Tax Day just passed, and unless you received an unexpected refund, that mid-April gloom may be settling in. With unemployment still scarily high, under-employment higher still, and most American families living paycheck to paycheck, financial woes may be the one truly uniting force in the country today. We're all in this together.
But Dave Ramsey, America's most popular personal financial advisor, tells us he sees signs of hope in the economy today. We asked Ramsey a few general questions about money, the United States' economic culture, and the role of the church in addressing financial issues.
What is your most pressing concern about the U.S. economy today?
My biggest concern is that people will continue to wait for the government to fix their problems. Republican or Democrat, no one in Washington is going to be able to fix the financial problems that people have at home. You have to take personal responsibility for your situation and take control of your finances. Only then will you see changes start to occur.
Many people have lost their jobs or aren't making as much as they once did and are doing just fine. They live on less than they make, don't have any debt, and aren't waiting on the government to fix the economy. When people stop fearing what is going to happen with the economy and take control of their situation, they start to see their personal economy improve.
What about the overall culture of money in the U.S.? What causes you concern when you examine our culture's approach to money and material things?
Too many people in our culture have an entitlement mentality. They feel like they are entitled to things, even if they don't have the money to pay for them. I'm not against buying "stuff," but I am against buying stuff you can't afford.
This entitlement mentality paired with impatience is what got many people into trouble when the economy crashed. When people lost their jobs or weren't making as much as they used to, they got scared because of the debt they had piled up over the years. People have to remember that their financial plan has to work in the good times and the bad. Save up, pay cash, and have a plan for your money. Being patient can be hard, but if it were easy everyone would do it.
Do you see signs of hope in our economy?
Absolutely. I talk to people every day on my radio show that are making more money than they ever have. We've seen many small businesses open over the past few years that are thriving and companies that are growing and hiring.
The media display a sense of fear when it comes to the economy. Don't let them decide how you feel and how you are going to react. The economy is recovering and will continue to recover. As people realize this, a sense of hope and optimism will continue to spread.
You are often explicit about the biblical basis for your core financial principles. Do you find that people make their way from Dave Ramsey media to the Bible? In other words, is evangelism part of your mission as a popular financial counselor?
Our mission is to empower and educate people by providing biblically based, common-sense education that gives people hope for their financial situation. When people start to find financial peace, they also start to find peace in other areas of their life. Because the core of what we teach is God's way of handling money we have discovered that many people find their way back to church.
What role do you think churches should play in guiding people's financial lives?
Churches see the pain that finances can cause in people's lives and marriages. With more than 800 scriptures about money and personal finance in the Bible, there are many lessons for churches to teach about how to handle money God's way. Amazing things happen when God's people start handling their money the way God intended. People are able to give freely of themselves and their money because they aren't burdened by debt. They are able to help their church and other families because they are living on less than they make and have money to give. Churches have a responsibility to teach people how to live according to scripture, and that includes in their financial lives.