Rachel Cruze finds it amusing when she hears people talk about Dave Ramsey like he's some kind of rock star. "To me, he's just my dad."
Rachel's parents, Dave and Sharon Ramsey, have been married 31 years and have three adult children. Experiencing financial success in their 20s and then recovering from personal bankruptcy in their 30s, Dave and Sharon determined that their family would not continue to make the same financial mistakes. "We made the declaration that we would start a new tradition," Dave says, "a tradition of money knowledge and money character traits."
That tradition has touched more than just the Ramsey family. Dave's message of financial hope has grown his corporation Lampo Group Inc. from a card table in his living room to a multimillion-dollar company. With nearly 6 million listeners tuning in to his radio show each week, Dave Ramsey has become a household name, and his financial principles have challenged listeners to "live like no one else so later you can live like no one else."
With Ramsey's countercultural approach to life and money management, listeners may wonder what it was like growing up in the Ramsey household. Rachel clarifies, "Mine was the very first family to go through ‘the Dave Ramsey plan,' and trust me, it wasn't always easy."
Rachel is now married, and she and her dad recently co-authored the parenting book Smart Money, Smart Kids. Thriving Family talked with Dave and Rachel about the journey they've shared as father and daughter. They discussed the importance of good family communication, and they shared personal stories about finding faith, living on a budget and loving to give.
Dave, tell us about your faith journey.
Dave: After losing everything, I went on a quest to figure out how money really works and how I could get control of it. I had met God on the way up, but I really got to know Him on the way down. I studied what the Bible said about money and discovered there are more than 800 Scriptures on money and personal finance. This wasn't the beginning of my spiritual journey, but it helped me understand His principles of stewardship.
Rachel, what was it like as a kid experiencing family life on a budget?
Rachel: As in most families, Ramsey kids each had their own personality. As my parents taught us about money, my sister, Denise, grasped the ideas quickly. Budgeting was right up her alley, and saving money just came naturally to her. For me, it was a different story. I am a free spirit and naturally more of a spender. I wasn't enthusiastic about doing a budget — and I loved to spend my money. By recognizing the differences in our personalities, my parents were able to tailor the way they taught each of us about money.
So, how did faith affect the family view of finances?
Dave: The first and most important money lesson we taught our children was stewardship. We believe that God owns everything, and we are asked to manage it for Him. And since we don't own it, it makes it easier to give.
With each of our children, we watched for indications of understanding stewardship by displaying selfless acts. When they received their commissions (not allowances), the first envelope they put money in was their "give" envelope. We taught them to tithe before anything else — just like an adult should do. We watched them each Sunday take their money and give it back to God. We saw them each enjoy giving money to both local and international charities.
Now, they didn't always get it right, but the key was to praise them when we caught them in selfless actions. Not every child can be a natural giver, but generosity can be nurtured!
Tell us about a time when you realized that you really were starting that new tradition of money character.
Dave: When Rachel was in kindergarten, each child was asked to draw a picture of what they would do with $100. We looked through the book of all the kids' drawings. When we got to Rachel's page, we were caught off guard. Rachel's response was, "If I had $100, I would give it to poor people." To see one of our children really understand the concept of giving allowed us to realize that, with God's help, we could change our family.
Tell us about parenting with grace.
Dave: As I look back on parenting the Ramsey kids and teaching the ideas of commission, chore charts, saving, giving and spending, what amazes me most is that our kids still got it despite how often Sharon and I messed up. So parent to parent, let me tell you the word here isgrace — grace for the kids' reactions to unusual circumstances and grace for yourself for not perfectly executing this plan. The key is to be intentional and to control the teaching and guiding of their character rather than control the child.
What's the key to healthy Ramsey relationships today?
Rachel: Communication and learning to be self-sustaining are keys to healthy family relationships. We're a very open family. We talk a lot and plan a lot. We have to make sure that we're all in agreement about family decisions, while still doing what's best for each individual. We respect each other and understand that we're all very different.
What do you appreciate about each other?
Rachel: My dad always talks about how bankruptcy made a lasting emotional impact on him. As his business has grown and he's become better known, I've never seen him take this for granted. Because he knows the pain that finances can cause, he genuinely wants to help other people avoid this pain. He doesn't take his calling lightly, and he continues to work hard every day to help more people.
Dave: No one is ever going to be perfect when it comes to money, but we've seen our kids display that they know how money works and they can handle it responsibly. They are confident and competent. They don't spend every penny they have, but they don't keep every penny they have, either. They are generous givers.
The payoff is worth the hard work and discipline of teaching our kids about money. Sharon and I have great satisfaction and richness of soul as we stand back and watch our children stand on their own and demonstrate wisdom beyond their years.Pam Woody is an editor for Focus on the Family magazine.