Category Archives: D Ramsey

Dave Ramsey Financial Peace Class Starts Soon

We are starting our 4th year of offering Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University to the Columbus (Ohio) area. Dave is a best selling author, nationally syndicated radio financial expert, motivational speaker, and creator of Financial Peace University financial education class.

Dave Ramsey created his common sense financial education class 20 years ago, now he serves millions of people in businesses, churches, community centers, military, schools and prisons worldwide. Dave’s system of financial education really works at helping people manage money, become debt free, relate with spouses better about money, and build wealth for emergencies, college education and retirement. Someone asked me once if I agree with everything Dave says, my answer to that is I don’t agree with everything I say- but I do believe in about 95% of what he teaches, because I have studied his concepts and they work.

Why does Dave’s system work so well? It works great because he has researched, refined and improved his program to find out the best way to be financially healthy. His system is proven, and I have seen it work with the classes we have led.  Each class that we have led reported that it helped most people. In addition we have seen about $1.5 – $2 million dollars of debt reduction of class attendees. Some people have written to me of their testimonies and I have posted them here.

Dave has recently updated his course and we rolled it out last Fall, and our next class starts February 7th at 7pm. To find out more about this upcoming class go to the link at Vineyard Community Center. I’m glad the new course was shortened from 13 weeks to 9 weeks, it makes it a lot easier for people to commit to.

The format for the class is to watch a professional, informative, educational teaching by Dave Ramsey on DVD, jam-packed full of information. Small groups are assembled following the DVD to discuss the lesson and provide accountability for those that want it. Dave not only teaches information well, but talks from the heart from his own deep failures and successes. He motivates, gives sample cases so that you can identify with, and is generally funny and entertaining to listen to, what I call ‘Edu-tainment.’

If you or someone you know would like to be more financially smart, and improve their financial future, they should attend a class near them, and hundreds of classes with the new materials are scheduled to start nationwide: to find a class near you go to www.daveramsey.com.

Get Ready For Class

If you have signed up for a Dave Ramsey Financial Peace University (FPU) class starting this Winter, congratulations. Your life will change for the better very soon. I am excited for you.  Be sure to arrive on time, since class starts promptly. Plan to come early to drop children off at childcare (if offered), or obtain your Membership Kit, if you are buying it or have pre-purchased it from from the class coordinator. In addition, be sure to bring your Member Workbook from your kit and a pencil each week, as well as any homework assignments. Doing this as well as coming with a positive attitude will prepare you to get the most out of each lesson. For a class that I am coordinating I have prepared a short Power Point Presentation. If you were unable to come to the orientation/preview January 31st, you might want to review it. Click the link to view this saved at Slidshare.

The Benefits of Dave Ramsey FPU Outweigh the Cost

A couple more people sent me short notes about how they benefited from  taking the Dave Ramsey Financial Peace University class. The cost is less than $100, but most people save that much in the first few weeks of taking the class by living on a budget, eliminating credit card debt, avoiding unneeded purchases, being smart with insurance, investments, mortgages and home purchasing. If you add up just the interest many people save from paying off credit cards so that they are no longer paying high interest rates, the return on their $95 tuition would be over ten thousand  percent. The financial pay-off is one thing, but people tell me all the time that they feel freer spiritually and closer in their walk with the Lord when they are being Biblically wise and obedient with money. People also enjoy the blessings from tithing and blessing others in need. Time and time again, I hear from married couples that there is new harmony in their marriage, because they are communicating better and working together toward common goals. Imagine how much happier people are with fewer financial arguments and less anxiety, buyers’ remorse and stress.

I think I went through the class about two or three years ago. At that time I had debt hanging over my head. It wasn’t as much as it had been when I was in my deepest debt but it was enough to make me not ever want to be in debt again. While in the class I paid off my remaining debt and continue to be debt free. I incurred my debt in my 20’s. I was always living paycheck to paycheck and at times would need to borrow money from family to make my mortgage payment. Today I am living debt free and I pay for EVERYTHING in cash. My car was already paid off. I have been saving the money that I would have been paying for my car in a separate account so when I need a new car I can pay cash. Being debt free is the best feeling ever! – T.S.

In March of 2011 my wife, and I scraped up the money to attend FPU at Vineyard Columbus.  I had just started a new job.  For the majority of 2010 I spent all of my 401k savings and our personal savings on a failed retail business venture.  At the start of FPU my wife and I had no savings, and over $50,000 in credit card, student loan, and business loan debit.  During FPU we began utilizing the tools taught by Dave Ramsey such as budgeting, the envelope method, and most importantly the debit snowball.  By using these tools we eliminated each one of our debits over the course of 16 months.  Today, aside from our home and one car, we are completely debit free.  We have set aside a six month cash reserve in a savings account, we are diligently putting money away for retirement, and we are expecting our first child.  We are truly blessed!  Thank you Vineyard Columbus for sponsoring  such an awesome program! – J. P.

How Financial Peace University Has Helped Us, 2 Stories

Just a brief thank you for offering these (FPU) classes. They were a real blessing to us.  We have been blessed to be totally out of debt now except for our house.  The freedom that this has opened up for us as a family is to be available to say yes to the Lord’s leading for us to adopt again, which we are very grateful to the Lord for.  Thanks again for your faithfulness in serving and educating the body of Christ in wise financial practices. – Jason P.

My girlfriend (now wife) and I took the class (FPU) together first because we thought we would learn important life lessons but we also wanted to be on the same page about finances. These lessons and what “Dave says” became foundations for the way we handle our finances as a married couple. I am SURE it has saved us a lot of trouble as it is easier for us to come to agreement on the way we spend our money. Thanks Vineyard for hosting Financial Peace University! – Anthony W.

What Are the Best Savings Account Rates? Does it Matter?

Do you wonder what is the best rate of return that you can get on a savings account? Does it really matter? Toward the end of this article I will give you some rates I found, but even though it does matter, it doesn’t matter as much as you think, so don’t sweat it too much. Even though your savings account gets a poor rate of return, the idea is that the low rate is the cost of having insurance. I don’t mean insurance in the traditional sense, but self-insurance if something happens and you need to get your hands on your money for a health condition, lost employment, or car repairs, such as the transmission going out on your car. The cost of ‘insurance’ is the low rate of return. The benefit is having money readily available, insured by FDIC, and in something that won’t go down in value. Remember what Mark Twain said: “I am more concerned with the return of my money than the return on my money.”

That is the reason I don’t think it is too important to lose sleep over the low interest rate your savings account is earning. Also, the difference in rate of return isn’t going to add up that much anyway. For example, if your account is earning .50% and another one is offering .65%, the difference in accumulation in 1 year on $10,000 is only $15 dollars. However, as you save more money and you are going to have it in savings a long time, then you should do more homework to find a great rate.

Saving money is all the rage these days. In April of 2005 the US personal savings rate was .80%; today it stands at about 4%. More people are saving money as a result of the recession, now that they see the value of having a safety net. Hopefully the trend toward saving instead of spending almost all we make will continue and we won’t return to a spend-and-borrow culture that helped contribute to a recession. People are taking classes, learning from experience, and understanding the value of having an emergency fund of savings.

The challenge many people face is where to put their money. We are told to deposit it into a safe money market account, pass-book savings, or certificate of deposit, but the interest rates are horrible. We are supposed to save 3 to 6 months of expenses in case of a rainy day. If someone is self-employed, it may be good to have 12 to 18 months of savings in case of business slumps. If people are paying off debt, Dave Ramsey suggests they start with baby-step #1 and put $1,000 into savings, then start to snowball debt reduction with a gazelle run-hard mentality.

Basic bank and credit union savings and money market accounts are great, because they are easy to get to, they don’t go down in value like the stock or bond market, and they are insured against loss by the FDIC. Make note though–there are some money market accounts that are not insured.

I looked around the web and found some decent rates in the neighborhood of .65% to 1.05%; the best from my quick search was at CIT Bank and Sallie Mae. I found some institutions with rates as good as 1.50%, but they had requirements such as minimum balances and a checking account. At Bankrate.com the average money market account was paying from .50% to .70%, depending on minimum balance. Find a good institution, with a good rate, keep an eye on it, but don’t sweat it too much initially.

Hard Work and God’s Blessing

A Dave Ramsey class attendee sent me an email awhile back, and it was so encouraging I wanted to pass it on to you. This is a wonderful couple; it’s just that finances have been a major struggle for them. Taking the Dave Ramsey Financial Peace University (FPU) class has led them to financial freedom.

“I wanted to let you know the impact that this study (Dave Ramsey FPU) has had upon me. I have a WORKING BUDGET for the first time in our 27-year marriage. I have completely overhauled the way I go grocery shopping; my previous cost was more than $150.00 a week and is now down to $100.00. I also save between $9 to $18 dollars on manufacturers coupons. So I am saving around $250.00 a month. I have saved over $80.00 on car repairs by asking my present dealership to honor other dealer coupons. I have paid off 3 debts and am snowballing 2 others. Our taxes were paid by April 14th. WOW!

“When I went to the bank last week to set up my check card, I started a conversation with my teller and mentioned the Dave Ramsey class. She immediately asked if I wanted envelopes…. she started the class a few years ago and petered out after class 5. Sweet gal, though, and we shared a few laughs. As of today, I have the funds and I cut up my gas and credit card and will be using only cash! My heart did race a little as the paper shredder groaned over the plastic but what a Powerful Prayer of Thanksgiving and YIPPEE!!!! I am free!”

She recently sent me an update: “We have now paid off ALL debt except the mortgage on our home 🙂 Have three months of earnings in the wings. I will be replacing my current car with 215,000 miles on it for a new one with cash. (All the while paying off hospitalizations, surgeries, assisting our three 20 something sons, a major employment change for my husband, and I went back to college.) God has been incredibly faithful to us during this process and we owe Him all the praise!”

Financial Miracles Happen

My wife Laura shared this yesterday with her Dave Ramsey FPU small group break-out class–something that happened to us about 6 years ago.

A few years ago when we were both jobless and I was ill, I was told that I needed to have surgery.  At the time we were using Cobra and it was supposed to end before my surgery was scheduled.  To shorten the story, a mistake was made with our Cobra and they extended it two extra months.  I was able to get the surgery during the time of that extension saving us somewhere around $20,000.

In my last Ramsay small group we all prayed for a miracle of getting a raise or unexpected checks.  Several of us in that group got raises.  We brought it up to the whole group and many of them prayed the same way.  One evening several people told of how they had been given or received unexpected sums of money, raises, etc.

I guess I want to make the point that while you are doing the homework and trying to ‘live like no one else’, remember to pray for miracles.

The biggest miracle that we hear about over and over is that marriages are strengthened when couples take the course and that single people gain a sense of empowerment and security.

It doesn’t matter what has already happened to you, what mistakes have already been made or what your situation is right now.  If you follow the concepts in this class you will see a big difference by the end of our classes.  We are on this road together.

Preparing for Attending Dave Ramsey FPU Class

If you have signed up for a Dave Ramsey Financial Peace University (FPU) class starting this Fall, congratulations. Your life will change for the better very soon. I am excited for you.  This is just a short blog post, to get you ready. Be sure to arrive on time, since class starts promptly. Plan to come early to drop children off at childcare (if offered), or obtain your Membership Kit, if you are buying it or have pre-purchased it from from the class coordinator. In addition, be sure to bring your Member Workbook from your kit and a pencil each week, as well as any homework assignments. Doing this as well as coming with a positive attitude will prepare you to get the most out of each lesson.

For a class that I am coordinating that starts Thursday September 13th, I have prepared a short Power Point Presentation. If you were unable to come to the orientation/preview September 6th, you might want to review it. Click the link to view this saved at Slidshare.

For information about the class, as well as details about our class and to find others in your area, see my prior post.

Friday Blog Roundup

Around the financial blogosphere there were several noteworthy articles that I thought were worth reading:

Financial Peace University Online Resources

Per my previous post, the class has been substantially updated and improved. In addition to the class being revamped, the online ‘member’s only’ resources have been substantially improved. The previous one was okay, but was a little hard to navigate and students had difficulty finding the tools they needed. The new one is much easier to use for locating the various resources for the entire course, as well as those unique to each week’s lesson. The following are some of the online resources:

  • Lesson recaps (2 min videos hitting the highlights of the class)
  • Class Wall for online conversation
  • Money tools to help students through their class experience, such as Gazelle Budget, Debt Snowball calculator, Investing calculator, and more…(limited time access)
  • Weekly budget tips
  • Video tutorials to walk members through how to utilize different forms and tools
  • Budgeting & Additional Forms
  • MP3 of the lessons
  • Homework reminders
  • Other full videos of lessons that where omitted when the class was reduced from 13 to 9 weeks. These lesson didn’t apply to everyone, so it was a good idea to shorten the class but to provide online access to them for those that are interested in learning more about dealing with creditors, making large purchases, and career direction.

Since some people may have difficulty setting up their account and finding everything, I have created a little video to get new members started: “Financial Peace University, how to use the online resources

Some people ask me what resources will they stop having access to at the end of the class, here is a little Q & A that may help clarify.

Q. What are the online resources called?

A. FPU Central

Q.  How long does that last, for new attendees?

A.  They have long-term access to FPU Central as long as that site is available. 2 tools (Gazelle Budget, Debt Snowball tracker) go away 2 weeks after class ends. The confusion probably lies here. These 2 tools come from our subscription-based website, MyTotalMoneyMakeover.com (mytmmo.com), which is why there is a limited time to access them. We are giving FPU Members free use of these tools during their FPU experience.  If FPU class members would like to continue using those 2 tools after the usage period, then they can go back to that tool and upgrade to mytmmo.com at a 25% discount.

Q. What does MMRC provide during the free membership?

A. FPU Central is the online companion to FPU and a part of their paid FPU membership outside of the 2 aforementioned, featured tools. Class members have continuous access to additional videos, tips, articles, calculators, forms, homework reminders, audio lessons, and more.

Q. What portion ends after the class is over, and what do they still have access to?

A.  Will lose Gazelle Budget and Debt Snowball tracker 2 weeks after class. Still have access to everything else.

Dave Ramsey and Tithe

A recent Dave Ramsey Financial Peace University class attendee asked me if Dave recommends suspending tithing. Here is my response.

Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University class is concluded with the final lesson “The Great Misunderstanding.” In this lesson he highlights the importance of giving and faith. However, it seems as if some people interpret Dave  as advocating delaying giving. In fact he even teaches the following 7 Baby Steps:

  1. Save $1,000 emergency fund
  2. Eliminate non-mortgage debt
  3. Save 3 – 6 months income for emergencies
  4. Invest 15%  income
  5. Fund college
  6. Pay off home early
  7. Build wealth & give

It is not surprising that some people think they need to get out of debt and save a lot of money before giving or tithing; in fact some churches that host the class experience a reduction in giving by people that attend. In actuality though, Dave doesn’t teach this. He advocates giving and saving as part of one’s budget from the beginning and not waiting until after accomplishing a particular baby step. The previous version of the course doesn’t perhaps convey this message loud enough, but the newest release of the material for Fall 2012 classes does a better job of making sure that people who take the course understand that they are not to stop giving.

Most churches teach tithing as a principle, not so much as law, but as an act of faith and worship. I posted an article about it at this blog site recently. Whether people choose to tithe is a matter of their own interpretation of scripture, conscience and faith. If people believe in tithing the full 10%, but they are going through financial difficulty, they may wonder if it makes sense for them to do so in light of what they are learning. I feel this depends upon various factors such as the severity of debt, their faith, counsel from wise counselors and prayer. However at the end of the day, I think it is a great idea to always give something, and a regular amount. Doing so helps us walk in faith through difficulty and it is always good to be a blessing to others. It helps us turn the focus away from our own temporary bad predicament, amongst other things. The cool part about Dave’s emphasis on giving while we are doing well and accumulating wealth is that we are in a position to give well above the traditional tithe amount.

Dave Ramsey Financial Peace University Class is Awesome

Best selling author, nationally syndicated radio financial expert, motivational speaker, and creator of Financial Peace University financial education class Dave Ramsey is an amazing guy with a great institution. Operating under the Lampo group in the Nashville Tennessee area, Dave has grown his company over the last 20 years employing hundreds of people serving millions of people through books and classes taught in business, churches, community centers, military, schools and prisons worldwide.

We have coordinated about 8 classes over the last 3 years, to almost 700 people, at Vineyard Columbus. Dave’s system of financial education really works, and works well at helping people manage money, become debt free, relate with spouses better about money, and build wealth for emergencies, college education and retirement. Someone asked me once if I agree with everything Dave says, my answer to that is I don’t agree with everything I say- but I do believe in about 95% of what he teaches, because I have studied his concepts and they work.

Why does Dave’s system work so well? It works great because he has researched, refined and improved his program to find out the best way to be financially healthy. His system is proven, and I have seen it work with the classes we have led.  Each class that we have led reported that it helped most people. In addition we have seen about $1.5 – $2 million dollars of debt reduction of class attendees.

Dave has recently updated his course and will be rolled out in August, and we lead it again starting September 13th every Thursday for 9 weeks. For those that want to check it out before signing up for it, can attend a preview September 6th at 7pm. The same night we are going to do an orientation, so that attendees can derive the most out of the class. To find out more about this upcoming class go to the link at Vineyard Community Center.

The new class was shortened from 13 weeks to 9 weeks, making it easier for people to commit to. In addition, a few classes have been combined (the two on investments), and the class on dealing with debt collections will only be available online to members, and the class on careers has been eliminated. Lastly, the lessons taught on DVD are all now 60 minutes, some of the prior classes were much longer.

The format for the class is to watch a professional, informative, educational teaching by Dave Ramsey on DVD, jam-packed full of information. Small groups are assembled following the DVD to discuss the lesson and provide accountability for those that want it. Dave not only teaches information well, but talks from the heart from his own deep failures and successes. He motivates, gives sample cases so that you can identify with, and is generally funny and entertaining to listen to, what I call ‘Edutainment.’

The new class also has more Bible in it, something that us class coordinators have been wanting for some time. Financial health isn’t just making practical changes, but at its basis requires spiritual and emotional change- this is a welcome update to the course.

If you or someone you know would like to be more financially smart, and improve their financial future, they should attend a class near them, and hundreds of classes with the new materials are scheduled to start nationwide in August and September. To find a class near you go to www.daveramsey.com.

Dave Ramsey Week #6

This note is for those taking Dave Ramsey Financial Peace University class with us. So far we have completed 5 lessons, and after this week’s class lesson we are almost half way through the course. This week’s lesson Buyer Beware is excellent and helps those saving when making purchases. 

The last 2 week’s classes on debt were excellent. Dave addresses how to get out of debt by first establishing an emergency fund and a budget, then systematically paying off debt using the Debt Snowball, or use the Pro-Rata Plan for those that can’t yet afford minimum payments, and through prayer. However many people with more critical debt issues have questions about things like debt negotiation and bankruptcy, so to foster additional discussion and investigation, I’ve prepared the Debt Repayment white paper.

At this point sometimes attendance can drop off, however commit to completing the course, and implementing as much of what you are learning as you can. It may be difficult at times, but is worth it. Attending each week provides ongoing support, encouragement and accountability to stay the course. I think the following Bible verses provides some encouragement and perspective.

Do not fret because of those who are evil or be envious of those who do wrong; for like the grass they will soon wither,  like green plants they will soon die away. Trust in the LORD and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn, your vindication like the noonday sun. Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him; do not fret when people succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes.  Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret—it leads only to evil.  For those who are evil will be destroyed, but those who hope in the LORD will inherit the land. A little while, and the wicked will be no more; though you look for them, they will not be found. But the meek will inherit the land and enjoy peace and prosperity. The wicked plot against the righteous and gnash their teeth at them; but the Lord laughs at the wicked, for he knows their day is coming. The wicked draw the sword and bend the bow to bring down the poor and needy, to slay those whose ways are upright. But their swords will pierce their own hearts, and their bows will be broken. Better the little that the righteous have than the wealth of many wicked; for the power of the wicked will be broken, but the LORD upholds the righteous. The blameless spend their days under the LORD’s care, and their inheritance will endure forever. In times of disaster they will not wither; in days of famine they will enjoy plenty. But the wicked will perish: Though the Lord’s enemies are like the flowers of the field, they will be consumed, they will go up in smoke. The wicked borrow and do not repay, but the righteous give generously; 22 those the LORD blesses will inherit the land, but those he curses will be destroyed. The LORD makes firm the steps of the one who delights in him; 24 though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the LORD upholds him with his hand. I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread. They are always generous and lend freely; their children will be a blessing. Turn from evil and do good; then you will dwell in the land forever. For the LORD loves the just and will not forsake his faithful ones. Psalm 37: 1 – 28

Dave Ramsey FPU Week 3: Cash Flow Planning

It is hard to believe that we have completed 3 classes already starting 2/2/2012 and there are only 10 to go. One question I often get after lesson #3 “Cash Flow Planning” is regarding cash flow planning from folks who are self-employed or have some self employment income. Read the post below for more information.

Budget Workshop: Some of you attended the workshop this past Saturday. We had a lot of fun. The Excel spread sheet that we use, it doesn’t ‘look’ exactly like Dave’s but is does the exact same thing, but more: helps to add up what you think you are spending (estimated), and then a column to change (proposed) so that you will reach the $0 based budget. There are also monthly tabs for tracking spending. For those of you with debt, there is also a tab that uses your numbers to calculate your Debt Snowball, which you will learn more about in this weeks lesson #4 “Dumping Debt!”

Dave Ramsey FPU Week 2: Comments about “Relating With Money” & Forgiveness

The 2nd of 9 Dave Ramsey Financial Peace University Classes is Relating With Money. I love this class, because it helps couples understand their differences and work together. This is probably one of the reasons why about 75% of married couples that attend the class report this has helped improve their marriage.  Just understanding that we approach money with unique styles, non-judgmentally, is good to open up the doors to be able to cooperate and work together. For singles, this class is excellent too, because many of the recommendations for relating can be applied to accountability partners, and it is always helpful to better understand our strengths and weaknesses.

Some couples are carrying lot of relational money baggage. It can range from feelings that their spouse totally failed them to just disappointment because one is either too obsessive about this, or not interested enough. There may be hurts over mistakes the other made, bad purchases that both are not paying for. How do we get past this? Forgiveness is the answer. There is really no other way to resolve this. Punishment, resentment, ridicule and bitterness just sow the seeds of division. Let’s admit that all of us have made some mistakes, or haven’t managed things wisely, so it is really fair to just let go of those hurts.  Love forms the basis of your marriage, and forgiveness is an act of self-less love and grace towards the other one. This fresh start helps couples work together better.

Rich Nathan preached a wonderful sermon on this 2/5/12, so if you want to go into this a little deeper check out this out, you can listen online or download a MP3 or read the narrative.

Spouses will either work together on finances or work against each other.  You need the other person’s wisdom, strength, support and unique set of gifts and talents that you don’t have to do this together.  If you do this I promise not only will your finances improve, but so will your relationship. Is it easy?  Heck no, someone once said that marriage requires death to some parts of our self. I think that is true; we sacrifice what we want, for the benefit of the other person, to children and to what He wants. The other does the same for us. In the end it isn’t loss, but we get back much more than we give up. This is love in action.

I hope this is helpful, now be encouraged, work on this together, you will achieve a lot together.

Dave Ramsey FPU Week 1: How to Accomplish Baby Step #1

The 1st of 9 Dave Ramsey Financial Peace University classes is Super Saving. This is an excellent class to start with and begin to set the goal to accomplish  Baby Step number one; saving $1,000 in an emergency fund. The emergency fund will provide the safety net, or insurance, when something happens in life like a car repair or the hot-water heater going out. When you have money set aside for emergencies, you will not have to go into debt, fall behind on bills, or pull money out of long-term investments. However some people commented after class last week, since they are living paycheck-to-paycheck how are they going to come up with $1,000?  Here are 15 things that you can consider doing to help you accomplish baby step #1:

  1. Follow a budget and track spending, so that you know where your money goes and you have limits when you shop (you will learn more about this in Lesson #3 “Cash Flow Planning.)”
  2. Tear up credit cards and use cash. Research indicates that people who use plastic end up spending more money than those that don’t- it is a psychological thing (this is covered extensively in lesson #4 “Dumping Debt.)”.
  3. Refinance your home now that interest rates are lower than ever, and a lower rate could lower your payment. Be careful, take your time before pulling the trigger, read this post for more information. This will be covered more in lesson #12 “Real Estate and Mortgages.”
  4. Change tax withholding if you usually get a tax refund. Talk to your tax advisor about the right amount of exemptions for you to take that make sense for you. Your paycheck will go up, and you can use that money for important things.
  5. Shop for lower insurance rates, this may save you $20 – $100 per month.
  6. Reduce grocery spending $100 this month. Most people who don’t pay close attention to this area, can save a lot by becoming a more frugal shopper by using coupons and other means. Your local library has dozens of books about how to save money. We like anything by Mary Hunt of Debt Proof Living.
  7. Cut back on your Cell phone data and time usage, or shop around for better rates. We were able to save $30 per month for two smart phones by switching to Cricket from Verizon. Cricket is owned by AT&T and their network is the second largest, so coverage is pretty good.
  8. Reduce cable to basic or eliminate all together until you are back to where you need to be.
  9. Lower your real estate taxes, start by calling your county auditor and talk with them about how you can go about adjusting the valuation of your home down for real estate tax assessment purposes.
  10. Downsize your home or automobile if you can, this will help you have lower payments, maintenance and utilities.
  11. Obtain a second part-time job.
  12. Use tax refunds to fund, or for debt re-payment, and don’t buy anything unnecessary with those monies.
  13. Do freelance or side work. This has been helpful to me, in the past I painted a friends barn and did other work, and now I do freelance writing.
  14. Sell something: In the last few years we sold old gold jewerly (read this article first), and I sold a few items that I only used a couple of times per year, including Ping golf clubs and a Specialized road bike.
  15. Pray for miracles, they sometimes happen. Also, be sure to pray for strength, perseverance, wisdom and guidance along the way, you need His help and He is willing to help you.

You can have a successful year, it takes ingenuity, hard work and prayer.

Upcoming Financial Classes

The following are classes that we have scheduled for the coming year at Vineyard Columbus:

Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University- Thursdays, February 2 – April 26, 2012

Dave Ramsey’s FinancialPeaceUniversitycomprehensive 13 class series on managing your personal finances – more information is available online and at the 30 minute free previews Sunday, 12/18/2011 and 1/15/2012 at 10:45.  You can attend the first class free, and if you like it, you can pay then.  Class runs for 13 weeks, from 7 to 8:45 pm. Cost is $100 per person or couple (covers our cost of the material) childcare is available for $36/child or $60/ for 2 – 3, ages 3 – 9.

Paz Financiera (Spanish Financial Peace Univeristy), Lunes 5 marz-9 ab

Andrés Gutiérrez presenta un curso completo de 6 semanas para el manejo de sus finanzas personales. Le recomendamos que se registre con anticipación ya que tenemos espacio limitado. Hay un costo de $43 por persona ó pareja (incluye el costo de materiales). Para registrarse por internet visite la página www.vineyardcommunitycenter.org, bajo la sección de “Activities-Educational”. Para más información , contacte a Ana Torres ana_i_torres@yahoo.com.

 Make Cent$ with Coupon$, 1/10, 2/14 and 3/13

In these 3 classes, you will learn how to save hundreds of dollars each month on your grocery bill.  During this class you will learn couponing basics and some savvy coupon secrets that will make you become a pro at saving money.  You will learn where to get your coupons and how to organize and use them.  Some of the insights you will glean is how to match coupons to sales ads, finding unique bargains specific to stores you shop, rebates and promotions.  Other non-couponing shopping tips will also be covered.  Cost is $20 for all three classes (1/10, 2/14 and 3/13) which includes the cost of a coupon organizer and other materials you will be given.

Budget Workshop Saturday, February 18, 2012  9:30 AM – 11:30

Free workshop is being offered to help those who have or are attending Dave Ramsey FPU, Crown Financial Bible Study or any personal finance course- basically this is a workshop to help people that have made significant effort to budget but are struggling, need to get back on track, or just need someone to help them. Class will provide instruction and a one-on-one meeting with a budget coach for individual help designing a budget. Pre-registration required. Bring to class the following: paper, pencil (laptop if you have one) calculator, and completed Spending Plan from http://vineyardcolumbus.org/ministries/financial-ministry/resources/

Space is limited, please pre-register for any of the above classes online http://www.vineyardcommunitycenter.org/

Dave Ramsey’s “Generations” Class for Middle School and Senior High Students, Wednesday evenings January 4, 11, 18 & 25

Talk to Alen Auguste or Brett Evans

To be announced: 7 week small group financial Bible Study- stay tunned

Refinancing Mortgage Questions

Should I refinance our mortgage to get a lower interest rate? The old rule of thumb was if you are going to stay in your home for a few years, and interest rates drop more than your current rate by 1%, then it will be worth your while to refinance. Meaning since there are closing costs, it may take a few years to make up those costs, with the new lower payment. Ask your mortgage lender to run this analysis for you. You can run them yourself too with the wonderful calculators at DinkyTown.

I have heard about low closing costs mortgages? The last few years many lenders offer mortgages without any fees. They waive some of the costs, such as points and various other fees like the title insurance and inspection costs. They might still have an application fee, which in my experience averages about $500 – $250. These are really nice, because as long as you can lower your interest and thus your payment, and there is not a big fee to overcome, then you can justify refinancing even if staying in your home for a short period of time. Keep in mind, the lender has to make up for the fees they usually charge, so they charge a little higher interest, probably about .25 more.

What else should I think about before choosing to refinance? Make sure that you get quotes of all costs from a few good lenders prior to making your decision. Have the lender run full cost calculations of the options you are considering before you choose. Secondly, compare that analysis to a calculation of the all costs of your current mortgage from now until completion, that way you can see the true net total costs. Lastly, don’t just pick another 30 year mortgage. For example if you are 50 and have 22 years left on your mortgage, don’t just go with another 30 year term or you will be paying until you are 80. Try to always shorten your mortgage to 20 years, 15 years  (as Dave Ramsey always suggests), or less.

Is it easy to refinance? If you have a great credit rating, low other debt and overall good debt to income ratios, then it will be okay, if not expect a longer more difficult process. Real estate people I talk to say the mortgage process is much slower now than ever, so be prepared for a long time to process the paper work.

Is there any benefit to staying with the lender I already have my mortgage with? Some lenders will offer existing clients a low-cost and low rate mortgage and may even not have as stringent underwriting, this is a plus considering my comments above. However it is my experience the interest rate is a little higher than the most competitive rates available.

What type of mortgage should I choose? Most financial experts recommend only going with a fixed mortgage, avoiding adjustable rate and interest only mortgages. Most mortgages today are for 15 or 30 years, 15 years is better for building equity more quickly in your home and paying much less interest compared to a thirty year mortgage. However, the term with many banks can be for 22 years for example if you have been paying 8 years already on your 30 year mortgage. The same applies if you have a 15 year mortgage and only 9 years left, you can finance it for 9 years, or any number of remainder years. In any case be sure to run the numbers, looking at total costs including closing costs and points, comparing it to your existing mortgage, before finalizing your decision. 

Are there other costs and things to be mindful of? There are many, so talk to your professional advisor prior to jumping in. A couple of things I think you want to be mindful of are escrow and the new paperwork you will sign. Sometimes the escrow account used for real estate taxes and insurance may have to be adjusted, this could result in requiring of up front cash (or could be added to your mortgage), and/or monies paid out. If you receive money, don’t spend it, put it in savings, pay off debt or maybe better yet, use it pay on the principle of your new mortgage. Also due to the mortgage crisis, I have heard some new mortgage documents have wording in them that may be more restrictive to the borrower. As with all contracts that you sign, be sure to always have an attorney read everything prior to signing.

8 Financial Tips for Blended Families

A great number of families in the church today are no longer traditional; often they are remarriages from divorces or deaths, later in life marriages or remarriages, which often have her/his and our children. In our church of 8,000 there are a great number of couples like this for whom financial planning can be very tricky. Each may bring their own ways of doing things- which may be good or bad, financial problems and money emotional baggage left over from the previous single or married life, and fears about trusting the other. Then there are also the concerns about being fair to my, yours and our children.

How does one go about cleaning up financial issues, such as getting out of debt? People wonder about combining incomes, checking accounts and bills. They are not sure about assets brought into the marriage such as retirement funds and houses. Many want to be fair to their respective children today, sometimes it is a guilt thing, or maybe one child is having a particularly difficult time and are receiving financial help from you. How does one go about sorting this all out? I think there are 8 top areas couples should work through in order to have financial harmony:

  1. Make finances a top priority but pace yourself: Remember that money touches every area of life, so it is important to make this a priority, otherwise problems can worsen, division can creep in, and love that should be growing doesn’t. Secondly, since there are so many things to work out, and one spouse will usually want to move more quickly than the other, if you try to do them all at once then the tension and emotions may run high, and this is not good.  Consider covering the following areas over a period of many months to a couple years.
  2. Get informed: Most people are not that knowledgeable about a whole host of personal financial issues. To make sure that you have a good foundation about common things like budgeting, debt, insurance and investing, it would be good to take a class to learn about them more. The best example of this is Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University class. Couples should take this together, so that they can learn right ways of managing money from a 3rd party. Some couples will be able to tackle their finances together right away, but the important thing is that you gain some essential knowledge about practical financial skills now together. 
  3. Get the right spiritual framework about finances. Find out what principles the Bible communicates about money. Read “Managing God’s Money” by Randy Alcorn together, so that you understand the basic concepts of stewardship, God’s ownership, tithe and several other topics. Crown or Compass financial Bible studies are excellent too at helping couples be unified around Christ, and not each other’s agenda.
  4. Build the marital relationship. You may have gone through pre-marital counseling and classes preparing for marriage. The minister who officiated your wedding had a lot of good advice too on the big day, however many couples just want to get on with being married and not really working day-to-day on the essential part of the relationship that forms the basis of a solid unit. One idea is for the couple to have a few very honest, civil and one way conversations. The agenda is for one person to talk and the other and one to listen and ask questions to understand the other one, not to respond. The listener is to work really hard at understanding. Stephen Covey’s book, Seven Habits of Effective People, Rule #5 Seek First to Understand, and then to be Understood   lays an excellent frame-work for this. You are crazy in love with your spouse, and you are anxious to understand them on an intimate level. This is a wonderful opportunity for each to understand what the other’s concerns are about combining finances, fixing issues (like debt), and planning for the future. Secondly each should share their dreams about what they want financially for themselves and what they think the Lord has in mind, what they want to do together, and want they want for their own children. Lastly, each should share what they have learned from Ramsey and Alcorn: what they agree with and not. It might also be a good idea for the other to share how the other comes across when you have discussed money before. This exercise helps to build mutual understanding, and trust, things essential for managing money and building a successful marriage. I want you to fall in love more deeply with the other person as well as their hopes, dreams and concerns and desire to help them achieve them. This lines up well with the Bible verses that urge us to help others first before serving yourself, and to live sacrificially for our spouses. 
  5. Budget meetings: First organize all bills, income, debts and establish and agree to a cash flow plan, leaving out long-term goals and expenses for such things as retirement, large purchases, and gifts to children. Here is where you want to establish a workable solution for day-to-day financial management.
  6. Combine daily finances. Combine incomes and expenses, have only a joint checking account and no secrets.
  7. Finalize the big financial plan entailing how you are going to keep some large assets separate and combine some, and plan for large purchases, retirement and death taking into consideration each other and the children.
  8. Seek the advise of many counselors (Proverbs 11:14), such as a Christian financial counselor to help you navigate and answer questions as you work through these and other items.

The first 3 areas provide the urgency, practical knowledge and spiritual basis so that you are on the same page, and are at least in agreement to where things should be. However, it is important to work through emotional and relational issues (#4) before you can make progress on the overall plan (#’s 5 – 8), because it is these things that tangle your ability to implement the things you have learned.

Spender versus Saver or Free Spirits and Nerds; Why?

Are some people predisposed to spending instead of making logical financial decisions, or what Dave Ramsey calls “Nerds and Free Spirits”? Having counseled more than 500 financially struggling people over the past few years, I can see that this may indeed be true. From an early age, my oldest brother would save every penny and spend it wisely. Heck, even his Halloween candy would last until Easter. On the other hand, I would go through my candy quickly, and although I could save my paper route and grocery stock-boy income, demonstrated by buying a ’74 Camaro in ’79 for $2,700, I tend to want more quick gratification then he did. The other day I was talking to an accountant that always managed money well, and he just couldn’t understand people who spend more than they make, or live pay-check to pay-check; the tone of his comments sounded judgmental to me. Is my brother a better saver because he just ‘got it’ at an early age, or did my parents raise him differently, or maybe we are just wired differently?  I think that all of these could be true, but it seems that we sometimes under-emphasize that each person has natural unique strength areas. For example, some people are naturally better at managing money then others, and the same could be said about relationships, careers, and health. I’ve met few people who are good at all areas. A recent Newsweek article at the Daily Beast, about research that has been done on this topic, sheds light on how many of us may be predisposed to saving or spending. For me, this isn’t an excuse for being one way or the other; I still have to take adult responsibility for decisions. However, if this research has some validity, it helps address self loathing change barriers, and opens up doors for new ways of approaching challenges to change.

Fund 401k or Pay-Off Debt?

Dave Ramsey in his Financial Peace University class advocates that in order for people to pay off their non-mortgage debt like credit cards, car and student loans, that they should get the Gazelle mentality: temporarily cut back on all expenses, get second jobs, and stop funding their 401k and devote all disposable income to repaying all debt as soon as possible.

However, a lot of people ask 2 questions: “we have funded our $1,000 emergency fund (Ramsey’s Baby Step #1), and have debt to yet to re-pay.  Should we forego all of our 401k contributions, and miss out on the employer match?  Secondly after we have paid off all of our debt, and begin to fund our 3 – 6 months of emergency savings, wouldn’t it make more sense to resume funding our 401k that provides a nice company match (which equates to an instant 100% return) and invest it in the 401k plan’s mutual funds, instead of a savings account that earns hardly anything.”

Debt is bondage, and the sooner the better for getting out of debt; so that people can enjoy the freedom of being debt free. There is also a behavioral angle, even though it might make more sense to keep contributing to the 401k mathematically, some people might not be able to stay on track to becoming debt free as easily if they don’t stop the 401k. This makes sense, however I think it also is important to analyze the mathematical outcome, so that someone can make an informed decision. How do you analyze this? The actual calculation is complex, because you have to take into consideration such things as taxes, rates of return, debt interest rates, time-value of money, and long-term accumulations on the 401k. I don’t know of any software that will run this, shy of buying incredibly complex cash-flow software. However, I think you can still make an educated estimate. Start by first running 2 debt-snowball analyses; one with the amount that would have gone into the 401k and one without it.  Comparing the two will show you how many years it takes to be debt free, how much money you would save if you didn’t wait, and when you can resume funding the 401k. Then calculate how much the employee’s and employer contribution into the 401k would have been had you stopped funding the 401k, plus the growth on the money you expect to have. For one individual I ran the analysis for, if he would have funded the 401k instead, the difference in interest savings on the debt versus accumulation in the 401k was about 1,600 more in the 401k in 5 years. This does not take into consideration the lost income tax savings of not funding the 401k or the long-term accumulation on the 401k. Also, for this person the debt amount was very large (over $100,000), and the loans were mainly low-interest rate student loans. This kind of analysis is just a start, the individual should also examine their tax situation and talk to any other financial advisors that you may have before making a decision.

The second question, is should we fund the 3 – 6 months of emergency savings (Baby Step #3) that earns no interest, and wait to fund the 401k? Financial Planners recommend putting savings into accounts that are low risk and easy to get to like Money Market Accounts, for emergencies like long-term job loss, even though it earns hardly any interest. If you take money out of the 401k there will be income tax + 10% pre-59/12 tax penalty (sometimes waived if hardship), the other risk is pulling money out the 401k might occur during an inconvenient time when the market is down, and experience an investment loss. Some 401k plans though provide access to some of the funds without penalties, through loans if you are working for the employer that provided the 401k.