage sales. They sold everything that didn't matter. After three years, they had paid off their debt.

Shortly after finding financial peace for his family, Ramsey counseled a friend over coffee who was experiencing financial problems. He soon began counseling families at his church, which then developed into a Sunday School class.

Fifteen years later, he has helped change the lives of thousands.

"We're able to give a cool drink of water in the name of Jesus," Ramsey reflected. "We teach somebody how to get out of debt, answer some confusing question and help them get a budget together. In that context, it also gives us a chance to look for what's behind the question -- and many times that's the need for a relationship with Jesus Christ."

Live events, five-hour financial seminars, are held throughout the year in major cities all over the country. Ramsey makes it a point to close each event talking about God. Free audiocassettes are given away to all participants with Ramsey's personal testimony and an invitation to accept Christ. It's an invitation that's been accepted by thousands of people, evidenced by the e-mails and phone calls that he's received.

Just recently, Ramsey was signing books after a live event in Huntsville, Ala., when a young woman, "dressed pretty radically," broke in line in front of a man who turned out to be her father.

"She said, 'I took this tape out to the car and listened to it 'cause I was bored waiting for my dad,'" Ramsey recounted. "She told me she just wanted me to know she'd just accepted the Lord."

Changing lives seems to be a common theme when it comes to Ramsey's ministry. His latest book, "Total Money Makeover" from Thomas Nelson Publishers, offers more than 50 different testimonies of singles, couples and families who have become -- or are working to be -- debt-free. All, or most, have followed what Ramsey calls "the Baby Steps":

Step 1: $1,000 in an "emergency fund."

Step 2: Pay off all debt utilizing the "Debt Snowball" (except the house).

Step 3: 3-6 months expenses in savings.

Step 4: Invest 15 percent of household income into Roth IRAs and pre-tax retirement.

Step 5: College funding.

Step 6: Pay off home early.

Step 7: Build wealth! (mutual funds/real estate).

Ramsey admits that people find the second step the most challenging.

"People have so much debt to pay off -- it's not hard emotionally, it's actually kind of fun," said Ramsey, who equates paying off debt like working in the yard. "You know when you mulch the bushes, edge the sidewalks, when you're right in the middle of it, you're dirty, dusty, you're hot. But when you're in the middle of the battle, you know at the end you can step back and say, 'Man, it looks good.' You can feel yourself winning the same way when it comes to getting rid of debt."

Getting rid of debt is a desire Ramsey wants to communicate nationwide. On Saturday, Sept. 20, he'll speak in the largest simulcast his ministry has ever held. The event will reach all 50 states including Hawaii, with 520 downlink locations currently committed. More than 50,000 people are expected to attend.

Today, Ramsey is truly living like no one else, because he made the choice to say no to debt and wrongful spending habits.

"I pray that when it's all said and done, people will see that we did everything wide open," said Ramsey, when asked about the kind of legacy he'd like to leave behind. "That we loved God wide open and that I loved my wife and children wide open. And that we led people to the Lord by standing on principle and helping them find financial peace."


For registration or further information for the "Total Money Makeover -- Live Via Satellite" event Sept. 20, call 1-800-480-5902 or visit http://www.daveramsey.com. (BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: TEACHING MOMENT.

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