Daily Work, personal

Is Ramsey As Good or Bad as People Say? (Part Two)

The second part of Dr. Barrett-Fox’s critique of Dave Ramsey deals with issues of faith. She notes that Ramsey stresses personal responsibility when making financial decisions at an everyday level, but also points out that if he were consistent, he wouldn’t dismiss socially responsible investing. 

“But he also doesn’t ask you to be responsible for anything beyond your own financial situation. For example, he is pretty condescending about and dismissive of socially responsible investing (the idea that your investments should align with your values).”

She quotes from Ramsey and provides Ramsey’s exact words in the link from her article. Ramsey seems to be saying that 1) it’s too hard to track every part of your investment and 2) when you buy stock in a company, you aren’t handing the company a check, you’re paying the guy who had it before you – unless you buy in an initial public offering. Dr. Barrett-Fox makes an excellent point that by buying the stock, you do support the company and she borrowed from Ramsey’s example of buying a used car: Ramsey said that the original car company doesn’t get any of that money; Dr. Barrett-Fox pointed out that by keeping the resale value high, you support the company. She also noted that there are people who track their money and keep track of where they shop . 

While she exposed a weakness, a contradiction actually, in Ramsey’s philosophy of responsibility, it’s hard to do values investing when using mutual funds. As Christians, we can be diametrically opposed on critical values issues. Just to give one example, while many Christians oppose abortion, many Christians support it. If you’re opposed to abortion, you’d have to be concerned about stocks that might aid or abet abortion. Even if the company doesn’t participate in providing supplies for abortion, what if their company charities allow employees to support abortion providers. Meanwhile, if you support abortion, you could easily invest in a company that provides equipment or support for abortion, but they might also povide the drugs for states that do executions by lethal injection. 

SmartAsset described the dilemma this way:

It isn’t always easy to determine which investments are strictly socially responsible. For instance, a company could practice ethical manufacturing processes, only to dispose of waste in an irresponsible way. Some companies boast that they support female empowerment, but don’t have any women on their board. It’s important to do your homework to be sure you’re investing in actually socially responsible institutions.”

I should add that the article I just referenced does contain the names of some mutual funds that practice socially responsible investing, so read the article and check them out. I guess that means I want you to be responsible for your investments.  

I should add that this quote from Dr. Barrett-Fox really slams home her point:

“So I see Ramsey preaching personal responsibility when it comes to how your financial decisions impact your life but not when it comes to how your financial decisions impact the larger world. I think Christians should have a broader vision.”

The next thing Dr. Barrett-Fox deals with is Ramsey’s materialism. 

Ramsey … likes what money does for him and is well-known for his massive house and car collection. He isn’t a critic of having too much.

He points out during his teaching that there’s nothing wrong with having stuff, as long as you pay cash for it. However, in railing against the materialism of a society that needs everything now, so put it on credit, he fails to ask himself the question “How much is enough?” Is materialism acceptable if you pay cash? 

In a society where materialism is based on credit, is it enough to say, “Oh no, don’t put things on credit; use cash,” or do we need to reject the accumulative ideology of the world and seek ways to live more simply and use cash to help others? I believe Dr. Barrett-Fox would say that we should live more simply and help others. Ramsey would say we shouldn’t deny ourselves, but we should also give to help others. D. Barrett-Fox recommends a book to think about how that question should be answered. “For a perspective on how to live with joy with what you have, I recommend More than Enough: Living Abundantly in a Culture of Excess.”

Dr. Barrett- Fox keys in on one of Ramsey’s pet phrases: “Live like no one else so that later you can live like no one else.”

One of his favorite slogans is “Live like no one else so later you can live like no one else.” This seems to me to be a paraphrase of Luke 12:13-21, in which a man saves us his riches and then is able to relax and “eat, drink, and be merry.” For a Christian, I think, the purpose of money shouldn’t be to store it up now for later; it should be to use it now for what you value and use it later for what you value. For Christians, this should be to care for others and creation.

To be fair to Ramsey, in his climactic lesson, he changes that to “Live like no one else so that later you can GIVE like no one else.” That being said, this attitude of Ramsey’s concerns me. Not that we should live more simply, which is what he means when he uses that phrase, but that giving should be delayed. We read stories occasionally of people that you would least expect leaving millions dollars to various charities. That kind of gift makes a big impact, but any charity that depends on such big gifts will soon die. Charities must depend on the small, regular gifts that come in every month. This is the major adjustment my wife and I have made to Ramsey’s system. We find ways to give to people in need and important causes now. We get great joy out of doing it and being able to do it. 

I don’t mention that to have you say anything about me, but to remind you that one of the perks of being debt free is that you have more freedom to give to support other causes and people right now. 

The only quibble I have with Dr. Barrett-Fox in part 2 of her critique comes from this comment: 

I also find him very insensitive to poor people. Ramsey encourages people to pare down their expenses, even if it means “beans and rice, beans and rice”–that is, even if they have to eat the food of the world’s poor. Simple, low-cost meals are considered to be a punishment for your past financial sins or a sacrifice for your future wealth.

I think Ramsey understands poverty to a degree, having gone through it himself. His encouragement to eat beans and rice isn’t a punishment for past financial sins so much as it’s a call to do whatever you have to do to get out of debt. He would say that if someone was willing to do that, they were serious about getting their financial house in order.

Dr. Barrett-Fox and I have differing views on the effectiveness of the Ramsey program for getting out of debt, but I think we both agree that we should do our best to keep our financial house in order. She’s studied many different systems, including Ramsey’s, and can point you to different approaches that may work for you. ‘Ve worked the Ramsey system and I can tell you that when it comes to finances, it’s been the absolute best thing for me. 

But once you get out of debt, now what? I think Dr. Barrett-Fox and I would think along similar lines that we should think about a simpler life so that we can use the financial blessings we receive from God to help others. As she so wisely pointed out earlier, God doesn’t call us to store up wealth so that we can indulge ourselves, instead, He gives it to us so that we can help others. 

My pastor told a story tonight of a scholar who was asked what he might say to God when he got to heaven. His response is stunning. He said that he’d look around and say, “If I had realized how beautiful it was up here, I’d have made a bigger investment in the place.” Choose your investments wisely. 

Blog Administration, personal

Can’t We Start Again, Please

This is a repost of my blog on my devotional page: Daily Enduring Truth. The devotionals I write daily, re-starting tomorrow, July 1, will appear there. I just wanted to share some of the things I’ve learned here, also.

The end is near! No, that’s not an apocalyptic statement, that’s a commentary on my self-granted three-month sabbatical. I stopped the daily devotional writing to do some self-reflection, to think about the process of writing the devotionals, and to think about their worth. What did I learn in three months?

The first thing I learned is that I need to write these devotionals every day to hold myself accountable for reading God’s word daily. There were many times in the last three months when I let my daily Bible reading slide because I got involved in doing other things. Usually, those things were non-productive. In the past week, I’ve played a lot of catch-up on my daily reading because of the number of times I’d let the day pass me by instead of giving God control of the day from the beginning. When I re-start tomorrow, it’s with the goal of making sure that I don’t fritter time away on unimportant stuff because I start each day by reading and reacting to God’s word.

I need to write these devotionals in the morning. I started off the year trying to write devotionals for the evening time – for people coming home from work. This brought about some of the same problems of letting things slide and then rushing to do a less than quality job, in my opinion. My character and writing style don’t suit an evening devotional (only) style. I may do research in coming months and years and try something like that again, but it would be an additional thought each day, not my only writing. While the idea excited me at the beginning of the year, it never succeeded in my mind because I wasn’t ready to do that just yet.

Part of what I was doing during this time was working on marketing. I did a few things to drive people to my books. I offered the July-August eBook version of the devotionals as a free giveaway on bookfunnel. I advertised. While I gave away a few free eBooks, and I sold a few more books than normal, I can tell you that three years ago when I retired, I thought I’d make enough to supplement my income in a small way. This is definitely not happening. To be honest, I’m not sure how to market devotional books. Someone asked me about doing an autograph and meet the author table and I told him I didn’t really see something like that. How do you autograph devotional books when the idea is to get people to focus on what God is or can be doing in their lives? I’ll put the bookfunnel link at the end of this post I case you need it.

One thing I started long ago was doing what I could to help other authors share links or comments about their books. I celebrated their successes and recommended books and/or authors through my social media. While I didn’t have anything for them to share at the time, I made a few comments about how I expected similar considerations in the future. Apparently, what I thought was a quid pro quo kind of marketing was more of a quid pro no situation. Perhaps these friends didn’t see my posts on social media, but for the most part, with a few exceptions, those I supported in the past were conspicuous by their lack of support for me. I understand that many of my author friends are not Christians, but they could have said something like, “If you’re a Christian, you may want to check out these devotional books by a friend of mine.” The lack of support and the lack of response from people I might expect to download a free book was disheartening. That being said, I’ll need to find better ways to spread the word about these books.

Why do I want to spread the word about these devotional books? One of the things I realized is that these books are my ministry. The call that I am answering through these books (the devotional series) and through my daily articles is to build up the body of Christ. I should have realized that at the beginning of the year in an exciting way. A pastor with great integrity contacted me and asked about using these devotionals for his church this year. He could easily have just put them up on his church site and I would never have been the wiser; instead, he contacted me and asked what it would cost to do that. In these days where lack of integrity runs rampant, I honored his integrity by giving him the rights to publish them on his website at no cost, because it would allow me to fulfill my ministry of building up the body of Christ. I take this ministry and this writing seriously, and I’m grateful for those who respect the work I do, hopefully under God’s guidance.

I’ve run into friends and people I’ve supported who haven’t seen this as a ministry. They’ve rejected my offers to speak about the need for spiritual growth. They’ve blown me off when I suggested that what I had to say might be important to the people that they work with. These are not strangers who’ve done this, these are friends: people that I’ve known and supported for years. One of my goals in the days and years to come is to help people understand that the work that I do as I write to build up the body of Christ is an important part of helping the body of Christ to grow.

What will devotionals look like starting tomorrow? I don’t know right now. I’m trying to find ways to be more succinct in my writing, but, as might be obvious, I tend to go on. All I know is that I will continue to share what God teaches me daily for anyone who wants to read. I may add a few wrinkles to the way I do things, but I will try to keep things substantive. If you still haven’t downloaded the July-August eBook version yet, you can download it without costing you a thing by going to this link:
https://dl.bookfunnel.com/4nw47oq9cd