Some would say that’s what Dave Ramsey dispenses. He doesn’t hold back. “Credit cards? Stupid! Car payments? Stupid on steroids! Borrowing money on your house to put in granite countertops? SOMEBODY OUGHTA SMACK YOU! That’s just stupid!”

Dave Ramsey has been ranting for 30 years. According to Kristen Bahler’s recent article, he ranks third in radio audiences, has the fifth most downloaded podcast and has sold 5+ million copies of his book, “Total Money Makeover”.

We don’t always agree with him (not all debt is bad and, no, you can’t expect to average a 12% return) but he’s changed a lot of lives. He’s challenged listeners, maybe we should call them believers, to “live like nobody else today so that you can live like nobody else tomorrow.” Successful followers get to shout “WE’RE DEBT FREE” on the air.

Well, we’ve got our own successful followers. I meet once a year with participants in the 3rd Decade™ program and I’ve seen some amazing results. Our yardstick is net worth and sometimes the increase seems almost too good to be true – take a look:

  • Case #1 increased their net worth by $53,000 in 12 months. Their retirement savings increased by $21,000, emergency account by $9,000 and their purchase of a home added $20,000 in equity thanks to a Pima County homebuyer’s program. Prior to our first meeting, they’d paid off their student loan debt. In their early 20’s with a combined gross income of about $80k, they track every dollar. What made this possible? Their determination and their commitment to having no debt outside of their mortgage.
  • Case #2 increased her net worth by $20,000 in 14 months. In her mid-30’s, she took a part-time job to augment her $44,000 gross salary. The extra income allowed her to increase her emergency savings from $5 to $2,000, her retirement savings by $8,000, and to pay off $10,000 in debt. What made this possible? Determination (sound familiar?) and a second job.
  • Case #3 increased their net worth by $40,000 in 14 months. With $55,000 in gross income they increased their emergency savings from $500 to $3500, their retirement savings by $9,000 and paid off $27,000 in debt (disclosure: $10,000 of credit card debt was settled). What made this possible? They quit using credit cards cold turkey and applied all side-gig income to debt.
  • Case #4 increased their net worth by $55,000 over two years. Their emergency savings increased from $10,000 to $45,000 to plan for a house down payment while retirement savings increased by $20,000. What made this possible? They have no debt, keep their housing costs very low all the while still enjoying international travel on about $90,000 in combined gross income.

A common thread is no consumer debt! Income dollars can either go towards paying off debt or saving and investing – we’d rather the latter. And I can’t say enough about determination. We all have the opportunity to spend less while saving and investing more – we just have to choose it.

A final nod to Dave Ramsey. His rants help people overcome inertia. They tackle their finances and, once they do, they’re motivated by their success to keep at it. His kick in the pants and continued motivation is life-changing. But, then, so is the 3rd Decade™ program.