Review of Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University

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Financial Peace University Review

After following the Dave Ramsey baby steps for nearly seven years, my wife and I decided to take the Financial Peace University (FPU) course through our church last year. We went on to co-lead our own Financial Peace University class in the fall of 2018. There are many Financial Peace University reviews out there, yet we hope that you find benefit in our story.

In 2011, we were introduced to the concept of becoming debt free through Dave Ramsey’s book, Total Money Makeover. Even though we were already on a debt pay-down journey for years, it was refreshing to go back to the basics in Financial Peace University to see first hand how other people reacted to Dave’s philosophy.

Dave Ramsey has been more successful than just about anyone at encouraging a diverse audience to eliminate debt and live a more purposeful life. There have been many conversations in the personal finance community about how to better reach the low-to-moderate income population. My suggestion is usually to start with Financial Peace University as the class starts with the personal finance basics. Dave is effective in rolling out basic personal finance principles such as budgeting in an inspiring way.

What is Financial Peace University?

Financial Peace University is an interactive 9 week course facilitated primarily by weekly videos featuring Dave Ramsey. The course materials went through a significant upgrade in 2019. While you can purchase the course material and take it on your own, I’d highly recommend seeking out a small group to go through the course together. The real magic of the course comes through the small group discussions which also creates accountability. It’s similar to the Weight Watchers approach that creates a small community of individuals who hold each other accountable. After all, personal finance and diet have similarities. The overall concepts are simple but the actual doing is hard.

The Financial Peace University course is based on biblical principles. Many people may not know that money is one of the most referenced topics in the Bible, and is mentioned more that 800 times. If you aren’t a Christian I wouldn’t let this deter you from taking the class. The biblical teachings are primarily referenced in the background in ways that would be non-threatening to non-Christians. We had a family in our class who was not religious and they were two of the most engaged individuals in the class.

What are the Baby Steps in Dave Ramsey’s Plan?

Dave uses a seven step approach to eliminate debt known as the baby steps. Once you become debt free (baby step 2) and save up a three-to-six month emergency fund (baby step 3), people can usually start moving to more advanced personal finance guidance. For example, in baby step 6 the goal is to pay off the mortgage. Even though we decided to pay off our mortgage, the same may not be best for others depending on an individual’s unique set of circumstances (my opinion, not Dave’s). An earlier blog post of mine went into more detail on the baby steps featured in Financial Peace University.

The Baby Steps

1) Save $1,000 In An Emergency Fund

2) Pay Off All Debt With The Debt Snowball

3) 3 to 6 Months Expenses in Savings

4) Invest 15% Of Income Into Roth IRAs and Pre-Tax Retirement Plans

5) Put Money In Savings for College Education

6) Pay Off Your Home Early

7) Build Wealth and Give

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Financial Peace University Review

What Does Financial Peace University Cost?

There is often debate around the price of Financial Peace University. Even the pastor at our church made a snippy comment that we could all have financial peace if we sold thousands of courses for $100 a piece.

Our cost to purchase the materials for Financial Peace University was $100 through our church. The normal online price if you purchase on its own is $129.00.

I personally do not have an issue with the price. While $100 is a lot of money, the investment encourages commitment to the course. I’ve heard many Financial Peace University leaders comment that the first people to drop out are usually the ones where someone else purchased their course materials. If you are able to implement the framework from Financial Peace University it will be well worth the expense.

How Long is the Financial Peace University Course?

Financial Peace University is a nine week course led primarily through videos featuring Dave Ramsey and other speakers at his company. Below are the topics covered in Financial Peace University. Please note these lessons have been updated for the 2019 new curriculum.

Starter Emergency Fund + Budgeting – Lesson 1

This lesson provides an overview of Financial Peace University and the importance of getting started with a small emergency fund.  This lesson is designed to get you excited about saving!

Pay Off All Debt – Lesson 2

This is arguably the most important lesson in the series as it provides a road map to pay down all debt. This is also the most challenging lesson where many families get stuck or give up. Make a commitment to follow Dave’s plan and you’ll be amazed at the life changing results.

Save a Fully Funded Emergency Fund – Lesson 3

The third step in Dave’s plan is to save three-to-six months of expenses in an emergency fund. If you reach this step you would take all the money you had been paying towards debt and shift it to building your emergency fund. You emergency fund will provide the runway if you ever lose a job unexpectedly, have an unexpected home repair, or get hit with a large medical bill.

Invest for the Future and Build Wealth – Lesson 4

This lesson can be challenging to connect to initially if you are drowning in debt and living paycheck-to-paycheck. However, there are millions of other families that have made it to these steps in the process. Stick to the process and don’t underestimate the fat that small wins over time lead to huge wins down the road.

Buyer Beware – Lesson 5

You can draws on Dave and his team’s years of selling and marketing experience to show you exactly how all of these businesses get their message deep into your subconscious. This lesson will show you how to finally gain power over your purchases and get the best deal when you’re ready to buy.

The Role of Insurance – Lesson 6

You’ll walk through several types of insurance that every adult needs and reveals how to avoid traps in the insurance industry that can leave you flat broke. This lesson will teach you about life insurance, health insurance, and other specialty plans.

Retirement Planning – Lesson 7

This lesson will help you better understand all those confusing initials and abbreviations that come with investments: IRA, 401(k), 403(b), 529 and more! You’ll learn the best way to make sure your kids get through college without a student loan!

Real Estate and Mortgages – Lesson 8

You’ll learn many effective tips for buying and selling your home. This lesson breaks down the different mortgage options to reveal the best (and worst) ways to buy a house.

Outrageous Generosity – Lesson 9

Last but not least, this lesson discusses the commonly held misconceptions many people have about giving and reveals the true key to winning with both your life and your money. This lesson shows why it’s so important to take control of your money.

For additional information on Financial Peace University, you may visit the Financial Peace University site using this non-affiliate link. Please note this article is not in any way sponsored or affiliated with Dave Ramsey. 

Financial Peace University

Who Participated in Our Financial Peace University Class?

I don’t want to give away much information about other families in the class. However, I think it’s appropriate to reference the success of our group in aggregate terms.

There were eight to ten families who originally joined the class. I believe this is a typical class size for a Financial Peace University class. By the final week there were six families still attending regularly. During the first few weeks, many individuals were asking challenging questions and really pushing back on the concepts. You could tell that for some individuals even saving the $1,000 emergency fund (baby step 1) was an insurmountable task.

By the final week, the five families (not including us) had either increased savings or paid down debt by a combined amount of $21,000! That is more than $4,000 per family in just over two months. Dave is an exceptional motivator. You could tell the people who stuck around to the final week were onboard with his approach and had changed their financial lives to achieve their goals.

My wife and I stayed relatively quiet during the classes. We were mostly there to listen and observe and didn’t want to step on the toes of the facilitators. Revealing that we were debt free besides the mortgage may have led people to wonder if we were only taking the class to brag or show off our success. We didn’t reveal to the class that we were in baby step 6 until the final week. It’s not that we were trying to hide the success we’ve had over the years, but we missed a few weeks early on and there really wasn’t a good time to bring it up without going out of our way.

What Did We Learn?

As someone who is a regular consumer of personal finance related information, I wasn’t expecting to learn much. However, there were a few videos where I had several takeaways. For example, there were eye opening moments during the “Role of Insurance” lesson. We have life insurance through my work, but probably need additional term life insurance through a different provider. We also plan to shop our insurance rates and explore getting an umbrella policy since our net worth has increased during the past several years.

Whether you are a personal finance nerd like me or brand new to the concepts, this class has something for all. What I found was concepts that are common knowledge to me such as budgeting, eliminating debt, and building emergency savings were completely new to others. What Dave does so well is explains the “why” behind reducing debt and increasing savings.

Is Financial Peace University Biblical?

Yes, and no. But mostly yes. Dave is not shy about sharing that Financial Peace University is based off of biblical principles. His story is that after going bankrupt earlier in his life, he turned to the bible to help better manage his finances. What he learned eventually turned into Financial Peace University.

The reason I say no is because even though Financial Peace University is based on biblical principles, the references to the bible or Christianity are not off-putting to non-believers. Sure, there are a few Christianity references mixed throughout the class but the comments are few and far in between. In the two classes I’ve participated in we had non-Christians and they were some of our most engaged participants.

Financial Peace University Review

I believe just about anyone could benefit from joining a Financial Peace University small group. Even individuals who are savvy with personal finance would benefit from the group aspect. I learned a lot about the challenges other people face to get out of debt. Even saving that first $1,000 can be a huge task depending on a person’s situation.

Even though we didn’t completely follow Dave’s guidance on our debt pay-down journey, after going through the class I have a better appreciation for his approach. For example, while I don’t necessarily agree with his advice on credit cards, i came to better understand his reasoning. It’s easy for someone who is already financially responsible to leverage the benefits of credit card reward points. With that said, someone who lacks financial discipline could find themselves back in debt with extremely high interest rates using credit cards.

Reading The Total Money Makeover back in 2011 was one of the best things to ever happen to our family. Digging our way out of debt has helped us set a strong financial foundation. As someone in our group put it during the final week, “This is life changing stuff and it needs to be shared more broadly.”

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9 Comments

  1. That’s awesome! I’m hoping to have a similar impact on others by leading a class in the future. Dave does such a good job motivating people to pay off debt.

  2. Thanks for sharing. I’m in the process of getting quotes from a few different insurance providers. Looking at 20 year term policies. If it ends up being more than $20 or so a month I’ll probably pass. That money would be better invested elsewhere.

  3. The community aspect makes taking the class worth it, in my opinion. It’s great to see people who can be resistant at first come around to the concepts and finish with big wins.

  4. You’re welcome! After taking the class I can certainly see why he is so effective in connecting with people. He does a really good job of motivating and educating in a very simple way. I know not everyone is a fan of him, but it’s hard to argue with his track record of getting people out of debt.

  5. Thanks so much for commenting. This is probably a better review than mine!

    We had one individual in our class who took the class solo and she was there until the end so it probably all just depends. Also, I agree with the need to save more than 15% if getting started later in life. Late starters won’t be able to benefit as much from compound interest so saving more many be necessary.

  6. Agreed. Even though my wife has been onboard with our debt payoff journey, this really helped us both to better understand the why so we’re more on the same page. Thanks for stopping by.

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