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Dave Ramsey's Book "The Legacy Journey", a Review
Dave Ramsey’s baby steps begin with building a small emergency fund to paying down debt to saving for retirement to “build wealth and give”. Dave Ramsey's 2014 book “The Legacy Journey” can be seen as the answer to the question, “What do I do in Step 7 of your Baby Steps?” or "What do I do after I've paid off all my debts and saved for all my long term needs?"
What are the pros and cons of the book “The Legacy Journey”? What can you learn from a book on the Bible and finance? And how does this book compare to Dave Ramsey’s other books?
Pros of “The Legacy Journey” by Dave Ramsey
Dave Ramsey dispels many modern Christian misinterpretations about money and debt without getting too deep into the theology. For example, the popular statement is “money is the root of all evil” when the Bible actually says “the love of money is the root of all evil”. Money isn’t evil, only the worship and pursuit of it to the exclusion of moral actions is.
This misconception has led many people to view money as bad; the results range from choosing low paying positions at non-profits due to the mistaken belief it is necessary to remain moral to giving away too much for fear that having too much is “bad” to Christians demonizing someone who gives away millions to charity for buying a nice car with cash. The book has a good line on this. “Believing that making money is a selfish activity will undermine anyone’s success.”
The book also criticizes the prosperity gospel, where they say you have to give to a specific ministry to receive the blessing of wealth and imply that those who are wealthy are holier than everyone else. The Bible talks about many who are both Godly and wealthy, such as David, Solomon, Job, Abraham and Lydia. They aren’t condemned for their wealth but praised for how they use it – but not to the point of giving it all away and living in poverty afterward.
This book is clear that 99% of all get rich quick scams are just that, scams. It describes that success is building wealth slowly, by eliminating debt before saving and investing over the long run. Robert Kiyosaki and too many others talk about timing the market or negotiating down debt to get back on sound financial footing.
Dave Ramsey gives a good explanation of how the Bible does link work to money and wealth, but doesn’t say be a workaholic or work to the exclusion of other values like spiritual growth. For example, the verse “Is it not easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to get into heaven?” is followed by people asking how so many who seemed blessed due to their wealth could get into heaven. The chapter isn’t saying the rich cannot get into heaven, simply countering the belief that wealth is a sign of grace.
The widow giving her mite is not giving out of faith, but is in the middle of a sermon where Jesus is criticizing scribes who give long prayers, like being recognized and seek all the donations they can – including all of the widow’s money. In that same chapter, Jesus condemns them as devouring widow’s houses. It can be a relief to many Christians who think they need to give it all away like the poor widow to get into heaven that the intention was actually to condemn religious leaders whose excessive demands on the poor kept them in poverty and took advantage of the weak they were supposed to support.
Cons of “The Legacy Journey” by Ramsey
This is a book on the Christian views and popular misinterpretations of the Bible on money, wealth, the wealthy themselves and other topics. This book is written to dispel many of modern myths of what the Bible says and means when it discusses financial matters. It cites and refers to Rabbi Lapin’s book “Thou Shalt Prosper” and Jewish practices related to finance, so it may be of interest to Jews.
However, those outside the Judeo-Christian tradition will see it more as an intellectual curiosity than Dave Ramsey’s other books. In contrast, Dave Ramsey’s books like “The Total Money Makeover”, “Entreleadership” and “More Than Enough” are universally accessible though they do have occasional Biblical references.
There are references to other books that are a good read, such as “48 Days to the Work You Love” by Dan Miller. Other books he references like John Acuff’s are not as good, and Acuff at one point had a business relationship with Dave Ramsey. There are many references to Rabbi Lapin’s book, but that is reasonable given that Mr. Ramsey says that book on the Jewish views of money and wealth inspired this book, as well as his revised view of the New Testament’s lessons on money based on the Jewish interpretations of Old Testament lessons.
Dave Ramsey has taught Financial Peace University for years, a financial program my husband and I both took and taught in our church. Sections of the book repeat the final chapters/sections of FPU. And there are sections of this book that promote the “Legacy Journey” class Dave Ramsey started offering in 2014.
Observations about “The Legacy Journey” by Dave Ramsey
This book lacks the “love yourself so you can be happy and financially free” mantras that lace Suze Orman’s books. Conversely, it repeats that everything belongs to God and you’re just the manager. While that point of view allows you to avoid judging your self worth by your net worth, much of the subsequent advice on building wealth and building a legacy falls flat if you do not share that view.
He says this book is suitable for those on Step 4 (after debt except mortgage is paid off, put 15% toward retirement). In my opinion, his book is best for those on Step 6 of the Dave Ramsey plan (pay off mortgage) or Step 7 (build wealth and give). If you are debt, you should read his books like the “Total Money Makeover” and “Financial Peace Revisited”, not this book.
This book does touch on politics, though it is rarely overt. For example, the demands that the wealthy pay their fair share despite paying a graduated income tax, give it all away to charity or “share with the less fortunate” beyond tithing is greed on the part of those demanding it. The book discusses that it is reasonable for someone just starting out to have nearly nothing while those who’ve worked 30 years can have quite a bit; a younger person demanding a share of what someone who has saved and invested for thirty years is greed on the younger person’s part.
Dave Ramsey’s book details the meaning of the Parable of the Talents as an explanation of how the Bible doesn’t mandate communism or “economic equality”. The master gives three servants talents, each talent being worth half a million dollars in today’s money. One servant makes 100% returns. Another servant makes 100% returns. The third servant buries the money to hide it, afraid to invest it or do anything to increase its value. The master doesn’t take the returns from the servants who grew the money and give it to the one who has 0% returns. Instead, he gets angry at the lazy one and gives the money to the one who doubled and tripled the money entrusted to him. Not only is wealth inequality soundly rejected in this parable and explanation of it, there is further justification of shutting up about how others spend their money.
Dave Ramsey explains how guilt tripping people who save and invest and occasionally buy nice things first is envy (demanding they give away what they have to make themselves as poor as you) and can be tinged with greed (give some to me). We have equal value before the Divine and as people, but we don’t all have equal value in the marketplace, and that’s not evil.
The Bible says we should aid the poor, with preference for those “within the city gates” before helping those outside your community, but only after helping your own family first.
Dave Ramsey discusses how religious views can affect wealth accumulation. Jews are 2% of the population and 20% to 30% of the Forbes 400. This isn’t a result of a conspiracy or “money grubbing”. Instead, it is that their views on money based on the Torah (the Old Testament of the Christian Bible) state that someone’s quest for profit and wealth are inherently moral, and that the wealthy can support ministries and charities that the poor cannot. The Jewish community doesn’t look at money as evil, so there is no social stigma on saving, investing, building a “legacy” and wealth. This is the first good explanation I’ve seen of the Havadalah service and its implications that explains the popular hymns talking about how your cup runs over.
Dave Ramsey gives a good explanation of contentment and why you shouldn’t be afraid of it. To borrow from a Sheryl Crow song, “It's not having what you want. It's wanting what you've got”. Contentment means you can get off the spending and consuming treadmill because you realize that you don’t need a bigger house, newer and faster car, more stuff to be happy. However, too many people are afraid that contentment means slow and slothful – thus a sin. Instead, contentment means being happy materially and appreciating life but still setting goals for improving yourself, investing for the future and planning long term.