The Total Money Makeover

When it comes to money/finances/debts/loans…I cringe.  I know I’m not alone.  It’s not a course I was taught in school.  It’s not something I was taught at home.  I have had to figure it out…poorly.  I have gleaned a thing or two: 1. take out the full possible loan amount while in school.  Everyone does it.  (This was ESPECIALLY true during medical school).  2. Also, you’ll eventually need to buy a house.  That comes with a mortgage.  3. That mortgage will likely take you almost half of your life to pay off, IF you manage to do that at all.  4. Oh, and there will be loads of compound interest on top of that (luckily I WAS taught what compound interest is during a college maths course).  5. Don’t have the money to pay your bill/groceries today?  Write a check.  In a day or two you’ll get paid and have the funds in your account to cover the check*.

Now that I’m trying to get my finances in order, I struggled with what to do, how to do it, where to begin, etc.  Several people I follow on YouTube (including The Minimalists) frequently referred to “The Total Money Makeover” (“TTMM”) by Dave Ramsey.  I got it in audiobook and took some notes as I listened.  I also got the ebook version incase I wanted to read along, as well as the TTMM Workbook.  Here are my thoughts on these possible resources and if they’re worth the time and effort…and money**.

  1. The Total Money Makeover: Audiobook version.  This version appears to be based on an older version of TTMM (see below for more information).  Now, that’s not to say the information is dated.  Not at all!  Even 20 years from now, unless the USA’s economy has totally collapsed, I feel that the information in here will be completely relevant and, better yet, useful.  What a novel idea!  He does on at least a couple of occasions make reference to “if you are a singleton/childless then the following will not pertain to you” (I’m paraphrasing here), which I appreciate.  If you’re curious: yes, most of the book does tend to assume that you are part of a couple and will need to take your spouse’s income and debts into account.  There are good tips as well for those that are like me, single and without children.  He also states at the beginning of the “saving for college” chapter that if you don’t have children, or if they are already in college or beyond, go ahead and skip this section, which I appreciate.  One issue I have is that it is very Christian-based.  This is a problem that I personally have that will not affect everyone.  One statement he makes early on is to openly admit to this bias and to say that the Christians may not like the book because it is not God-centered enough, while the secularists may not like it given how heavy it is on the religious tone.  I fall into the latter category.  The redeeming factor is that he does admit to this, without hesitation, which I love.  He is aware of his bias and how it may affect his readers, which I find to be admirable.  What I do not like, and in fact strongly dislike, is his tone/intonation while he reads the book.  Yes, the author himself, is the narrator.  The tone in his voice is very condescending.  He also repeats the title of the book numerous times, as if he is trying to convince you that you needed to buy this book (never mind that you have already spent money on it but I digress).  Half of the time that I spent listening felt as if I were being scolded by a parent or TV evangelical followed by a sales pitch from a Congressman or used-car salesman.  Dave: I get it.  I have money problems.  That is precisely why I procured this item for myself.  I do not need to be made to feel an idiot or child for my past transgressions.  (Of note, he tends to pick one analogy and run with it (you will hear him say “gazelle-intense” or “gazelle” no less than 42 times!  Yes, I searched the ebook.  I’m honestly not sure if that is because he thought that repeating it would pound it into our subconscious, or if he had no better analogy to use.  The jury is still out on that one).
  2. TTMM ebook:  as a typical ebook it is fine.  There is nothing special about it.  No animations, no embedded videos, no embedded audio clips that you could use.  One thing it does do that the audiobook does not is to expand on some topics.  I believe that the version I have is an updated text.  The same information in here is the same as the audiobook, so really I believe it comes down to your preference of “reading” as it were.  Overall, it is a good text.  I think it is a great starting point.  There are several other books that he has written on a similar topic.  Hit up the personal finance section of your local bookstore and bring an umbrella to protect your head from the potential deluge of books that could fall onto your head from him and several other authors.
  3. TTMM Workbook: it’s a decent workbook.  He has several passages referring to people that have used his program and been successful, just as he did in the two previous sources above.  What’s different about this is that it asks you to sit down with a calculator and brutal honesty.  I will readily admit that I have not worked through the entire book.  Yes, it does have a section for saving for college and as I do not have any children, I will not be completing this section.  My biggest problem is that this book tends to presuppose that the reader is part of a couple.  SEVERAL prompts revolve around “…your spouse…”, which I do not have, limiting its usefulness to me.  Another big problem is when it comes to figuring out how much you make in a month, how set you are if something were to happen…I currently work a job where I do not have steady income.  I do not have the ability nor luxury to know how much I will be able to take home each week.  Had I known just how often these was addressed in the book, I would likely not have bought it.  If you are in a similar situation to me, I would seriously consider if you truly need this Workbook in your life, or if you could save the funds and divert it towards something better.

Final thoughts: skip the workbook.  If you’re rolling in dough, fine, go ahead and get it, along with a trusted accountant/fiduciary.  If not…either the audiobook or ebook is fine.  Eventually I was able to sort of mentally gloss-over the bits where he started preaching and repeating phrases and was able to pull out some valuable information that I will be implementing.


* That WAS something I was “taught” via my mom when we had money issues.  I admit that i have had to use this a time or two during my life.

**Why didn’t I just get it from my local library you ask?  Well for one, they didn’t have it.  My entire library system had every copy checked out and there was a waitlist.  Secondly, if it was as good as everyone had lead me to believe, I felt like this book would be a reference I would be able to use during different times in my life.  You can of course borrow it from a friend if you have one that has a copy, or from  your library, but be warned that there may be a wait.

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