Financial Peace University. (Deeee-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-eeeep breath). Okay, I'm going to be honest. You're looking at the biggest sceptic when it comes to Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University. Until now. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Financial Peace University (FPU), it is a program taught by Dave Ramsey. Who in the world is that? He's the successful talk radio host of the nationally syndicated talk radio show, The Dave Ramsey Show, a New York Times best selling author, and a personal finance expert. And better yet, he practices what he preaches. With a degree in finance, and a family background in real estate, he started out of college with nothing. By the time he was 26 years old, he had become a millionaire and built a four million dollar real estate business. Then he lost it all, filing bankruptcy, by the time he was thirty. He has learned from his mistakes and has since built his wealth back up again, following the practices that he preaches. He teaches not only his children, but millions of people how to manage their finances well. He focuses on beating debt, saving, building wealth, and giving like you've never been able to give before, all the while building character and integrity. FPU is a 13 week video and discussion based class designed by Dave Ramsey that is offered at many churches of all different denominations all over the country, workplaces, military installations, non-profit organizations, and community centers. The program teaches you how to achieve financial peace in your life with integrity and intensity by following seven baby steps:
1.) $1000 in the bank for a starter emergency fund
2.) Pay off all your debt, excluding the house (credit cards, student loans, car payments, and other loans) using the Debt Snowball
3.) Build three to six months of savings in the bank set aside for emergencies only
4.) Invest 15% of your household income into Roth IRAs and pre-tax retirement
5.) College funds for your kids
6.) Pay off the mortgage to your home early
7.) Build wealth and start giving like you never even dreamed you could
It is Christian focused, and it always stresses setting aside your money to give or tithe before you work the rest of your budget for the month. My husband and I started the 90 day class a few weeks ago. In the four sessions that we have been on board, I have experienced all sorts of emotions: excitement, fear, anxiety, happiness, understanding, freak-outs, sadness, hope, glimpses of peace, and excitement again. Let me back up a bit...
I hate numbers. I hate dealing with math. I hate thinking analytically. So, naturally, I hate budgets, the process of setting a budget, and talking about savings, 401Ks, mutual funds, and IRAs. I'm what Dave Ramsey calls the "free spirit" when it comes to money. In certain areas of my life I like to be organized and detail-oriented, but when it comes to money, ha! I just kind of spend by how I feel and hope that it all magically turns out for the best. Terrible, I know.
Now, let me introduce you to my husband, who is what Dave Ramsey calls the "nerd". He has not one masters degree, but two. One is in computer engineering, and the other is an MBA. He loved his financial classes, and for him thinking about money is (gulp) fun. For all you free spirits out there, yes, I'm serious. I did say fun. He's a computer software engineer who has just recently moved into software architecture, so he naturally loves numbers, math, and thinking analytically...everything that almost makes me break out into hives just thinking about. When we took the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) personality inventory in pre-marital counselling getting ready for marriage, we were exact opposites in everything. I am an INFJ, and my husband is an ESTP.
My husband: Extroverted
Me: Intuition (concerned with the underlying meaning of things)
My husband: Sensing (concerned with what is real, present, and the facts)
Me: Feeling (concerned about other people's values and emotions when I make decisions, make decisions with my heart, prefer everyone to feel at peace, etc.)
My husband: Thinking (looks at a problem logically and finds the underlying principle to be applied, thinks with his head, looks at things analytically)
Me: Judging (concerned with being planned and organized, like decisions to be made, feels better using lists for tasks)--except for when it comes to money, hence the free spirit!
My husband: Perceiving (spontaneous, open, flexible, laid back)--except for when it comes to money, hence the nerd!
Opposites attract, right? So, as you can see, we obviously would approach the subject of finances very differently. Men and women are also different when it comes to thinking about finances, too. So throw that into the mix, and well, you can see why we chose to go to FPU. My husband looooooooooooves making spread sheets about our finances that include just about every possible scenario in our lives that could happen financially. I on the other hand, hate Excel, and still can't quite understand how to use it even though I have sort of learned it many times. My husband recently even wrote his own computer program from scratch to determine a bunch of different ways we could pay off our debt with time lines for each of them. The programs available on the FPU website were not up to snuff for him, so he created his own. The budget spreadsheets and net worth/assets pages he prints off for me are so complicated that I just start to cry when we sit down to talk about money. "Money"....I cry. I don't know why. It's like a gag reflex or something. My crying is like my reaction to mayo or Miracle Whip; it simply just makes me sick. So, as you can guess, when we sit down and try to talk about money or budgets, I get extremely confused and overwhelmed (but don't misunderstand: I am very appreciative and proud of my husband for being able to think about money so well and to do all these things analytically for our family. I would be a total mess without my nerd.) When I become overwhelmed, it stresses out my husband, he gets frustrated, and in turn he feels like it's his fault that I'm crying, which it's not. It's like we're speaking different languages. He says "money", and I hear "Glsnmicklboqgtaypvs." I just let him, and WANT him to deal with the finances since he's good at it, and I am not. The problem is that I feel out of the loop and very dependent when I do this. If something were to happen to him, God forbid, I would be lost. The second session of FPU was called "Nerds and Free Spirits Unite", and I'm thankful to say that this free spirit and nerd have united indeed! In just a few short weeks, we have learned a valuable and priceless life lesson: how to communicate with each other about setting the budget, sticking to it, and paying off our debt. (Deeeeeee-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-eeeeeeeep breath in a good way.)
FPU is big on using cash for everything, which we're so not there yet. We're on our way. For now we are using a virtual envelope system and sinking funds in our financial planning. The goal: beat down our debt, save for our family's future, and save for expenses. Sounds easy enough, but we've just never been able to talk about these things without frustration. We have detailed spreadsheets for the last seven years about where exactly we have spent our money. We've just never made a budget before spending the money. We were doing fine until we went from a two-income family to one-income family. That's when it all changed, and living without a set budget each month finally caught up to us. Being a stay-at-home mom is undoubtedly the path that our family is supposed to be on, but adjusting financially has been difficult. I think just knowing that we had to think and plan more about money made me dread talking about it, but now we talk all the time. I feel like I have learned so much, and I can feel myself being much more open than I used to be. Approaching our finances from a united, godly perspective has been life-changing. We are learning to live with some discipline and self-control. As Dave would say, we're living like no one else, so that we can LIVE like no one else later. We're being disciplined so that eventually we can have the things that we want and pay for them up front without accruing more debt. Thank God for Dave Ramsey!