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What Dave Ramsey gets wrong about poverty
Financial advisor Dave Ramsey is also an evangelical Christian.
November 30th, 2013
09:59 AM ET

What Dave Ramsey gets wrong about poverty

Opinion by Rachel Held Evans, special to CNN 

(CNN)– Dave Ramsey is rich. And he makes his living telling other evangelical Christians how they can get rich, too.

Host of a nationally syndicated radio program and author of multiple best-selling books, Ramsey targets evangelical Christians with what he calls a “biblical” approach to financial planning, one that focuses primarily on the elimination of consumer debt. His for-profit Financial Peace University is billed as “a biblically based curriculum that teaches people how to handle money God's ways."

Much of what Ramsey teaches is sound, helpful advice, particularly for middle-class Americans struggling with mounting credit card bills. I have celebrated with friends as they’ve marked their first day of debt-free living, thanks in part to Dave Ramsey’s teachings and all those white envelopes of cash he urges his students to use instead of credit cards.

But while Ramsey may be a fine source of information on how to eliminate debt, his views on poverty are neither informed nor biblical.

Take, for example, a recent article by Tim Corley posted to Ramsey’s website. Entitled “20 Things the Rich Do Every Day,” the article presents some dubious statistics comparing the habits of the rich with the habits of the poor, including:

“70% of wealthy eat less than 300 junk food calories per day. 97% of poor people eat more than 300 junk food calories per day.”

“76% of wealthy exercise aerobically four days a week. 23% of poor do this.”

“63% of wealthy listen to audio books during commute to work vs. 5% of poor people.”

One need not be a student of logic to observe that Corley and Ramsey have confused correlation with causation here by suggesting that these habits make people rich or poor.

For example, a poor person might not exercise four days a week because, unlike a rich person, she cannot afford a gym membership. Or perhaps she has to work two jobs to earn a living wage, which leaves her little time and energy for jogging around the park.

A poor family may eat more junk food, not because they are lazy and undisciplined, but because they live in an economically disadvantaged, urban setting where health food stores are not as available: a so-called “food desert.”

Critics were swift to point out these discrepancies and among the critics were some of Ramsey’s fellow evangelical Christians who also noted that, though the book of Proverbs certainly heralds success as a common return on faithful labor, nowhere does the Bible guarantee that good habits lead to wealth.

The writer of Ecclesiastes observed that "under the sun the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to the intelligent, nor favor to the skillful; but time and chance happen to them all."

And far from having contempt for the poor, Jesus surrounded himself with the needy and challenged the excesses of the rich. “Blessed are you who are poor,” he said, “for yours is the kingdom of God. … But woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort” (Luke 6:24).

"It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle," Jesus famously said, "than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God."

It’s hard for the wealthy to flourish in the kingdom that Jesus inaugurated because the economy of that kingdom runs so contrary to the economies of the world. It rewards the peacemakers over the powerful, the humble over the proud, the kind over the cruel, and those who hunger to do the right thing over those whose wealth has convinced them they already are.

Ramsey responded to the pushback with an addendum to the original post calling his critics “ignorant” and “immature” and instructing them to “grow up.”

“This list simply says your choices cause results,” he said, again committing the false cause fallacy. “You reap what you sow.”

The list, he said, applies only to people living in “first world” countries, where Ramsey believes economic injustices are essentially nonexistent. While the poor in developing countries are so as a result of external circumstances beyond their control, the poor in the United States have no one to blame but themselves.

“If you are broke or poor in the U.S. or a first-world economy, the only variable in the discussion you can personally control is YOU,” Ramsey says. “You can make better choices and have better results.”

America, he argues, has prospered as a direct result of its “understanding and application of biblical truths” which have led to “life-changing industry, inventions and a standard of living never known before on this planet.”

“There is a direct correlation,” he concludes, “between your habits, choices and character in Christ and your propensity to build wealth.”

For Christians, Ramsey’s perceived “direct correlation” between faith and wealth should be more troubling than his other confused correlations, for it flirts with what Christians refer to as the prosperity gospel, the teaching that God rewards faithfulness with wealth.

Ramsey’s particular brand of prosperity gospel elevates the American dream as God’s reward for America’s faithfulness, the spoils of which are readily available to anyone who works hard enough to receive them.

But such a view glosses over the reality that America was not, in fact, founded upon purely Christian principles (unless one counts slavery, ethnic cleansing, gender inequity, and Jim Crow as Christian principles), so we should be careful of assuming our relative wealth reflects God’s favor. (The Roman Empire was wealthy, too, after all.)

It also glosses over the reality that economic injustice is not, in fact, limited to the developing world but plagues our own country as well.

When medical bills are the biggest cause of bankruptcy in the United States, there are systemic injustices at work.

When people working 40-hour weeks at minimum wage jobs still can’t earn enough to support their families, there are systemic injustices at work.

When approximately 1% of Americans hold 40% of the nation’s wealth, there are systemic injustices at work.

When the black unemployment rate has consistently been twice as high as the white unemployment rate for the past 50 years, there are systemic injustices at work.

And throughout Scripture, people of faith are called not simply to donate to charity, but to address such systemic injustices in substantive ways.

The 17-year-old girl who lives in a depressed neighborhood zoned for a failing school system who probably won’t graduate because her grades are suffering because she has to work part-time to help support her family needs more than a few audio books to turn things around.

People are poor for a lot of reasons, and choice is certainly a factor, but categorically blaming poverty on lack of faith or lack of initiative is not only uninformed, it’s unbiblical.

God does not divide the world into the deserving rich and the undeserving poor. In fact, the brother of Jesus wrote that God has “chosen the poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom that he has promised to those who love him” (James 2:5).

God does not bless people with money; God blesses people with the good and perfect gift of God’s presence, which is available to rich and poor alike.

And that’s good news.

Rachel Held Evans is the author of "Evolving in Monkey Town" and "A Year of Biblical Womanhood." She blogs at rachelheldevans.com. The views expressed in this column belong to Rachel Held Evans.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Belief • Bible • Business • Christianity • Ethics • evangelicals • Faith • Leaders • Money & Faith • Opinion

soundoff (2,299 Responses)
  1. jimatmad

    Clever greedy, selfish people are good at snookering a lot of weak-minded greedy selfish fools into buying your books.

    November 30, 2013 at 7:16 pm |
  2. NetScanr

    People like this will lead his devout, closed-minded, ignorant followers right into his bank account.

    November 30, 2013 at 7:12 pm |
    • jimatmad

      I don't expect to run into any televangelists or 'greed os good' book authors when I get to heaven.

      November 30, 2013 at 7:18 pm |
  3. Steve

    Before I get into this, I must make a political disclaimer. I am most definitely NOT considered a political conservative, because they, as a political association, are as unbiblical in my own opinion as political liberals. Therefore this, for me, is not a political discussion. Thought I'd throw that out there...

    don't know if you listened to the whole monologue from Mr. Ramsey when he was saying these things, I am thinking you must have got your quotes from elsewhere because knowing you (they called me Cowboy on the Hill), I do not think you would have taken certain quotes so far out of context.

    For example, in that segment (which I actually was listening to at the time), Dave pointed out the exact same thing you did, stating that the article did not delve into the reasons that these things are, it simply stated them. It was not saying that people did not have good reasons for eating junk food, it simply said they did. Consequently, on a personal note, I also shop at Walmart, the "po' sto'", and I happen to know that food stamps pay for produce as well as junk food. Poor people like me have no excuse not to eat healthy. There are healthy options on all types of government help. I know because I either am on them now or have been. The argument you used here is invalid.

    However, I have been on the no-time-for-workout bit. That is a good point you made. But once again, the article was not saying people who do not work out are destined to be poor. I have personally been on both sides of that equation for poor people, and I do have to say that there are times when I am too tired to work out. That is usually because I have done quite the workout at...work.

    One does not have to even be halfway intelligent to know that when a stat is given, it states a truth that is not arguable (provided the stat itself is accurate, which not even you deny), the fact that someone posted it on their website might just mean that they think it is interesting. Dave never said doing these things make you rich, he simply said that these are things rich people do as opposed to poor people.

    The thing that Dave DOES say is cause and effect is that if you misuse your money like he did, you are more likely to go broke like he did. He also says that the borrower is slave to the lender, and that nowhere in the Bible does scripture have a favorable thing to say about debt. Oh, no, it does say to have debt, I stand corrected. "Let no debt remain outstanding except the continuing debt of love to one another..."

    Mr. Ramsey also says, like the writer of Eccleastes, that crap happens to everybody. He says that is why he teaches that the first thing, even before the payoff of debt, is an emergency fund.

    For the biblical part of it, you are very right! Jesus had compassion on the poor! But I might take issue with the particular proof texts you used to speak against the rich...for example, in the same sermon, different gospel (Matthew 5), Jesus says "Blessed are the poor IN SPIRIT, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven." Meaning it is not about money, but about the spirit of the person.

    The bit about the needle and camel part, we might point out the context (argh! It always goes back to complete context!) of this famous quote is just after the rich young ruler loved his riches more than eternal life. There again, the point is not the riches, but the heart. You also conveniently left out that next part: also a famous quote in the red letters: "with man, this is impossible, but with God, all things are possible." Really, Rachel, pulling texts so far out of context knowing the context (cause I know for a fact you aren't ignorant of all this) Is...just...disappointing.

    Just to restate what you said,and I'm sure you didn't mean, you DID just say that "you reap what you sow" is a "false cause fallacy". Just a point of how it sounds when one takes things out of context...

    You said that people are having bad things happen to them that are beyond their control, then you quoted Ramsey saying the same thing as if you disagreed with him! He said that things happen that are out of your control, but the one thing you can control about your situation is yourself. He said sometimes you can't control your situation, but you can control your decisions during the situation. I am indeed glad to see that you agree with the insanely rich evil dude. For to say that one cannot or should not control themselves in any situation is unbiblical since self control is one of the fruits of the spirit.

    I agree with your point about the country not being founded on Christianity (this is one of the points where I disagree with my conservative friends), but being a listener to the DR show, I know that you have misunderstood the way Mr. Ramsey thinks and teaches. He believes that nothing, none of the wealth he has, is his. That he is a steward of it. Hence his two biggest lines that anybody who listens to even one whole show will hear are these: "live like no one else, so that later you can live and give like no one else." And "remember, the only way to true financial peace is to walk daily with the Prince of Peace, Christ Jesus." What is his favorite thing to do with all the money he is making? Give it away. Is it at all about the money? No, it is about the peace that comes from following Christ. The money? He states over and over again, that "broke is where you are. Poor is a state of mind."

    I also agree with you that there are systematic injustices. You are right about the medical bills. You are right about the forty hour work week not providing. You know where I worked! I was there! Could not have survived without government help! You might find it interesting that more than half of the rants Ramsey does on his show are about the stupid injustices in this country. But where you and he differ is instead of wallowing in the fact that there is sin in the world, he tells people that "Look, this is the way it is. As of yet, we cannot change that. Now stop whining and let's get a plan going." Let's, being a contraction, meaning 'let us' he does not tell people to just shut up, he goes and offers them a plan for getting up. Yet another way that you and he are on the same page.

    It's looking like y'all agree on so much, maybe you should become coworkers!

    Truth: 1% hold 40%. Now, how many of those one per cent are first generation rich? Meaning they got there by hard work or inventing something that everybody needed? You might find that a shocking stat. Round where I live, there's more white unemployed white people than there is black. I've talked to some of them. Most (not all) of the ones I talk to are unemployed because the will not work certain places, and the other places fired them because of decisions they made. Me, for example, I decided that it would be a fun idea to have a good natured wrestling match with a camper at the College. Neither of us were mad at each other either before or after, and yet I was fired because it was something that could have ( but never did) get blown out of proportion. Did I stay unemployed? For a while, then I found some work. Work can usually be found by someone who is not too good for a job. I was not caught in the victim mentality. I made a stupid decision, I paid for it, I got a lesser job. Matter of fact, after that, I had four jobs at once just in order to pay the bills. I simply did not make myself unemployable by being either too good to dress dead people or too hard to be around for anyone to want to hire me.

    Truth: scripture IS always telling us to do our part to stop social injustices like what you are talking about, and all Christians worth their grit do that. We all have our different ways. Dave shows people how to wisely handle their money so that they can deal with the way the system is and still win, you write blogs on a computer. We all have our different ways of doing something.

    In all of the books I have read by Ramsey, and all the shows I've listened to, he has never blamed anything on lack of faith. That's just bad information. Check your sources. He has, however blamed poverty on lack of a plan. And he has blamed it on ignorance. Ignorance not being stupidity, ignorance being a lack of knowledge, which is not something to be ashamed of, but to be overcome.

    About the 17 yar old girl, you have obviously not listened to the audio books! Lol, no, you are right. I might point out though' that, almost all the wealth in this country came within the last century (after the Great Depression), and somebody somewhere made good financial decisions. And every one of them worked to help support the family.

    You're right. God does not divide the world that way, but it seems that you do, which I found quite odd. Only you seem to flip that around to the deserving poor and the undeserving rich. But there again, that is what happens when you proof text. You are doing exactly what James was speaking against in the text you quoted! He was not dissing the rich, he was saying do not discriminate! Which is what you are doing...

    If it is true that people should be poor, as you have suggested, in order to be holy, then the 17 year old you mentioned does not need anything but an uplifting word telling her that this is the holy life. The black people that you mentioned,and the white ones thati mentioned (you racist thing, you) who are out of work, do not need a job, because that would make them a slave to money. They just need Jesus!

    Sounds holy enough, doesn't it?

    Therefore, you are fighting the wrong battle! You should not be standing against the injustices of the system, but fighting for the injustices, since it is that injustice which is keeping people poor, and being poor is holier than being rich.

    So I stand corrected

    You and Dave Ramsey would never make good coworkers.

    November 30, 2013 at 7:10 pm |
    • Alien Orifice

      I read this whole post. Not.

      November 30, 2013 at 7:15 pm |
    • Nono

      steve, great post. Made really great points.

      November 30, 2013 at 7:30 pm |
    • Robert Brown

      Steve, good post and I read the whole thing.

      November 30, 2013 at 7:40 pm |
    • sjdawson

      "One does not have to even be halfway intelligent to know that when a stat is given, it states a truth that is not arguable (provided the stat itself is accurate, which not even you deny), the fact that someone posted it on their website might just mean that they think it is interesting. Dave never said doing these things make you rich, he simply said that these are things rich people do as opposed to poor people."

      Dave never attributes his facts. I don't know whether or not they are actually facts since his does not quote where he got them from. Therefore, I cannot take what he says seriously.

      November 30, 2013 at 7:52 pm |
  4. Matt

    This is a great article because it exposes some of the folly and arrogance of the prosperity gospel. Mammon is the god of the West. Rich or poor, if our focus is finances, we are idolators. Anyone teaching Christians to focus on finances or that we can please God by being thrifty has missed the point. Only Christ can please God. Therefore only as we depend on Christ, yes, even with our finances, will we ever be able to please God.

    November 30, 2013 at 7:09 pm |
    • doobzz

      "Only Christ can please God."

      God pleasures himself? Is that what "Jesus is coming" means?

      November 30, 2013 at 7:15 pm |
  5. jimatmad

    When your motto is WWJFOTTMM you aren't on a good spiritual path.

    (Who Would Jesus F Over Today To Make More Money?)

    November 30, 2013 at 7:08 pm |
  6. PPJr

    More statistics from Evangelical Christians: 100% of wealthy people are wealthy, 0% of poor people are wealthy. I hope now you see it, too.

    November 30, 2013 at 7:08 pm |
  7. IReason

    Greedy Christians, are just greedy people. The veil is transparent . Their place in hades is assured.

    November 30, 2013 at 7:08 pm |
  8. jimatmad

    When I get to heaven, I don't expect to see Dave Ramsey or any of his ilk there.

    Enjoy your wealth in this world, Mr Ramsey, because the 'Greed is Good' brand of Christianity is a ticket straight to hell.

    November 30, 2013 at 7:04 pm |
    • Alien Orifice

      Point taken, but there is no heaven so not really an issue.

      November 30, 2013 at 7:13 pm |
      • vinster76

        for those of you who do not believe in heaven, or in God, I get it.....I was once an agnostic, mostly atheist.....When I would occasionally stumble upon a group of believers in a public place engaging in prayer and/or bible study, it would make my blood boil at what I perceived to be their massive stupidity. Fast forward 25 years, I do believe.......So what's my point? Simply this.....when you come to the end of yourself, you find there is Someone bigger than you. Tis pride that keeps one from humbling him/herself into the realization that they are not the center of the universe

        November 30, 2013 at 7:24 pm |
        • pp

          Such realization requires no belief in a skydaddy, stupid.

          November 30, 2013 at 8:58 pm |
        • HotAirAce

          Bullsh!t, unless you have some actual evidence for what otherwise must be called delusions.

          November 30, 2013 at 9:04 pm |
        • Sara

          I also here story after story from people who used to be god believers disgusted by atheists who finally came to the end of that path and realized their belief was all foolishness and that they are only now truly happy. Who should I believe? Whose story is more worthy?

          November 30, 2013 at 9:09 pm |
      • Ddremd

        Like

        December 1, 2013 at 12:39 am |
  9. Iloreyix

    Our neighborhood Publix CLOSED from lack of business while located in a fast food corridor.
    When the Publix was open – the vegetables would rot on shelves while the potato chip isle was 90' long with products moving fast.
    Now our area has nothing but fast food and gas stations. It's what the demographic will support.
    The "Food Desert" is a myth. That desert was vibrant in the past and has dried up like any sense the poor had at one time.
    The author writes a great game – It's easy to talk that great game about inequality being the cause of poverty, and the greatness of "diversity" from the ivory armchair. I would bet any amount that the author of this article lives where she only interacts with the poor from a sanctimonious volunteer pulpit at a soup kitchen.
    Put your money where your mouth is and MOVE to a poor neighborhood – live in it for a few years, and then tell me how bad you want to move out.

    November 30, 2013 at 7:01 pm |
  10. Paul Parrish

    Thank you Rachel for writing a truly Christian article. In no religion of the world is material wealth indicative of one's spiritual state. As you've pointed out, wealth can be a great barrier. Ramsey's doctrine is nowhere to be found in the Bible.

    November 30, 2013 at 6:55 pm |
    • modocer

      The idea of debt is not part of Christian thinking, though there are few Christians who understand that the "debtor is a slave to the lender". Being a slave to any but Christ is un-Christian.

      November 30, 2013 at 7:12 pm |
  11. russ

    95% of wealthy people were born middle class or higher. 100% of poor people were born poor.

    November 30, 2013 at 6:53 pm |
    • doobzz

      Citation?

      November 30, 2013 at 7:02 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      Of people who have convinced themselves that someone can live entirely on air and light, all were comfortably well-off (I admit that's just my suspicion).

      November 30, 2013 at 7:02 pm |
  12. vinster76

    those who cannot take care of themselves through no fault of their own have a right to have society take care of them. for those who wont lift a finger to help themselves or their families because they are lazy, to heck with them....How is that for a politically correct statement?

    November 30, 2013 at 6:52 pm |
    • Sara

      The problem is first, in knowing the difference, and second in figuring out how to provide that support. What we currently have in the US is millions who cannot afford healthcare if they work, but will receive free health care if they become unemployed and enter true poverty. If you need health care, what do you do? We need to provide a system which allows all citizens to earn wages and benefits on which they can live. The harsh reality is is that a nation can only do this for a limited population, at at roughly 5% of the global population the US has to tighten its borders before it will be able to provide such a living to those who live here. It is a strong global economy, however, that will allow an increasing number of nations to do the same for their own citizens.

      November 30, 2013 at 9:15 pm |
  13. Kate Sischo

    Rachel has very good points as Jesus pointed out in Deuteronomy 15:11 "There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your fellow Israelites who are poor and needy in your land."
    Evidently God did not intend for every one who believed in Christ to be rich or comfortable or have a easy life. Granted, discipline can help one get out of debt IF there is enough money in the first place. Those who choose not to "give up" things have the money to begin with to get out of debt and choose to live in debt and that makes a huge difference from someone who has just or not enough money for the basics. Until you have lived among the poor in the United States and ate with them one cannot understand the difficulty of being poor.

    November 30, 2013 at 6:48 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      "Evidently God did not intend for every one who believed in Christ to be rich or comfortable or have a easy life."

      Not much is evident about your God. Is it evident to you that life unfolds for everyone as God intends? So that if God is entirely good and does only good, it is ultimately good that there is poverty and suffering?

      November 30, 2013 at 6:56 pm |
      • Protons

        Do you want to be abandoned in outer darkness forever? Yes or no?

        November 30, 2013 at 11:23 pm |
  14. hearties

    Jesus preached for free, helped others constantly and gave his life for those that believe him, repent and do the will of God. Jesus died naked, despised and rejected by those that didn't believe him. No amount of money will save you.

    November 30, 2013 at 6:39 pm |
    • doobzz

      Jesus also attacked the merchants who were conducting legitimate businesses in the outer temple with a homemade whip, vandalized their merchandise, got pissed and killed a tree because it didn't have figs on it in the wrong season, and called a Canaanite woman a racist slur. He doesn't sound like much of an example to me.

      November 30, 2013 at 6:45 pm |
      • vinster76

        they were using the House of God as a retail establishment, rather than for worship.....Get a clue

        November 30, 2013 at 6:54 pm |
        • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

          god needs a house?

          November 30, 2013 at 6:58 pm |
        • doobzz

          They were conducting legitimate business, selling animals for sacrifice. Not everyone owned livestock, so there were merchants who sold doves, sheep, etc. in the outer part of the temple so people could have an animal for their sacrifices. Get a clue.

          November 30, 2013 at 7:01 pm |
        • vinster76

          doobz: get this clue.....the selling of sacrificial animals was often done to take advantage of the poor, who had little money. Additionally, they used the house of worship as a place to profit, off the backs of the poor, often with unhealthy animals......You know, kinda like Obama......using the money of others to screw the rest, and tell them it's good for them......your turn....

          November 30, 2013 at 7:20 pm |
        • Protons

          God needed to be suckled.

          November 30, 2013 at 11:12 pm |
      • Protons

        It wasn't homemade. It was handmade, by him, at that moment, to thrash those who were using religion for filthy lucre. Repent all you preachers of prosperity, for it will be better for u not to have been born.

        November 30, 2013 at 11:16 pm |
        • doobzz

          Homemade, handmade, whatever. He attacked people who were conducting business, beat them and vandalized their merchandise.

          If you believe in such things, of course.

          December 1, 2013 at 12:50 am |
      • Protons

        He calls u by your real name and says, repent lest worse things than these come upon u, for in the moment u think not, he shall require your soul.

        November 30, 2013 at 11:20 pm |
        • doobzz

          Blah, blah, blah. I have no need of repentance to your deity or any other.

          December 1, 2013 at 12:51 am |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      Considering there are no contempary historical writings about Jesus I don't think people at the time despised him, they were indifferent to him.

      November 30, 2013 at 6:48 pm |
      • Protons

        Dodo is like fine wine. She ages with distinction. Those boys who wrote what eventually became known as the new testament surely wrote for their contemporaries.

        November 30, 2013 at 11:06 pm |
      • Protons

        Surely they were indifferent about him just as u r. Ur life revolves around running from him and trying, in vain, to prove be wasn't.

        November 30, 2013 at 11:08 pm |
    • ME II

      @hearties,
      Well sure when you are supposedly able to perform miracles then who needs money. Nice story though.

      November 30, 2013 at 6:49 pm |
      • Protons

        What did he call people like you? You no, people who demand signs and miracles?

        November 30, 2013 at 11:25 pm |
        • ME II

          1) You don't know what Jesus said, just what others claim He said.
          2) Did I demand sign or miracles? No, I did not.

          December 1, 2013 at 12:10 pm |
  15. matt

    I think the author is missing a few key points. First "20 things rich people do" does not mean if you do these you will be rich. You can only control what is within your control, but most people are unwilling to do the hard things it takes to succeed. Things don't usually come instantaneously. Those who work hard and sacrifice and make good decisions can build wealth. They will most likely keep it too because they earned it (unless Uncle Sam continues to steal more). That is why lotto winners typically loose their money in a few years; they didn't earn it and don't know how to be wise with money. I think I can speak for Mr Ramsey when I say that if you make bad choices where you have control, you will always have money problems. If you make good decisions and have self-control, you can build wealth. But as I have heard Mr. Ramsey say, it is no guarantee. You have a much better shot in the US or other First-world economies because there is a reasonable amount of justice unlikely these countries with thieving militants that steal peoples' hard-earned wealth before it can really turn into anything. We really are very blessed. Everyone has a chance to make a better life for their families here. Why do you think doctors move from India and set up a fast food joint and get a foot in there for their children. They work beneath their level of potential because it will help their children succeed. Many Americans don't understand that.

    November 30, 2013 at 6:26 pm |
  16. systemic inequality

    There is systemic inequality when the feather-in-the-breeze crowd, such as exhibited by Rachel Held Evans, finds a much greater number of chronically poor people in their midst than the learn-good-habits-to-get-ahead crowd that adheres to the kind of basic principles that Dave Ramsey preaches.

    November 30, 2013 at 6:14 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      I like the phrase "to get ahead." It admits that not everyone can make it. Perhaps finding an acceptable standard of living is a race and the losers are, well, losers. Or perhaps it's more like a sleigh pursued by wolves. Most can win, but a few have to be thrown out.

      November 30, 2013 at 6:21 pm |
      • Sara

        It's an accurate expression because only half the population can ever be 'ahead' and it is the impression of being ahead, real or not, that leads to happiness. Anyway you cut it without a well balanced economy half the population will be losers.

        November 30, 2013 at 6:24 pm |
        • systemic inequality

          Sara, when people talk about 'getting' ahead, it really refers to getting ahead of one's own situation, just trying to be better today than w were yesterday and better tomorrow than we were today. None of us start in the same place, whether it is financially, emotionally, physically, etc., but we can all better ourselves. In the process, nobody has to lose anything for us to gain something.

          November 30, 2013 at 6:28 pm |
        • Salero21

          Oh look who's here Sara!! Are you still waiting for the Nobel Prize in Psychology to be awarded to you?

          November 30, 2013 at 7:07 pm |
        • Sara

          I agree that everyone can get ahead (progress) financially without anyone losing out financially. However, status and wealth are two different things, and happiness is almost always correlated with those of the highest status, not strictly wealth. So as some get ahead others do, in fact, fall behind. The only way to avoid this is to maintain at least an illusion of relative equality.

          November 30, 2013 at 8:35 pm |
      • ME II

        I guess, it depends on whether one means 'to get ahead' of everyone else or 'to get ahead' of poverty and suffering.

        November 30, 2013 at 6:25 pm |
        • Tom, Tom, the Other One

          I believe in the power of society. We can make it as a group, get ahead of poverty and injustice, if we are sufficiently devoted to each other and to creating an equitable society. Self-interest works for only a few in our society. The people who are left behind in our society have difficulty obtaining the basics of living.

          November 30, 2013 at 6:39 pm |
  17. jasondeleon

    I believe that success leaves clues, and you can see it in the patterns (or the correlations) from the “20 Things" article. It's not scientific and I agree that correlation does not equal causation, but I think we can definitely learn which set of behaviors would probably increase our chances for growth and greater wealth. (As somebody mentioned, the "Millionaire Next Door" and "Millionaire Mind" talk a lot about it).

    The author mentioned an example of how a rich person can afford a gym membership and a poor person cannot, is too tired, etc to exercise. These sound like excuses that we all make to ourselves. And trust me, I'm an expert at making excuses. My dad exercises 4-5X a week at home with no fitness equipment or weights (or even videos). I on the other hand, have a treadmill at home, stationary bike, (P90X & Insanity DVDs) and access to clubhouse gym and yet rarely workout.

    Going back to the habits, I think a lot of them can point to studies I've read about delayed gratification, focus, and self-discipline. Motivation and perseverance probably have a lot to do with success as well.

    I've observed the things that people buy when I'm at a store. The questions I normally ask myself: 1) Can they afford that?, 2) Do they really need that?, and 3) Will that really enhance their life? Would be interesting to do a study of what percentages (in terms of class) go shopping on Black Friday...

    November 30, 2013 at 6:08 pm |
    • CMOlson

      Whoa! Judgmental much?!

      November 30, 2013 at 6:32 pm |
      • systemic inequality

        When it comes to whether people will end up rich or poor, good judgment is usually an important consideration.

        November 30, 2013 at 6:42 pm |
        • ME II

          True, "good judgement" not just being judgmental.

          November 30, 2013 at 6:47 pm |
    • Sara

      People like to talk about one's tolerance for delayed gratification like it's something about which we should feel moral pride and for which we deserve to be rewarded. The reality is, however, that you can estimate a person's lifetime behaviors in this area by age 3. So I can delay gratification and am more successful as a result. So what? Am I somehow more morally deserving? I am lucky, probably in part fro my early childhood upbringing and in part from my genetics, but like everything else, it's just luck. Yes, we need to encourage everyone to do their best, but to as.sume all can be equally happy with the same behaviors and lifestyle is to misunderstand humanity.

      November 30, 2013 at 6:43 pm |
  18. philipotts

    Among the conservative Christian community there seems to be the lack of a desire to understand the "why" of a situation. There is this black and white perspective that completely ignores the complexities of certain societal realities. A single mother who juggles rent, bills, and raising kids by herself certainly has the same level of discipline as a Dave Ramsey. There is no amount of bootstrap pulling that can turn a minimum wage job into a 6 figure annual salary for some people. There are only so many hours in a day, and sometimes practical priorities beat out the desire to chase a dream.

    List like Dave Ramsey's serve no purpose and oversimplify the the frustrating reality of many people's lives. Changing a diet or doing more sit-ups is not going to change someone's socio-economic standing.

    November 30, 2013 at 6:05 pm |
    • matt3579

      Ramsey's advise for getting out of debt is pretty simple: cut out what you don't need, and pay off your debts with the money that you earn.

      I have several friends who have tried it and they didn't want to give up eating out 4 times a week, didn't want to give up cable television, didn't want to give up this or that or whatever. If you truly want to not be in debt, you can't get out if you're constantly throwing your money at things that you don't need at that moment in your life.

      My wife and I went through Ramsey's system, and while we do NOT agree with every principle of it, we used the general principles and got out of debt in about 26 months. And this was on a $40,000 household income at the time (paid off two cars, three credit cards and several other loans). We cut out things in our life that we didn't need. We've been debt free for about 3 years now and we STILL haven't signed back up for cable television.

      Being out of debt has helped me then start two successful businesses that I never would have been able to do if I would have just been content living paycheck to paycheck.

      November 30, 2013 at 6:16 pm |
      • philipotts

        A single parent in a minimum wage job earns about $15,000 / year before taxes. What you are Dave Ramsey suggest is totally impractical and irrelevant to such a person. To suggest that they are in their situation as a result of not enough exercise, eating too much junk food, or an unwillingness to "get rid of cable" is pretty ignorant.

        November 30, 2013 at 6:21 pm |
      • cm

        I have no cable. I have no smart phone. I have a flip phone with the cheapest plan available, text and calling. I also have a degree in law that cost over 6 figures to get. Even Dave would probably call a law degree from a top-20 law school a sound investment. Lo and behold though, I make less than $30k because good employers assume I'll cost too much and won't even give an interview. I practiced for 2 years before me and a few others were cut loose so that they could hire 20 "staff" attorneys instead of 2-3 associates. Staff attorneys make $90,000 less per year than associates. And no, none of us were given the option of transitioning to staff.

        So please, tell me what can be cut from my life? I have no gym membership, no clubs, I avoid going out... swapping a $3 McDonald's lunch for a $2.50 pbj twice a week is going to undo $100k + in law school debt?

        November 30, 2013 at 6:59 pm |
        • matt3579

          So you refuse to work? Are you too special to make $30k a year? What are you talking about, "good employers?" You think that because you have a a law degree that you are owed a high paying job? Do everyone a favor and get over yourself. 100k jobs don't grow on trees. Build your resume and have a little humility. You sound like everyone owes you something.

          February 27, 2014 at 6:39 pm |
    • systemic inequality

      Changing a diet, in itself, is most likely not going to change someone's socio-economic standing but practicing the discipline necessary to change a diet will have a positive influence toward achieving other goals, 'practice' being the key part of changing habits.

      November 30, 2013 at 6:24 pm |
      • Sara

        It's a wonderful idea, but study after study find people change little after they are 30 and most personality traits are set by the mid-teens.

        November 30, 2013 at 6:27 pm |
        • ME II

          Oh, crap!

          November 30, 2013 at 6:37 pm |
        • systemic inequality

          It is undoubtedly harder to change habits the longer and deeper the ruts become. It doesn't mean that we shouldn't try, or that people don't succeed, especially when it comes to self defeating patterns. If it was true that there was no hope of improvement in people's lives there would be no need for counseling or education. The reality is that people receive almost no financial training in school, even though it is one of the crucial aspects of life to determine a person's security and well being. Many people go a lifetime without hearing, let alone recognizing, that they can make simple changes to their lives that would set them on a completely different financial path.

          November 30, 2013 at 6:40 pm |
        • Sara

          I agree people should try and that counseling can help. But the expected changes need to be realistic and the focus needs to be on fetal development and early childhood, where substantial influence is actually likely.

          November 30, 2013 at 7:45 pm |
  19. Beth

    We would not describe ourselves as rich. At this point, we are barely middle class. His system, like several other great budgeting systems, have kept us off of welfare and helped us survive two periods of unemployment. Following something like this helps you get off of the debt treadmill. We've been able to focus more on relationships rather than having the next new material thing, and have been in a position to help other people out.

    November 30, 2013 at 6:02 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      Has anyone disputed Dave Ramsey's methods? I thought his views on poverty were in question.

      November 30, 2013 at 6:06 pm |
  20. Atheism Is Corrupt

    Atheism is just another fairy tale adults believe.

    November 30, 2013 at 6:00 pm |
    • EnjaySea

      Atheism is nothing more than withholding belief in theological claims that haven't yet been supported by evidence.

      You can swing that around and try it on in reverse if that makes you feel better, but saying it's the same as faith doesn't change the fact that it's the opposite.

      November 30, 2013 at 6:07 pm |
    • philipotts

      How is not believing in fairy tales, a fairy tale?

      November 30, 2013 at 6:08 pm |
      • EnjaySea

        I've encountered a lot of Christians on this board who are so unsure of their faith that they vent their frustration on those of us who are perfectly content with their own doubts.

        November 30, 2013 at 6:16 pm |
        • philipotts

          Right, but those who have said "for me, I do not believe in a God" why do Christians try to equate a non-belief with a fantastic faith. As if it makes you feel better to say "you are just as crazy as me".

          It's a little immature.

          November 30, 2013 at 6:24 pm |
        • EnjaySea

          I agree. Using faith as an insult doesn't do much to convince me that I should have faith.

          November 30, 2013 at 6:27 pm |
    • Akira

      Oh, I see you changed your username yet again, L M.

      November 30, 2013 at 6:54 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.