Monday, September 13, 2010

7 Baby Steps

As someone who's very interested in all things personal finance, I like to make sure to research different strategies and methods of looking at how to manage your moolah.

Dave Ramsey is someone I've talked about before - he coined a slogan I love that I talk about here. And a few days ago, Newlywed Next Door introduced me to his 7 Baby Steps. I gotta say - I like his style. I think for some people, taking a hard look at yourself and your spending habits can be overwhelming - how do I get out of debt? How will I save enough for retirement? Will I be able to afford college for my children? Ramsey breaks it down into 7 very simple, one sentence steps.

I'm somewhere in between Steps 2 and 5 - while I have no credit card debt, my husband and I each have a car loan, plus my husband has some student loans. We'll have 6 months of living expenses saved in our emergency fund by the end of October (thanks to Mint's helpful budgeting tool). Right now, I'm investing about 10% of my paycheck into my retirement account, which I should really up to 15% as Ramsey suggests.

Something interesting to note is that Ramsey (as do most financial experts) suggest contributing to children's college funds AFTER you have a really nice retirement cushion. As has been said before, there are loans for higher education, but there are no loans for retirement (although Ramsey doesn't think you should have loans for anything!).

What do you think of the 7 Baby Steps? Where do you fall? Does this inspire you to get financially prepared?


  1. We love Dave at our house! I just love listening to his radio program when people call in to scream we're debt free! We're doing pretty well with the program. No credit cards or car loans. We're working on getting my student loans paid off and ramping up our savings.

  2. I'm not always a fan of his strategies, they often trade some financial benefit to get a psychological benefit, but it's great to have a solid savings strategy laid it so clearly. For someone with solid financial management skills, I'd encourage prioritizing debts by interest rate rather than balance - the point of paying off by balance is to get tangible rewards to keep yourself on the right path, but if you're already fine with that, the financially optimal thing is to pay off the highest interest rates first (including your home). I would also say to be sure to put enough in your 401k to get the full company match, and if you can afford it, hit the Roth IRA contribution limit - it goes away forever if you don't use it. You can put your emergency cash in there if you want, since you can withdraw principle at any time (not a good long-term strategy, though).

    It's great to have him getting the word out there, though, and his strategies are more or less sound, especially when compared to, say, Suze Orman...

  3. Obv. I'm a huge Ramsey fan -- I do agree with BrewerDave that if you can get over the psychological hurdle then you should pay the high interest rate loans first. Most of the Ramsey stuff is pretty common-sense, but you find that when it comes to money common-sense is not so common.

    We are paying off student loans right now! That's our only non-home debt!

  4. I love him!! We are currently between Steps 2 and 3. We're paying off my car WHILE saving up our full emergency fund.

  5. Haven't really read too much into Dave Ramsey but I just ordered his book from the library, so I'll catch up. Everyone says really good things about him.
    I feel like my financial education is pretty good and I know what we need to do to get out of's the "not having money" part that makes it difficult : )
    We're between steps 2 and 3 and will be for a while. But we'll keep moving up eventually...

  6. I am right there with BrewerDave. I would not suggest to use your Roth as an emergency fund. There are certain withdrawal rules that come into play here. I just started looking into DR a few months ago. Everything that he teaches is common sense (except for his snowball method - which I don't really agree with prioritizing by balance instead of by interest rate). Since we are both really good with money and manage it well, we are on Step 5, but we didn't go by his steps at all to get there.

  7. Re: Roth IRAs: you can withdraw your principal at any time tax-free, no rules. So if you have cash in your emergency fund and haven't used your Roth contribution this year, on Dec. 31st, move the cash to the Roth *and leave it as cash* (this should be the only cash in your IRA). In the future, if you have an emergency and need the money, you can withdraw all cash from your IRA, no restrictions or penalties (except that you can't put it back). And if you don't ever wind up needing it, then eventually when you have enough cash built up as emergency funds outside the Roth, you can invest it tax-free. This is only for Roth IRAs, regular IRAs and Roth or 401ks do not allow withdrawals at all. It's kinda a loophole, but loopholes that encourage retirement savings are okay with me :).

    It gets a lot more complicated if you need to tap interest, but that only happens if you exceed the sum of all your contributions ever - unlikely, since you won't have a significant amount of interest until you have a significant amount of savings or many years after you start investing. And even if you do break the rules the penalty is only 10% of the interest plus tax, so if you screw up a little while your savings are small, the penalty isn't very big.

  8. I'm a fan of the DR school of thought, I think a lot of what he presents is common sense but both my husband and I come from a business financial background so we're trained in this stuff-for people who don't have kind of background, dave ramsey can really rock their socks off and open their eyes up to some bad financial decisions they are making.

    We are between steps 2-4 and actually a little bit beyond because we're not following them exactly and we will be for awhile. Education doesn't come cheap, particularly the higher up you go.