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Which Personal Finance Guru Would I Recommend?

A reader recently e-mailed me to ask which personal finance guru I’d recommend. I thought about it for a little while and had to tell her that there wasn’t one guru I prized above the others. Instead, I sketched out which personal finance gurus I liked best for particular areas. (I added some blogs as well, but I won’t here, perhaps later.)

I’m going to go into a little more detail here, though there’s still much more that could be said.

Dave Ramsey for Major Debt

If you have major debt and want help and inspiration for getting out of it, the PF guru I’d probably recommend (depending on your temperament) is Dave Ramsey. I found a number of concepts in his Total Money Makeover very helpful. He doesn’t claim to be revolutionary, so they’re possibly things you’ve heard online.

What Ramsey provides is inspiration, even fantacism. His books can make you feel completely devoted to getting out of debt as fast as you can. If you’ve been having trouble motivating yourself and want to get into it, they’re quite helpful. I’d take it with a few grains of salt, but his advice is generally sound if that’s the direction you want your debt-repayment to take.

I wouldn’t recommend this book if your only debt is your mortgage or perhaps your mortgage and your cars as long as you can afford the monthly payments. Ramsey is also an unapologetic Evangelical Christian, and even though I don’t entirely subscribe to his take on it I still find his work useable. Some people find it more difficult, especially knowing that he requires all counsellors to be evangelical Christians, even if they’re not supposed to evangelize.

Despite these, if you’re mired in credit card debt or student loans then he’s probably the person for you. If you’re worried about being evangelized, stick with the books, you can take or leave the stuff there.

Jean Chatzky for Money Management

I’d recommend Jean Chatzky to people who aren’t really in debt but want to be in control and happy about their finances and particularly to women who have decided to take control of their money.

I became a fan after reading her book You Don’t Have to Be Rich. The book focuses on two themes: first, finding balance in your life so that you can be happy even if you’re not rich; second, managing your money so that even if you don’t have a huge income, you can build wealth.

She’s practical, of course, and understand that you do need a certain amount of money to live comfortably and a certain salary to be able to invest. The book is a good cross between self-improvement and money management advice.

She also has an excellent book directed specifically at women, called Make Money, Not Excuses. It works as a good outline for anyone learning to manage their money, but it’s specifically directed at women and the reasons that women don’t pay more attention to their money.

I think you can skip her book Pay It Down! From Debt to Wealth on $10 a Day. There’s nothing wrong with it, per-se, but it’s essentially a latte factor book. The overall premise is that if you find an extra $10/day ($300/month) whether by spending less or earning more, and use it to pay down any debt or build wealth (depending where you are in the cycle). Not bad, but her other books are much better.

Suze Orman for Personal Finance Education

I’m not as fond of Suze Orman as I am of Jean Chatzky. I’m not entirely sure why, something about her doesn’t appeal to me as much.

I do admire her motto: “People first, then money, then things.” From what I’ve read, she seems relationship-oriented. She emphasizes that money isn’t everything. And on her show she addresses a lot of relationship/money questions.

What I recommend most: The Road to Wealth (revised edition). Wow. It’s a comprehensive book of information, an “everything you wanted to know” about personal finance. It’s insanely thorough if not very inspiring.

For example, in the “managing debt” section, for instance, she answers questions such as “How do I know if I’m in trouble with debt?” “Why do so many people get into ‘bad’ debt?” or “what exactly is a debit card?”. Short answers of several paragraphs. Good for people who want to learn more about personal finance or buy a reference guide.

She’s not as strong on getting out of all debt as Dave Ramsey. She accepts a mortgage, for example, as normal. She’s certainly concerned about paying off debt and spending less than you earn, she’s just not as passionate as Ramsey.

Suze has also written a book on women and money which is quite similar to Jean’s. Again, I prefer Jean. But if you don’t like the former, try this one.

She has been criticized for recommending a riskier investing strategy than she herself uses. However, I think it’s understandable because when you have as high a net-worth as she does, you don’t need to take on as much risk.

Robert Kiyosaki for….?

I have a hard time recommending Kiyosaki. Not all of his stuff is bad, but you have a limited amount of time. Why spend it sorting out the good points when you can find them or other good points from other writers?

Things which bother me about Kiyosaki:

  1. He very strongly emphasizes real estate and entrepreneurship (and seems to criticize other options). I think that both of those are great ways to make money, but I also think that they’re better for some “types” than others. I don’t want to manage real estate. I find the thought stressful. And I don’t think I’d be happy running my own business in the long run. Yes, I run a blog and a consulting business, but that’s enough for me. Besides, I absolutely love working at libraries. Why give up my passion?
  2. He has bashed mutual funds and the like as “risky” (I believe that was the word he used, if not, it was the implication). Of course there is risk involved, but there’s plenty of risk in real estate and entrepreneurship as well. I don’t think that sensible investing strategies are riskier.
  3. And there appears to be question as to whether Kiyosaki actually made any money with these techniques or just by being a guru. He’s also admitted that “Rich Dad” is a metaphor. So, if he didn’t make money this way and “Rich Dad” doesn’t exist, then there’s also no proof the system works. At least not from his end.

You can still find inspiration and good stuff in his books. I just don’t recommend them because you can find that inspiration in plenty of other books without the bothersome elements. I think that Lazy Man did a good job of extracting three good points from Kiyosaki’s most famous book.

Other Gurus

Those are the 4 main PF gurus whose books I’ve read. I’ve glanced at other books, but other than John Bogle’s Little Book of Common Sense Investing for people learning about index funds, I can’t recommend any other books or gurus from personal experience (I’ve read some more, but didn’t find them terribly moving).

Perhaps it’s rare that as a PF blogger I haven’t read more, but I read a lot of book reviews, especially on The Simple Dollar and a lot of blogs, so I get the main point of many books and just don’t have the time.

Which gurus do you prefer?


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{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

Moneymonk August 13, 2008 at 11:53 am

I like RK because at least he made think in a different way

I became an investor instead of a consumer. However, to a person that is new to him they might get confused and think they need to quit their day job start buy rentals.

RK give you the concept, but he does not go in to detail.

Readers have to be very careful with RK

However, the other gurus you named are very good.

mrsmicah August 13, 2008 at 11:58 am

@Moneymonk, I agree, that investor vs. consumer mindset is one of the good takeaways.

As you say, though, he doesn’t go into much executable detail, which I find frustrating. Ramsey inspires equal fervor in people, but he outlines a practical plan.

Laura August 13, 2008 at 12:58 pm

I really like Dave Ramsey and Suze Orman. Both discuss the emotional and behavioral issues tied to money. Personal finance does involve making budgets and building savings, but our habits with money tend to be emotional based.

I find their books informative and helpful.

Bill August 13, 2008 at 4:09 pm

Andrew Tobias. Though he originally wrote “The Only Investment Guide You’ll Ever Need” many, many years ago (he was one of the first “gurus” ever), he’s updated it several times. The book is much more than about investing too (though that’s a big part of it); he talks a lot about frugality, buying smart, saving, insurance, wills, etc. In short, he covers a lot of ground in a couple hundred pages.

This was the first book I ever read about Personal Finance and I continually return to it time and time again. The advice there is time-independent (“A penny saved is two pennies earned”, “Buy index funds,” “Earn 18 percent tax free by paying off your credit card debt” and “Buy term life insurance and invest the rest” to list just a few memorable quotes from the book.)

Alisa August 13, 2008 at 6:39 pm

I actually came across a terrific debt reducing tool that created a plan for me to reduce debt. It took me about 30 – 45 minutes to input the important information but then in less than 10 minutes it gave me a plan for reducing all debt, even mortgage debt! It is free, easy to use, and it really works.

The only thing it does not do is physically restrain me from making unnecessary purchases and getting into debt again! But, maybe in the future they will add this feature.

As I am typing this I am searching on another browser to share this information… hold on a sec and let me see if I was able to find it… it’s still searching … so while it is searching … I also liked the book Automatic Millionaire by David Bach. It is excellent at helping you to put saving and investing on auto-pilot with some focus on debt reduction.

He also has a home study course that would be great for families to do together so that everyone can be apart of the effort to reduce debt and reach finanical goals. Bach is features as a favorite of mine on my blog and you can view his books and products if you’d like at:

http://www.ourstockmarketjourney.blogspot.com/.

Let’s see if I found that info yet …Nope… still searching.

O.K. here’s what I’ll do. I keep looking for it and try to come back and post the information. I’ll post it on my blog as well, in case I can’t get back here tonight.

Be well.

Zhu August 13, 2008 at 9:25 pm

I have never read any book about finance, mostly because I don’t find them realistic. The ones I browsed through (can’t remember which ones though…) strongly emphasized on investing in that, that and that. Well, I don’t have money to invest in the first place.

These books made me feel I had to have money in order to be rich. Which is… well… weird.

mrsmicah August 13, 2008 at 9:34 pm

@Zhu, valid point. I think a lot of it depends on which books you’re reading. If you’re in debt, then investing books probably aren’t the best. You do have to have some money for it to work, otherwise you’d have nothing to pay off your debt snowball with, etc. If blogs work for you, that’s great.

Alisa August 13, 2008 at 10:11 pm
Funny about Money August 14, 2008 at 12:27 am

I’m with Zhu: don’t care much for self-help books in general. My guru is named John Reimer; he works for the firm of financial advisors that manages my investments. Suze Orman sets my teeth on edge, for reasons I can’t quite figure out. Maybe it’s the earnestness with which she delivers her platitudes.

Kelly August 14, 2008 at 11:08 am

I’ll take David Bach over Suze Orman any day of the week. They cover similar topics but I find her very condescending as opposed to his more inspirational & “I’ve been there” style.

On the other hand, I will say that once you’ve read one David Bach book, you’ve read them all.

I’m trying to read Andrew Tobias’ “The Only Investment Guide You’ll Ever Need”, but it’s a little dry and is taking me longer than usual.

Living Paycheck to Paycheck August 14, 2008 at 1:09 pm

I really like Ric Edelman. He’s local to DC (lives in McLean), has a radio show, several books, and his own firm. His books are humorous, but give a realistic view of things. I think that it’s in his book The Truth About Money he gives a table of contents like, “If you’re in debt go to pages 1, 2, and 3….If you’re single go to pages, 1, 4, 5….etc.” At this point, it’s mostly stuff that we’ve all heard, but it’s GREAT for someone starting out.

I think his main focus is getting readers to focus on their goals. In one of his more recent books, he asks that readers list all of their life goals…and the dates we want to accomplish them by…but they can’t be finance goals. He doesn’t want people to forgo saving, paying down debt, etc., he just wants people to get everything they want out of life by planning ahead. If you want to see Ireland by Dec. 31, 2015, for example, you have to save all the money by that date AND plan out your trip (by reading books, magazines, etc.). I think it’s great because many of us get too focused on just having money and not what we want to do with it.

Faye August 14, 2008 at 5:22 pm

Gail Vaz Oxlade’s books are a bit older, but she has a show on Spice (‘Til Debt do us Part). She has a no-nonsense approach, and allows that not all solutions are good for all people. Her blog is fun and informative.

Cath Lawson August 15, 2008 at 7:33 am

Hi Mrs M – The first one that comes to mind is One Up On Wall Street by Peter Lynch. I also like The Millionaire Next Door.

I know what you mean about Kiyosaki’s books. I’ve read them all and played the board game. And while they were inspirational, I’ve become a bit cynical about the books that tell you how to get rich that use fictional characters.

The authors are often quite vague about how they actually got rich themselves to begin with and I often wonder if the only money they really made was from the sale of all those books.

A genuine one I really liked is How To Get Rich by Felix Dennis. He really is worth hundreds of millions – gained through his own businesses. And he tells you how it is – warts and all. Plus he shares his mistakes and even says that it’s best to stop once you’re worth about $30 million, rather than go as far as he did.

Bonnie August 15, 2008 at 1:21 pm

I listen to Dave Ramsey on the radio, but sometimes I will take month-long breaks from his show. His inability to be even a little flexible on most things gets to me after a while. But I agree he is very inspirational. I personally like Suze Orman. Not so much on TV, but her book Young, Fabulous and Broke is well-written and really helped me to kickstart my debt payment plan. I’ve read it three times!

Writer Dad August 15, 2008 at 2:13 pm

I totally agree with what you said about Robert Kiyosaki. That’s why I only read his first book.

james August 17, 2008 at 5:45 pm

I would take David Bach over Suze Orman or Dave Ramsey any day. Most everything is about discipline–and you just have to have the “want to” in order to use a little common sense and get your financial house in order.

We interview great investors and post them at http://www.stockshotz.tv and http://www.stockshotz.blogspot.com Check out these interviews and our daily blog updates.

Great site.

Discipline is the key…

Randy August 18, 2008 at 3:49 pm

I don’t care much for RK, either. While he might be entertaining, his stories are a little too fluffy for my taste, and I question whether some of his recommendations are fundamentally sound.

I also have similar feelings about Jim Cramer.

Dana August 18, 2008 at 8:58 pm

I like Dave Ramsey’s approach and Suze Orman’s guidance. Years ago I used a financial study from Crown Financial Ministries. Larry Burkett (CFC), now deceased and Howard Dayton (Crown) merged two financial ministries. I learned more about budgeting and tracking my expenses through their studies.

Henry December 4, 2012 at 7:59 am

Although, I am confused in some of his recommendations. but I still prefer RK.
Well, He does not go into the step by step guide. Basically, he wakes you up to learn more about financial education and to seek for knowledge of how to use / invest your money after earning it.
I got mixed up about the property investment at first, but finally found out the cashflow property that he meant.
Because everything you do to generate cash is always connected to property…Even you walk, sleep, work, exercise We still need a place/property to do those activities.
You still have to combine his advices with others. Else, you may get confused. Cause he explains everything in a very general way.
One of the main good reasons from his advices is If you stop working or being fired today, you will still earn money through passive income which is your cashflow realestate and maybe franchising businesses.

Finally….In a common sense, human will only start to take an action after they got DUMPED…!!! While everything runs smoothly, they will hardly ever change their way of thinking.

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