Total Money Makeover, by Dave Ramsey

March 23, 2011 at 19:33 (Book Reviews, Highly Rated Books) (, , )

This book loses a star or two for the testimony sections. Otherwise it's great.


Can I speak in the first person? Just for a moment? Hello, world. Hello, fourth wall. Hello, reader. I (that is, the writer behind this weblog) really hate get-rich-quick scams, lying advertisements that manipulate greedy people, and simple steps to health, wealth and happiness. I looked at the cover of this book, and at the billboards with Ramsey’s carefully-trimmed beard emblazoned all over them, and I hated the Total Money Makeover. Passionately.

Any reader who cringes his way past the smug cover of this book and grits his teeth through the grotesquely chatty introduction will find–surprisingly–that this is not a book of scams or tricks. There is no programme in which to enroll, no package to buy and above all, no secrets hidden by consortiums and unleashed on an unsuspecting world by a smiling liar. There are simply a handful of basic and obvious common-sense rules for personal financial management. Possibly the nicest part of this book is also the most subjective. Ramsey believes that wealth for wealth’s sake is a paltry and shabby thing, and that wealth ought to be enjoyed and given away; hardly the hallmark of a confidence trickster. There is a badly-written but genuinely earnest plea for the reader to cut loose from destructive things like pride and resignation.

While Ramsey does express a few personal philosophies (his religious beliefs, his hatred of loan-sharks, his stark warnings about credit), this book is not even about the sort of philosophies one might expect to find lurking around the dim world of personal finance. He does not lambast materialists or ascetics, and he does not advocate any particular lifestyle. As smarmy and meretricious as Ramsey can feel at times, and as nauseatingly feel-good as so many of the testemonials sprinkled far too liberally throughout the book, this is an incredibly basic and gimmick-free manual of common sense. It is very basically written, and hardly a masterpiece of economics, but it does not aim to be and does not need to be.

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