Dave Ramsey is a personal finance guru and media personality. At the age of 26, Dave Ramsey was bringing home a quarter of a million dollars a year and had a $4 million real estate portfolio. Two years later he lost everything. Today Ramsey, 60, is one of America’s most trusted sources for financial advice. His syndicated radio program, The Dave Ramsey Show, is among the top five talk radio shows in the United States and is heard by 13 million listeners each week on more than 600 radio stations, according to Ramsey's website.
Ramsey is transparent about his investment style. He encourages his followers to avoid investing in individual stocks and purchase mutual funds that have a long track record of good performance. Personally, his equity investments are allocated into four types of mutual funds: growth, growth and income, aggressive growth, and international.
Besides mutual funds, Ramsey owns a portfolio of rental properties. His real estate investment philosophy is based on acquiring properties without the use of debt financing.
Dave Ramsey has come a long way since filing for personal bankruptcy in his early years. With his estimated net worth of $200 million, he's living proof that anyone can turn a bad financial situation around. Ramsey made his first million, lost it, and then rebuilt an even larger fortune in a relatively short period.
- Dave Ramsey is a well-known financial guru and author with a nationally syndicated radio show and other media presence.
- Before becoming a financial pundit, Ramsey saw both early success and bankruptcy.
- Ramsey employs Christian values to help convey his message of financial prudence and saving.
- Dave Ramsey is transparent about his investment style, and he encourages his followers to avoid investing in individual stocks and purchase mutual funds with a long track record of good performance.
- Ramsey's net worth is estimated to be around $200 million as of 2021.
Early Life and Education
Ramsey was born Sept. 3, 1960, and he grew up in a household that instilled a strong work ethic. In Live Like No One Else, a 20-minute documentary on his life, Ramsey tells the story of when he was 12 years old and asked his father for money to purchase a popsicle. He said his father responded to his request by saying, “You are old enough to get a job. That’s where money comes from.”
That conversation with his father inspired Ramsey to become an entrepreneur. That same day he printed 500 business cards at the local print shop for his first venture: a lawn care business. Throughout his school years, he had a number of other businesses, one of which sold leather bracelets. Ramsey said his early business ventures taught him valuable lessons like customer service and the importance of keeping your word.
Three weeks after turning 18, Ramsey passed his real estate license exam. He used the commissions he made from selling property during college to help pay his tuition. As a child, he had been exposed to the world of real estate, and in his book Dave Ramsey's Complete Guide to Money, he explained, "My parents were in the real estate business, so it has always been a big part of my life."
Real Estate Success and Failure
After graduating from college, he started to flip properties. As a result of having a few family connections at local banks, Ramsey was able to secure financing for his deals. At the age of 26, his real estate portfolio was worth $4 million, and his net worth was just over $1 million.
His initial success was short-lived, and he ended up filing for personal bankruptcy protection at age 28 in 1988, mainly because his largest lender—to whom he owed $1.2 million—was acquired by a bigger bank. The bank demanded Ramsey pay the entire debt off within 90 days. Shortly after receiving his first demand notice, another bank called his $800,000 worth of notes. Ramsey managed to pay the majority of the debt down, leaving $378,000 outstanding.
Financial Counseling Business
Ramsey's fall from grace led him to Christianity. He began to read the Bible and discovered that "God's word has a lot to say about money." In the documentary, Ramsey says that one day after church, a man going through financial difficulties asked him how exactly he survived his money troubles in the past. He agreed to help the man and his wife create a financial plan for their life—and so began Ramsey's financial counseling career.
Ramsey started a personal finance counseling company called The Lampo Group. His money management class started with 37 students, but membership grew to more than 350 students after a few years of operation.
Author and The Dave Ramsey Show
Following the success of The Lampo Group, Ramsey began to co-host a personal finance-focused radio show called The Money Game with his friend, Roy Matlock. Around that time, he also published his first book, Financial Peace, and leveraged his growing radio audience to help sell it.
Ramsey then launched a spin-off radio program called The Dave Ramsey Show. In each episode, people from all over the country call in to ask Ramsey a wide range of personal finance questions.
As an evangelical Christian, Ramsey uses biblical principles to teach his followers how to improve their financial conditions. For example, he often advises others to avoid debt because Bible verse Proverbs 22:7 states, “The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is a slave to the lender.”
At the age of 26, Dave Ramsey's real estate portfolio was worth $4 million, and his net worth was just over $1 million. As of 2021, his net worth is around $200 million.
What Is the Dave Ramsey Theory?
Dave Ramsey's theory for financial freedom is to incrementally build savings and pay off debts in a systematic way. He has formalized this logic into a series of "7 Baby Steps" that anybody could reasonably follow and succeed with.
What Are Dave Ramsey's 7 Baby Steps?
One of Dave Ramsey's financial literacy campaigns features seven "baby steps" that individuals and households should pursue in order to gain financial freedom. Each step should proceed when the previous one has been completed or is near completion. These include:
- Establish an emergency savings fund of at least $1,000
- Pay off all non-housing debts ASAP starting with those with the smallest outstanding balances (known as the debt snowball method)
- Increase yout emergency fund to 3-6 months' income
- Invest 15% or more of your gross monthly income into a retirement account like a 401(k) or IRA
- Start college funds (if you have children) in qualified accounts like 592 plans and ESAs
- Pay off your mortgage as early as possible
- Build wealth
Is Dave Ramsey a Billionaire?
No. Recent estimates show that Dave Ramsey has a net worth of around $200 million.
The Bottom Line
From a very early age, Dave Ramsey understood there was value in a day’s work. As a child, he started several different business ventures to earn extra pocket money. His impeccable work ethic helped him become a millionaire by the age of 26. A few years after reaching the million-dollar net-worth milestone, Ramsey filed for personal bankruptcy.
Since then, he has created a business empire that revolves around using his previous money mistakes and Bible scriptures to teach smart money-management practices. Today, millions of Americans have turned to the teachings of Dave Ramsey to guide them along the path to financial security and wealth.