Finance/Money

Review: The Total Money Makeover

A picture of the The Total Money Makeover book cover, featuring a smiling Dave Ramsey holding a pair of scissors in the middle of cutting a credit card.
Image from Dave Ramsey

Title: The Total Money Makeover: A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness

Author: Dave Ramsey

Genre: Finance/Money

Trigger warnings: Fatphobia, ableism

Back Cover:

Okay, folks, do you want to turn those fat and flabby expenses into a well-toned budget? Do you want to transform your sad and skinny little bank account into a bulked-up cash machine? Then get with the program, people. There’s one sure way to whip your finances into shape, and that’s with The Total Money Makeover.

By now, you’ve heard all the nutty get-rich-quick schemes, the fiscal diet fads that leave you with a lot of kooky ideas but not a penny in your pocket. Hey, if you’re tired of the lies and sick of the false promises, then take a look at this – it’s the simplest, most straightforward game plan for completely making over your money habits. And it’s based on results, not pie-in-the-sky fantasies.

With The Total Money Makeover, you’ll be able to:

  • Design a surefire plan for paying off all debt – cars, houses, everything
  • Recognize the 10 most dangerous money myths (these will kill you)
  • Secure a big, fat nest egg for emergencies and retirement!

Where Financial Peace gave you the solid saving and investing principles, this book puts those principles into practice. You’ll be exercising your financial strength every day and quickly freeing yourself of worry, stress, and debt – and that’s a beautiful feeling.

Review:

I got this book as a graduation gift … for my high school graduation. It’s technically a reread, but since it’s been over three years since I last read it, I remember very little. (Of the book itself, at least – my parents are huge Dave Ramsey fans so I’ve been through several of his classes and know all the principles.) I’m honestly not sure why I picked it up again, but it’s pretty engaging and didn’t take me too long to get through.

If you’re unfamiliar with Dave Ramsey and his financial principles, this book is a reasonably good introduction (even though I think it’s a sequel-ish thing to his book Financial Peace). This book goes over Dave’s “Baby Steps” to financial security, financial myths that are holding you back, good (and bad) examples of finance management, and even testimonies from people who’ve gone through his program and fixed their financial problems.

Overall, it’s a good book. Not great, just good. It’s inspiring and it teaches good principles and solid money management skills. But it does have some MAJOR problems.

In case you didn’t get the picture from the back cover, the entire book uses the “fat vs. fit” metaphor to talk about budgets. MAJOR fatphobia. Bad budgeting/debt/spending more than you make is bad/wrong/negative/stupid … and fat. Good budgeting/saving/investing, on the other hand, gets words like “important,” “excellent,” “fit,” and “lean.” I honestly didn’t notice this when I read it the first time, but now that I’m more aware of fatphobia, it bothered me a lot.

There’s also a bit of subtle ableism going on (or subtle to me as a mostly able-bodied person – if you’re disabled you may find it a lot more obvious). The book is written for people who are working full-time at a non-minimum wage job. And one piece of advice he gives in the “pay off debt fast” section is get a second job (or a third or fourth) to make more money and pay it off faster.

Dave also has a very matter-of-fact way of speaking. In most cases, this isn’t bad – I honestly like how he puts everything in simple English and doesn’t over-complicate anything. The whole book is a remarkably low reading level. However, sometimes his style gets a little too blunt, I think, especially the way he calls financial decisions he doesn’t agree with “stupid.” That’s just a personal pet peeve, though.

If you take a critical look at the salesy part of the book, it actually sounds kinda like a scam. “This way is the ONLY way to do it and it works every time, if it fails it’s because you weren’t intense enough!” is the basic message. Which sounds really like a scam. The only thing I have to say about this is I’ve seen it work for a lot of people. So sometimes it works. I don’t know how necessarily foolproof it is, though.

This book definitely has some huge problems. (For that matter, this is pretty indicative of Dave Ramsey’s stuff in general – it all has similar problems.) But his principles are solid, and if you can look past his “my way or be in debt forever!” preachiness, the fatphobia, and other issues, it’s a pretty inspiring book. And if you want to get your finances under control or figure out how to pay off a lot of debt, it’s worth a read. (Although if you’re disabled in any way it might not be so useful.)

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