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Integrity Matters

Dave Ramsey’s Financial Wisdom from Proverbs

Day 10: Integrity Matters

Proverbs 13:11 MSG
Easy come, easy go, but steady diligence pays off.

In his book The Millionaire Mind, Dr. Thomas J. Stanley studied the habits of several hundred individuals with a net worth of at least $10 million. He really wanted to find out what makes the typical millionaire tick and uncover any common characteristics that contributed to their wealth.

As he examined the results of his interviews and surveys, Stanley found a definite connection between personal integrity and financial success. In fact, he ranked integrity as a prime predictor of wealth potential – even higher than an individual’s chosen business or industry.

In other words, integrity matters!

The reason so many people struggle with building wealth is that they also struggle with integrity. They lack a basic commitment to honesty. That’s a strong statement. In fact, it may be so strong that you think it doesn’t apply to you. But if you’re breathing and if your heart is beating, you have wrestled with being completely truthful at one time or another – and some of those struggles probably had something to do with money.

Simply put, there are two ways to make money and build wealth. You can rely on dishonesty, or you can stay completely committed to integrity. In Proverbs 13:11, Solomon drew a sharp contrast between the two.

Dishonest money may seem to come more easily, but it never lasts. It dwindles away like sand running through our fingers. But honest money, gained through hard work and investment over time, grows. It provides security – not to mention a clear conscience.

Integrity matters – in your finances and in every other part of your life – because a moral breakdown is not a victimless crime. Dishonesty will deeply wound you and those around you. Unless you hold yourself to an ultra-high standard, you will walk through life with an emotional and spiritual limp.

Fortunately, it’s not too late to correct course. If you’ve skimped on integrity in the past, now’s the time to come clean – to yourself, to others and to God. Repair that chink in your armor today.

Remember, integrity matters!

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The Tortoise Wins

Dave Ramsey’s Financial Wisdom from Proverbs

Day 9: The Tortoise Wins

Proverbs 21:5 MSG
Careful planning puts you ahead in the long run; hurry and scurry puts you further behind.

I’ve been blessed to learn from some wildly successful individuals. I love those opportunities, and I always try to make the most of them. I even take a pen and a notepad so I can write down important insights.

The way I see it, you stop growing the moment you stop learning.

One day, I was spending time with a really successful guy. I mean, this guy was a billionaire! Over lunch, I asked him a question I’ve asked many wealthy folks: “What can I do today that will get me closer to where you are financially and in business?”

Now this was a godly man who had been walking with the Lord for a long time, so his first answer wasn’t really a surprise – give generously. Almost every wealthy person I’ve ever talked to has emphasized generosity, and giving is already one of my favorite things to do. So, that was pretty much a given.

His second suggestion was to read a book that he guaranteed would change my life. I’m a huge reader, so I was really excited about this idea. I had my pen to the paper, ready to write down the name of this transformational book.

“Dave, have you ever read The Tortoise and the Hare?” he asked.

Huh? A fairy tale? What’s that got to do with wealth?

Seeing the weird look on my face, my friend said, “Dave, we live in a world full of rabbits. Everybody is running around, hopping here and there without paying attention to where they’re going. If you want to succeed, you’ve got to stay focused and move slow and steady.”

Then he leaned in and hit me with the clincher: “Every time I read that book, the tortoise wins.”

I think Solomon was making a similar point in Proverbs 21:5. Diligence requires patience and perseverance. It’s much more tortoise than hare. It also leads to plenty, while haste and hurry lead to poverty.

Reliable wealth building is really pretty simple – maybe even a little boring. It just takes doing the right things consistently over time. It may be tempting to sprint ahead like a rabbit, but don’t fall for that myth. The truth is, building wealth is a marathon, not a sprint. And in this race, the tortoise always wins.

Leaving a Legacy

Dave Ramsey’s Financial Wisdom from Proverbs

Day 8: Leaving a Legacy

Proverbs 13:22 MSG
A good life gets passed on to the grandchildren; ill-gotten wealth ends up with good people.

When my children were teenagers, one of them came to me complaining about how “hard” it was to be a Ramsey kid. She whined about having to buy her own car and learn to manage her own checkbook when her friends didn’t have to.

“You cut us no slack,” she said.

She was right. Sharon and I did expect a lot from our kids, and we worked hard to make sure they understood the biblical principles of giving, saving and spending. But we didn’t do it to be mean. We did it because we want wealth to be a blessing to our children – not a curse.

See, I’ve checked the statistics, and I know that 100% of humans die. We all have an expiration date in terms of our time on earth, and Sharon and I are no exception. And one day our three children will inherit everything we’ve built and saved.

I reminded my daughter that the inheritance we pass to her and her siblings will either bless their lives beyond belief or ruin their lives beyond repair. And the difference rests in our ability to teach them how to handle money right now.

I see that truth spelled out in Proverbs 13:22. As a believer, I should be using my wealth to make a difference in the world. But I’m also called to leave a legacy for generations to come. Leaving a legacy doesn’t just mean leaving them some money; it means leaving them with the character to manage that money from a biblical perspective.

If you have children, you have legacy responsibilities as well. Make sure you have a will that is current and appropriate for your state laws. It should explain how your assets should be distributed, but it also needs to answer questions that could be asked when you pass – like custody of minor children, your feelings about life support, and your organ donor wishes.

And if you aren’t teaching your children how to handle money, you need to start, regardless of their age. After all, the best financial legacy you can leave is a generation of wise and competent stewards.

Do you have teenagers? Are you looking for a way to teach your teens to be who God created them to be and how to handle their money responsibly? Generation Change is an all-new suite of Bible studies designed to lead teens to a better understanding of God, themselves and their money. Visit daveramsey.com/gc to learn more.

Working Together

Dave Ramsey’s Financial Wisdom from Proverbs

Day 7: Working Together

Proverbs 31:10-31 MSG
A good woman is hard to find, and worth far more than diamonds. Her husband trusts her without reserve, and never has reason to regret it. Never spiteful, she treats him generously all her life long. She shops around for the best yarns and cottons, and enjoys knitting and sewing. She’s like a trading ship that sails to faraway places and brings back exotic surprises. She’s up before dawn, preparing breakfast for her family and organizing her day. She looks over a field and buys it, then, with money she’s put aside, plants a garden. First thing in the morning, she dresses for work, rolls up her sleeves, eager to get started. She senses the worth of her work, is in no hurry to call it quits for the day. She’s skilled in the crafts of home and hearth, diligent in homemaking. She’s quick to assist anyone in need, reaches out to help the poor. She doesn’t worry about her family when it snows; their winter clothes are all mended and ready to wear. She makes her own clothing, and dresses in colorful linens and silks. Her husband is greatly respected when he deliberates with the city fathers. She designs gowns and sells them, brings the sweaters she knits to the dress shops. Her clothes are well-made and elegant, and she always faces tomorrow with a smile. When she speaks she has something worthwhile to say, and she always says it kindly. She keeps an eye on everyone in her household, and keeps them all busy and productive. Her children respect and bless her; her husband joins in with words of praise: “Many women have done wonderful things, but you’ve outclassed them all!” Charm can mislead and beauty soon fades. The woman to be admired and praised is the woman who lives in the Fear-of- God . Give her everything she deserves! Festoon her life with praises!

I’m a financial person. My wife, Sharon, is not. So maybe you can imagine my surprise several years ago when I discovered that she actually had some opinions about money.

But what really got me was how often I was wrong and she was right!

Sharon fits all the ideals of a genteel Southern woman. She never pushes to get her way, but she does tend to have “feeeeeelings” when it comes to big decisions. At first, I never paid much attention to those feeeeeelings. But after my personal pride left our family bankrupt, I learned to trust them.

Now, I won’t make a major move without Sharon’s insight.

For example, in the early days of my company, I wouldn’t hire anyone before they had dinner with Sharon and me because I needed to hear her input and wisdom. That’s something I’ve passed down to my leadership team today. Our company doesn’t hire anybody until they’ve completed a spousal interview with the department leader and his or her spouse.

I really believe Proverbs 31:10–11 is a prescription for wise financial decisions. If you’re married, you and your spouse are one. If you run off and make a huge purchase or sink money into an investment without talking with your spouse, you’re only operating with half your brain!

And the results are rarely a blessing. Every time I’ve made a major decision without Sharon’s advice, it’s caused me huge amounts of heartache – and cost me lots of money!

If you’re single, you can rely on your accountability partner to play that role in your life. Either way, the point is to get outside your own head, share the plan out loud, and let others tell you if they think it’s a bad idea.

I’ll admit that talking about money can cause some disagreements, but that’s normal and healthy in a marriage. Just remember that your spouse is not the enemy. In fact, God has placed the two of you on the same team to make each other better. And who knows – if you can agree on the checkbook, the only real fight left may be over who gets the remote.

Secret to Success

Dave Ramsey’s Financial Wisdom from Proverbs

Day 6: Secret to Success

Proverbs 15:22 MSG
Refuse good advice and watch your plans fail; take good counsel and watch them succeed.

On the first day of every year, people make resolutions about how things are going to be different this time around. Unfortunately, few of those resolutions ever make it to January 7.

For example, polls consistently tell us that two of the top resolutions involve losing weight and managing money. But every year, the results are the opposite of what we hoped for: Our waistlines get bigger, and our net worths gets smaller!

To be honest, resolutions are a joke! We know life would be better without extra pounds and credit cards, but we just can’t say no. Why can’t we follow through with our January 1 resolutions? Because without teeth, resolutions are nothing more than wishes we make to ourselves.

We can give them teeth by sharing them with someone else. It’s called accountability, and it’s one of the most powerful motivators for change you can imagine. In Proverbs 15:22, Solomon challenged his readers to build accountability into their lives. He understood that the worst crashes often happen when we’re flying solo. We can make a lot of plans, but the chances of failure increase when we try to go it alone.

On the other hand, “many advisers” (otherwise known as accountability partners) lead to success. When we are willing to hear and heed the advice of others, we can prevent a landslide of future headaches.

Of course, that doesn’t mean we let someone else run our lives or that we have to follow through with every suggestion. But it does mean that we let others speak into our lives and – for a moment, at least – entertain the idea that we don’t know everything about every situation. We’re teachable.

Who are some people you trust? Family members, lifelong friends, pastors, fellow church members, leaders and co-workers can all serve as guides for your money questions. Find a few key people and let them help you reach your financial goals.

Don’t set yourself up for failure. Accountability is biblical … and it works!

Handling money can be tricky, but the good news is you don’t have to do it alone. One of the reasons we created Financial Peace University was to give people a safe place to interact and develop relationships with a small group of people committed to managing money wisely and working toward their financial goals. Married or single, we all need someone trustworthy in our lives to keep us in alignment. Visit daveramsey.com/fpu to learn more.

Gazelle Intensity!

Dave Ramsey’s Financial Wisdom from Proverbs

Day 5: Gazelle Intensity!

Proverbs 6:1-5 MSG
Dear friend, if you’ve gone into hock with your neighbor or locked yourself into a deal with a stranger, If you’ve impulsively promised the shirt off your back and now find yourself shivering out in the cold, Friend, don’t waste a minute, get yourself out of that mess. You’re in that man’s clutches! Go, put on a long face; act desperate. Don’t procrastinate— there’s no time to lose. Run like a deer from the hunter, fly like a bird from the trapper!

I never knew much about gazelles. I never really gave them much thought – until I read Proverbs 6 one day in my quiet time.

Of course, any biblical reference to debt catches my eye. And if the Bible offers a way to escape debt, I want to know the secret! But when I saw that this answer focused on gazelles, I was a little confused.

I was looking for a great spiritual principle, and God gave me animal metaphors!

God must have known I needed some help because He gave me a little more insight later that day. I was watching a nature documentary, and guess what showed up? Gazelles! Of course, you know the gazelles weren’t out there all alone! Before long, Mr. Cheetah showed up looking for lunch. Suddenly, God had my attention.

The cheetah sprang into the clearing, and the gazelles took off in 14 different directions. Now, a gazelle can’t outrun the world’s fastest land animal, but it can zigzag around long enough to wear him out. And that’s exactly what happened.

I learned that cheetahs rarely win these races. Because the gazelle is so focused on doing whatever it takes to survive, the cheetah only catches it about once in every 19 attempts. That’s what I call intensity!

That documentary helped me understand the gazelle reference in Proverbs 6:5. The only real way to beat debt is to be intense! You’ve got to work hard. You’ve got to fight for survival. You’ve got to run for your life!

The truth is, you will never wander out of debt. You won’t stroll out. It won’t happen by accident. You only get out if you set your eyes on the goal and attack your debt with gazelle intensity!

We all need a plan for our money. We created Financial Peace University to teach people how to handle money God’s ways. If you are interested in getting gazelle intense and learning how to get rid of debt, manage your money, and spend and save wisely, visit daveramsey.com/fpu to learn more.

Slaves to Debt

Dave Ramsey’s Financial Wisdom from Proverbs

Day 4: Slaves to Debt

Proverbs 22:7 MSG
The poor are always ruled over by the rich, so don’t borrow and put yourself under their power.

After nearly three decades of talking to people about money, I’ve figured something out. If you tell a lie loud enough and long enough, people will begin to believe it’s true. Even if they know in their hearts that the myth is complete bunk, they’ll live as if it’s real.

These days, there’s a big myth that’s fooling a lot of people. It’s the myth that debt is an effective part of their financial plan. Credit has been marketed to us so effectively that most people think they can’t live without it. They think it’s a good thing, a necessary thing. And they think anyone who lives without debt must be crazy!

Well, I’ve been called crazy before, and I’m okay with that. When it comes to debt, I don’t want to be normal. And I’m in pretty good company because King Solomon – who knew a lot about money and wealth – felt the same way.

In Proverbs 22:7, he was adamant about avoiding debt. Why? Because he understood what so many people today totally miss: Debt enslaves us!

The Bible says that the borrower is slave to the lender. That’s pretty strong language, but it’s totally on target. Think about it. A slave can’t give because he doesn’t have anything. He can’t go where he wants to go or do what he wants to do because he always has a master calling the shots. That’s exactly how it feels when you’re up to your eyeballs in debt. Hey, why do you think they call it MasterCard?

Solomon knew what he was talking about. This guy was the wisest man who ever lived! He didn’t use the word “slave” by accident, and he wasn’t being overly dramatic. He was just showing us what debt really is: a cruel master.

If you feel like debt is enslaving you, don’t wait any longer. You can do something about it today. Financial Peace University is a biblically based curriculum that teaches people how to handle money God’s ways. Learn how to get rid of debt, manage your money, and spend and save wisely. Visit daveramsey.com/fpu to learn more.

Save Today, Secure Tomorrow

Dave Ramsey’s Financial Wisdom from Proverbs

Day 3: Save Today, Secure Tomorrow

Proverbs 21:20 MSG
Valuables are safe in a wise person’s home; fools put it all out for yard sales.

Going bankrupt was a wake-up call for me. I had enjoyed a lot of nice stuff, but I lost it all because of my lack of discipline. So when I was forced to start over from scratch, I decided to do things differently the second time around.

One thing I decided to do was to learn the habits of wealthy people. I figured that if I wanted to be wealthy, it only made sense to learn (and do) what wealthy people do.

Over the past couple of decades, I’ve spent time with millionaires and billionaires. I’ve picked their brains and tried to understand how they built and maintained wealth. What I’ve found is that the principle behind Proverbs 21:20 really does work in real life. Wise people do have enough when they need it because they plan for emergencies. But fools really do spend all they have – and more – as soon as they get it.

For example, I’ve found that many wealthy people don’t live like wealthy people. Instead of flaunting their money, they adopt upper-middle-class lifestyles. Some even live lower-middle-class lifestyles – and they don’t suffer from it a bit! They just keep doing what got them there in the first place.

One of the most basic things they do is save. Instead of chasing a lot of extravagant toys, they continue putting money aside. They keep using the power of compound interest to build wealth. They always think about creating security for the future.

In contrast, many people are like I was before I went bankrupt in my 20s. They don’t have the discipline to do even the simple things like saving money. Instead of becoming wealthy by doing what wealthy people do, they stay broke by doing what broke people do!

On the budget forms my company provides, the first line item is “Giving” because we want you to honor God first. But the second line item is “Saving” because we want you to pay yourself before you pay anyone else.

Wise people save money. It’s a basic, crystal-clear biblical principle. And if you spend every dime that passes through your fingers, then guess what? You’re a fool! Don’t blame me – God said it!

Planning Ahead

Dave Ramsey’s Financial Wisdom from Proverbs

Day 2: Planning Ahead

Proverbs 16:1-9 MSG
Mortals make elaborate plans, but God has the last word. Humans are satisfied with whatever looks good; God probes for what is good. Put God in charge of your work, then what you’ve planned will take place. God made everything with a place and purpose; even the wicked are included—but for judgment. God can’t stomach arrogance or pretense; believe me, he’ll put those upstarts in their place. Guilt is banished through love and truth; Fear-of- God deflects evil. When God approves of your life, even your enemies will end up shaking your hand. Far better to be right and poor than to be wrong and rich. We plan the way we want to live, but only God makes us able to live it.

The late Zig Ziglar used to say, “If you aim at nothing, you’ll hit it every time.” I’ve always liked that quote because it’s a great reminder about the importance of planning. You can settle for breezing through life with no plan, but you’ll end up going nowhere. Anything of substance in life requires some careful thought ahead of time.

Jesus taught a similar lesson when He talked about discipleship in Luke 14:28 – 30. He said no one building a tower would move forward on construction without sitting down to “count the cost.” After all, quitting halfway because the resources dried up would make the builder a laughingstock. The foundation for his tower would become a monument to his incompetence.

What Jesus emphasized about discipleship – evaluating your situation and planning for the costs – works for money too. Planning ahead is at the heart of success. For personal finances, that means telling your cash what to do each month by creating a zero-based budget.

Creating a budget shouldn’t be some calm, casual afterthought. You need to let your money know who’s the boss. You need to sit down with your pencil, paper and calculator and make those dollars dance!

For a zero-based budget, take all your income and assign it to a budget category. Every single dollar should have a name and a job to do – and don’t forget savings! The goal is to make your income minus your outgo equal zero. If you’re over or under, go back and tweak the math until you hit that magic number: zero!

But as a believer, there’s another part of budgeting that you can’t ignore. The money you manage really isn’t your money. It’s God’s money. So He needs to have the final say on what goes where.

Solomon said “a man’s heart plans his way.” We get that. We all have hopes and dreams, values and passions. But he also said that God should be the One directing our steps. That means every plan – and every budget – we make should be filtered through Him.

If you would like some help with your budget, we’ve created a free guide, Dave Ramsey’s Guide to Budgeting , to walk you through the process step by step and set you on a path to a solid financial future.

Know Your Stuff

Dave Ramsey’s Financial Wisdom from Proverbs

Day 1: Know Your Stuff

Proverbs 27:23-27 MSG
Know your sheep by name; carefully attend to your flocks; (Don’t take them for granted; possessions don’t last forever, you know.) And then, when the crops are in and the harvest is stored in the barns, You can knit sweaters from lambs’ wool, and sell your goats for a profit; There will be plenty of milk and meat to last your family through the winter.

Pretend for a minute that you started a company called YOU, Inc., and it’s your job to manage every cent that passes through the company. If you managed money for YOU, Inc., the same way you manage money for you now, would you fire you?

Ouch! That’s a tough question, but it’s necessary. That’s because you really are charged with handling important finances. You may not be the CFO of a huge company, but you are responsible for managing the money God’s entrusted to you—and that’s even more important!

So how do you make sure YOU, Inc., stays on solid financial footing? First, you’ve got to know your stuff!

See, money is active. It’s always moving, always flowing from one thing to another. That makes it really hard to manage, but you’ve got to take control. Money always flows away from those who don’t manage it and toward those who do. The biggest part of managing it is simply knowing what you have and what you’re doing with it.

Proverbs 27:23 challenges us to “know the state of [our] flocks.” In ancient days, flocks and herds were a common currency. They were the measure of personal wealth and the foundation for a family inheritance. Individuals who wanted to build wealth knew all there was to know about their stuff.

It’s no different today. If you want to experience financial peace, you’ve got to learn to manage what you have. You’ve got to build a zero-based budget on paper, on purpose, at the start of every month. You’ve got to get out of debt. You’ve got to build a three- to six-month emergency fund that keeps you out of “crisis mode.” You’ve got to save and invest now so you can be secure in the future.

Money is sort of like a thoroughbred horse. When it’s properly trained, it combines beauty and power like few things on earth. But left on its own, it becomes wild—even dangerous.

Know the condition of your flocks and pay attention to your herds. If you don’t manage your money, the lack of money will always manage you!

My journey with Christ

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