This post is part of a series on Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University (FPU). The following is my impression of small pieces of the class. For more, I highly recommend taking the class for yourself.
The final lesson in Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University covers Baby Step 7: Build Wealth and Give. I walked away a little confused from this lesson. It comes at the end of the course and at the end of the baby steps, indicating it would be later in life. This is the context for Baby Step 7 – that as you near retirement, you have invested well enough to build substantial wealth and give much of it away. Ramsey also makes comments earlier in the course that he is going to teach you to become really wealthy so you can give your money away.
However, almost the entire lesson discusses the philosophical and theological support for managing money in a Biblical way. Ramsey discusses how we must view all of our assets as God’s – that we are simply managers of his stuff rather than owners of our stuff. He also provides the Biblical support for tithing and giving offerings.
The reason for this confusion is because we are really talking about two different things. Giving when you are in debt, working your way up the corporate ladder, and trying to feed a young family is categorically different from giving in retirement after building up substantial wealth. What you really need is to talk about giving and tithing both at the beginning and the end of the course, which would add another lesson, so I understand why Ramsey puts them together.
Walking the Fine Line
When talking about tithing and giving back to the church, especially in the context of personal finance and building wealth, it is remarkably easy to be misunderstood. Ramsey does a good job being clear about what he is NOT saying. He is NOT saying that giving increases your wealth. He is clear that God is under no obligation to return your money to you in some remarkable way. A tithe is not an investment. However, there is still great benefit in tithing, the most important of which is that it is a form of worship.
Ramsey is quick to say that the point of giving is to glorify God, not to get any kind of kickback for your generosity. This is in stark contrast to some preachers that suggest that God will bless you many times over because of your giving (often called the “prosperity gospel” or the “health and wealth gospel”), almost turning generosity into an investment strategy.
Hammering the Wrong Nail
In this final lesson, Ramsey says, “You will never have financial peace until you learn to manage money with an open hand.” I couldn’t agree more! As I pointed out in my post on JasonCutter.com, you can’t have independence or peace in your finances until you change your willingness to exercise complete control over your situation. This is Ramsey’s point: “Financial Peace” is trusting in God more than your account balance. He hits the nail on the head.
Too bad its the wrong nail. While this is an excellent way to finish the course and send us off on our own, Ramsey doesn’t really hammer this point home anywhere else in the course. If you ask the average FPU member about the main point of the entire course, my guess is that they would say “getting out of debt” or “learning how to budget,” rather than “learning how to trust God with money.”
He focuses so much on debt and budgeting because it connects to people’s everyday lives and to his personal experience of going through bankruptcy. This focus, though, takes away from the larger and more important point: placing trust in God. I would have liked to see this as a larger part of the class overall, rather than just the footnote in the last session.
That’s All Folks!
Over almost the last 3 months, Ramsey has walked us through Emergency Funds, Debt Snowballs, Budgeting, Relationships and Money, Investing, Real Estate, and Insurance. Its a lot to cover, but Ramsey flies through it all while keeping your attention with his charisma and energy. In the end, we finally arrive at the namesake of the course: Financial Peace – the ability to handle money with an open hand.