Fall is a season of change. The trees shred their old leaves, making room for new growth. It is an ideal time to evaluate your finances since all around the country, Financial Peace University classes are getting ready once more to launch. And like it did with me four years ago, it just might change your life.
Financial Peace University is a 9-week financial class created by Dave Ramsey. It is designed to challenge your thinking about debt, saving, spending and giving – all on a biblical foundation. The 7 baby steps to financial freedom (that Dontae and I still use today) are:
- Save $1000 emergency fund
- Pay off all non-mortgage debt
- Save 3-6 months living expenses
- Invest 15% of income
- College fund(s)
- Pay off your house early
- Build wealth and give
I stumbled into the class the week my husband and I got engaged in 2011. By the end of the preview night, I knew this was a big deal. Not because it’s popular or because it’s Dave Ramsey. But because it gave me all the tools I needed to succeed financially AND give a bunch away. It was like going through driving school, being handed my license, then being asked, “Now what are you going to do with this opportunity?”
After graduation, my hubby and me got married, hustled our way out of debt, saved for emergencies, had two kids and started saving for our first house (they call that Baby Step 3b) . In 2013, I began coordinating Financial Peace classes and in 2014 I graduated from Dave Ramsey’s Financial Coach Master Series to become a financial coach. Now I pour out my knowledge, experience and passion into this personal finance blog twice a week.
Suffice it to say, Financial Peace has had an impact on my life. Here are a few more ways.
19 Ways Financial Peace University Changed My Life
- I saved my first $1000 emergency fund – Before FPU, I couldn’t keep my savings account above $200 for more than a month. I always had a credit card with me if there really were emergencies, but I learned in FPU that getting yourself deeper in debt in the middle of a crisis is not a smart plan.
- I learned how to pay real money for things – Rather than buy a car with a loan, I started to save for it. When Dontae and I had our first baby, we paid the hospital delivery bill in cash, thereby earning 20% for paying in full up front. It was rewarding not carrying the weight of my purchases anymore.
- I ironed out all my confusion about insurance – Insurance is one of those topics that was like oil and water with me. Even when I had benefits working full time, I never truly understood how it all worked, let alone what was the best plan. FPU laid out a clear game plan for smart insurance that helped me finally understand it and get the right coverage.
- I began tithing regularly – I knew it was right to give back 10% of my income to God, but I just wasn’t disciplined enough to do it. Then I’d run out of money and think “I’ll make it up next week.” Now, Dontae and I give our tithe at the very beginning of the pay period. It’s our first transaction. And you know what? We still have food on the table and gas in the tanks. In fact, we have more than ever before. It’s a humbling experience.
- I learned how to communicate with my spouse better – This was scary ground for me to cover, being naturally more non-confrontational. But when I realized that financial problems are the #1 cause of divorce, I realized my marriage was worth the discomfort of an honest conversation each month. Turns out Dontae wanted the same thing, and he respects me more for my honesty – even when I admit a mistake.
- I began doing budgets monthly – Nothing helped us get more traction financially then regularly doing a budget. Even when we stink at it. I really don’t invest more than one hour per month on this, but it has made a drastic change in our savings accounts, investment accounts, debt payoff, giving and spending.
- I successfully stopped using debt – There is so much that the Bible says about debt. Not one thing is positive. The more I heard what debt does to people, the more I realized I was playing with fire. I finally believed that debt was not a tool and that I would be fine without it.
- I developed my first long-term investment plan – Young people have little excuse not to retire as millionaires, due to the power of compound interest. We learned that if we invest in simple things that we understand and just stay the course, we’ll retire wealthy.
- I learned what God thinks of money – I have read the Bible all my life, but never thought about how many times God addresses the subject of money until taking Financial Peace. My favorite book of the Bible, Proverbs, is chalked full of money references. “Go to the ant you sluggard. Consider its ways and be wise. It has not commander, no overseer or ruler, yet it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest.” Prov. 6:6-8
- I learned that money is “amoral” – All that talk about how being wealthy is evil is just toxic nonsense. Money isn’t the root of all evil. The LOVE of money is the root of all evil. Think of all the things you could do to help the world if you weren’t strapped down paying your own debts every month. Thoughts like that rattled my cage.
- I learned the debt snowball – Having a plan to get out of debt was great. It wasn’t designed to address the interest rates by size. It was designed to address the attitude of the heart. Finances are 80% behavior, 20% head knowledge, according to Dave Ramsey. It’s absolutely true.
- I stopped getting credit card offers in the mail – Dontae and I cut up our cards (yes even Kohl’s, sadly), closed the accounts and sent a letter requesting all future credit card offers stop being mailed to us. Our mailbox used to be inundated with offers. Now we receive one or two per month. Some days, there is nothing in our mailbox. This made the biggest difference when I stopped receiving that tantalizing Kohl’s catalogue, tempting me to frequent the department store in search of a good deal when I didn’t need anything in the first place. Getting rid of that temptation has most definitely saved me hundreds.
- I learned contentment – I’ll never say I’ve reached my goal here because it’s an ongoing process, but I truly have learned that with patience comes contentment. With a plan to save more and spend less comes maturity. With righteous reasons to live like we do, we learn that saying no isn’t as difficult. Contentment is our most powerful ally.
- I realized how badly I want my children to learn good money habits – When Dave Ramsey said “Change your family tree”, I was pretty blown away. It’s a foreign concept, resisting the bad that was thrust upon you as a child in order to produce better habits in your own life and the next generation.
- I want to give more – I resigned myself to being a casual giver, an occasional giver, before FPU. But now that I know better what I’m doing, I see the potential for us to give away more. To be more intentional about giving. To pursue God with our charity. To go places we would never go, serve people we haven’t even met yet. The baby steps have freed us up to do more of that.
- I finally have a PLAN – Nothing is as rewarding as sitting back at the end of a full day and realizing there is a bigger plan in motion. My husband knows the plan and follows it because it’s something we both agreed to. I know the plan and I’m following it to the best of my ability. We know it’s working because we rarely disagree about money, are continually open with each other throughout the month, are saving more than we ever have and are being asked for financial advice by our friends and loved ones. Not because we boast about it, but because we have peace about it and they see that.
- I became a teacher – As I mentioned, after taking Financial Peace University once while I was single and once while I was married, I decided to become a coordinator. I love sharing stories with others and watching them go through the whole journey and come out inspired and hopeful.
- I lead more – Becoming a coach opened a unique door for me. My church partnered with me to assist church members seeking financial assistance. In a sense, I joined a ministry and am leading the charge in that endeavor. Being able to sit down one-on-one with people is very humbling and is continually pushing me out of my comfort zone as a leader and mentor.
- I write about personal finance – In February of 2015, I dove headfirst into blogging, hoping to inspire more people with our financial story and what I’ve learned from FPU. It has come full circle and I’m loving every minute of it!
Classes are beginning soon. Find one in your area. Make a change. Or make 19 of them, I should say.
Join the discussion: If you’ve never taken Financial Peace University, what questions do you have about it? FPU grads, what is your favorite part of the class?