Financial Literacy

Ultimate Summary of Dave Ramsey’s The Total Money Makeover

When it comes to managing finances, the Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey is a highly respected and widely recommended book. This book provides a step-by-step guide to help individuals and families take control of their finances and achieve financial freedom. In this article, we will provide a comprehensive summary of the Total Money Makeover and how it can help you achieve your financial goals.

Ultimate Summary of Dave Ramsey’s The Total Money Makeover

What is the Total Money Makeover?

The Total Money Makeover is a personal finance book that was written by Dave Ramsey, a well-known financial expert and radio host, who has helped millions of people across the world achieve financial freedom. In the book, Ramsey outlines his 7-step financial plan that has helped thousands of people get out of debt and build wealth. The book is based on Ramsey’s own experiences and the experiences of his clients and listeners, and is designed to be a practical and easy-to-follow guide for anyone looking to improve their financial situation.

The 7 Steps of the Total Money Makeover

  1. Build an Emergency Fund: The first step in the Total Money Makeover is to build an emergency fund. This fund should contain enough money to cover three to six months’ worth of living expenses in case of an emergency.
  2. Pay Off Debt: The second step is to pay off all non-mortgage debt, starting with the debt with the highest interest rate. Ramsey recommends using the debt snowball method, where you focus on paying off one debt at a time while making minimum payments on the others.
  3. Save for Retirement: The third step is to start saving for retirement, even if it’s just a small amount each month. Ramsey recommends using a traditional or Roth IRA for this purpose.
  4. Invest in a College Fund: The fourth step is to start saving for your children’s college education. This can be done through a college savings plan, such as a 529 plan.
  5. Pay Off Your Mortgage: The fifth step is to pay off your mortgage as soon as possible. This will not only help you achieve financial freedom, but it will also reduce the amount of money you spend on interest over the life of the loan.
  6. Build Wealth: The sixth step is to build wealth by investing in a diversified portfolio of stocks, bonds, and other assets. Ramsey recommends using low-cost index funds for this purpose.
  7. Give: The final step in the Total Money Makeover is to give. Ramsey believes that giving to others, whether it’s through charitable donations or helping friends and family, is an important part of financial success and happiness.

Build an Emergency Fund

“The Total Money Makeover” by Dave Ramsey is a personal finance book that provides a step-by-step guide to achieving financial freedom. One of the key components of Ramsey’s plan is building an emergency fund. In this article, we will explore the importance of an emergency fund and how to build one based on Ramsey’s principles.

An emergency fund is a savings account that is used to cover unexpected expenses, such as medical bills, car repairs, or job loss. According to Ramsey, having an emergency fund is essential for financial security, as it provides a safety net in case of an unexpected event. Without an emergency fund, individuals are more likely to resort to credit card debt or loans to cover unexpected expenses, which can put them in a worse financial position.

Ramsey recommends that individuals start by building a $1,000 emergency fund, which can be used to cover small unexpected expenses. This amount should be kept in a savings account, separate from other savings accounts or investments, so that it is easily accessible. Once the $1,000 emergency fund has been established, individuals should focus on building a full emergency fund, which is equal to three to six months of living expenses.

Building an emergency fund can be a slow process, but Ramsey encourages individuals to be patient and consistent in their savings efforts. He suggests that individuals start by finding ways to cut expenses and redirect the money they save into their emergency fund. For example, individuals can reduce their monthly spending on entertainment, dining out, or other non-essential expenses.

Another way to build an emergency fund is to increase income through a side hustle or a part-time job. According to Ramsey, having multiple sources of income can help individuals build their emergency fund faster and achieve financial freedom.

Ramsey also recommends that individuals review their emergency fund regularly and make adjustments as needed. This may involve increasing the amount saved each month, or adjusting the amount saved based on changes in income or expenses.

Building an emergency fund is a critical component of achieving financial freedom, according to Dave Ramsey. By saving a portion of their income each month and finding ways to increase their income, individuals can build a safety net to protect themselves from unexpected expenses. By following Ramsey’s principles, individuals can establish a solid emergency fund and take control of their finances.

Pay Off Debt

The debt-snowball method is a popular debt repayment strategy that was popularized by personal finance expert Dave Ramsey in his book “The Total Money Makeover.” This method is based on the idea of building momentum to repay debt, similar to how a snowball grows in size as it rolls down a hill. Here’s how the debt-snowball method works and how you can use it to pay off debt.

Step 1: List all of your debts The first step to using the debt-snowball method is to list all of your debts, including credit cards, personal loans, and any other debts that you have. Be sure to include the creditor name, balance, and interest rate for each debt.

Step 2: Rank your debts from smallest to largest Once you have listed all of your debts, you will want to rank them from smallest to largest, based on the balance of each debt. The idea behind this is to start by paying off the smallest debt first, which will give you a quick win and help to build your confidence and motivation to keep going. According to Dave Ramsey that’s a key psychological aspect and that’s why he favors the debt snowball method over the debt avalanche method.

Step 3: Make minimum payments on all debts except the smallest While you focus on paying off the smallest debt, you will still need to make the minimum payments on all of your other debts. This will help to keep your credit score in good standing and prevent any late fees or penalties.

Step 4: Pay extra towards the smallest debt Once you have made the minimum payments on all of your other debts, you will want to focus on paying extra towards the smallest debt. The idea is to pay as much as you can afford each month until the debt is paid off in full.

Step 5: Repeat the process Once you have paid off the smallest debt, you will repeat the process for the next smallest debt, and so on, until all of your debts have been paid off.

Benefits of the debt-snowball method There are several benefits to using the debt-snowball method to pay off debt, including:

  1. Quick wins: By focusing on the smallest debt first, you will be able to quickly pay off one debt and feel a sense of accomplishment. This will help to keep you motivated as you continue to pay off the rest of your debts.
  2. Increased motivation: As you pay off each debt, you will be motivated to keep going, as you see the progress that you are making.
  3. Helps to prioritize debts: By focusing on paying off the smallest debt first, you will be able to prioritize your debts and make sure that you are paying off the most pressing debts first.

In conclusion, the debt-snowball method is a powerful tool that can help you to pay off debt, increase your motivation, and save money in the long run. By following the steps outlined above, you can use this method to get out of debt and take control of your finances.

Save for Retirement

Once debt is paid off, Ramsey suggests investing in a retirement plan, such as a 401(k) or individual retirement account (IRA). Employer-sponsored 401(k) plans offer the benefits of pre-tax contributions, matching contributions from the employer, and tax-deferred growth. An IRA, on the other hand, is an individual retirement account that you can open on your own. Both types of plans offer the benefits of tax-deferred growth, which means you won’t pay taxes on the money you save until you withdraw it in retirement.

Ramsey suggests starting with a goal of saving 15% of your income for retirement. This may seem like a lot, but by gradually increasing your contributions over time, you can reach this goal. He also recommends diversifying your investments to minimize your risk and maximize your returns.

In “The Total Money Makeover,” Dave Ramsey advocates for investing in low-cost, broadly diversified mutual funds or exchange-traded funds (ETFs) as part of a 401(k) or IRA. He emphasizes the importance of avoiding high-cost, actively managed funds and instead opting for low-cost index funds that track the market.

Ramsey suggests investing in a mix of stock and bond funds to create a balanced portfolio. Stock funds provide the potential for higher returns over the long term, while bond funds offer stability and a steady stream of income. He also advises investors to regularly review and adjust their portfolio to ensure it aligns with their investment goals and risk tolerance.

Additionally, Ramsey encourages investors to take advantage of employer matching contributions in their 401(k) plan, if available, as it is essentially free money. He also stresses the importance of contributing consistently and maxing out contributions to take full advantage of the tax benefits and potential for compound growth over time.

In the book “The Total Money Makeover” by Dave Ramsey, Roth IRAs are frequently recommended as a good investment option.

The Roth IRA is unique because contributions to the account are made with after-tax dollars, meaning the money you contribute has already been taxed. However, once the funds are in the account, they grow tax-free and can be withdrawn tax-free during retirement. This is different from a traditional IRA, where contributions are made with pre-tax dollars and are taxed when they are withdrawn in retirement.

One of the main benefits of a Roth IRA is that it provides flexibility in retirement. With a Roth IRA, you can withdraw funds at any time without penalty or taxes. This makes it a good option for those who want to have more control over their retirement funds and don’t want to be limited by the restrictions that come with other types of retirement accounts.

Another benefit of a Roth IRA is that there is no required minimum distribution (RMD) age, meaning you don’t have to start withdrawing funds from the account at a certain age like you do with traditional IRAs. This allows you to let your money grow for as long as you need it to.

Dave Ramsey emphasizes in his book the importance of saving for retirement and the benefits of using a Roth IRA as a tool for building wealth over time. He encourages individuals to start saving as early as possible and to contribute to their Roth IRA consistently, regardless of their current financial situation.

To get started with a Roth IRA, you’ll need to find a brokerage or investment firm that offers the account. You’ll then need to open the account and make contributions. The contribution limit for a Roth IRA is currently $6,000 per year, or $7,000 if you’re over 50 years old.

The Roth IRA is a powerful tool for those looking to build wealth for retirement. By contributing to a Roth IRA and letting your money grow tax-free, you can ensure a comfortable retirement and have greater control over your financial future.

Invest in a College Fund

In “The Total Money Makeover,” Dave Ramsey emphasizes the importance of saving for college expenses as part of a comprehensive financial plan. He believes that investing in a college fund should be a priority, especially for parents who want to provide their children with a college education without incurring significant debt.

Ramsey suggests using a combination of savings and investment vehicles, such as a 529 College Savings Plan or a Coverdell Education Savings Account, to build a college fund. These types of accounts offer tax advantages and the potential for growth over time, making them a smart choice for college savings.

He also recommends starting to save for college as early as possible, even if the child is still a newborn. The earlier you start, the more time the savings have to grow and compound, potentially reducing the amount you need to save each month.

Ramsey also emphasizes the importance of setting realistic expectations and making a plan for funding college expenses. This may include exploring scholarships, grants, and other forms of financial aid, as well as considering alternative options such as community college or trade school.

Ultimately, Ramsey believes that investing in a college fund is a responsible and proactive way to prepare for the future and ensure that your children have the resources they need to pursue their education goals. By starting early and making a plan, parents can help their children avoid the burden of student loan debt and set them up for a successful financial future.

Pay Off Your Mortgage

Paying off your house mortgage as quickly as possible can save you thousands of dollars in interest and give you peace of mind. According to the book “The Total Money Makeover” by Dave Ramsey, there are several steps you can take to make this happen.

  1. Create a budget: The first step to paying off your mortgage faster is to create a budget that allows you to make extra payments. This means cutting back on expenses, finding ways to increase your income, and tracking your spending to ensure you are sticking to your plan.
  2. Prioritize debt repayment: Ramsey suggests prioritizing debt repayment by paying off high-interest debt first, such as credit cards, before making extra mortgage payments. This will help you get out of debt faster and free up more money to put towards your mortgage.
  3. Make extra payments: Once you have a budget in place, you can make extra payments towards your mortgage. Ramsey suggests rounding up your mortgage payment or making bi-weekly payments instead of monthly payments to reduce the amount of interest you pay over the life of the loan.
  4. Refinance: If you have a high-interest rate mortgage, refinancing can help you lower your monthly payments and pay off your mortgage faster. Just be sure to do the math and make sure refinancing is the right choice for you.
  5. Avoid lifestyle inflation: Ramsey warns against lifestyle inflation, or the tendency to increase your spending as you make more money. This can eat into the extra money you could be putting towards your mortgage and slow down the payoff process.
  6. Stay disciplined: Finally, staying disciplined is key to paying off your mortgage as quickly as possible. Keep your budget in mind and make extra payments consistently, even if it means making sacrifices in other areas of your life.

By following these steps, you can pay off your mortgage faster and enjoy the financial freedom that comes with being debt-free. Remember, it takes time and discipline, but the rewards are worth it.

Build Wealth

Building wealth with index funds and real estate is a strategy recommended by Dave Ramsey in his book “The Total Money Makeover.” Here are the steps he suggests for achieving this goal:

  1. Start with index funds: Investing in index funds, which track the performance of a broad market index, is a simple and effective way to grow your wealth over time. Ramsey suggests investing in low-cost index funds, such as a total stock market index fund or a total bond market index fund, to maximize returns.
  2. Diversify your portfolio: Diversifying your portfolio by investing in different types of assets, such as stocks, bonds, and real estate, helps reduce risk and increase returns. Ramsey suggests investing in a mix of index funds to diversify your portfolio and minimize risk.
  3. Invest in real estate: Investing in real estate, either through rental properties or real estate investment trusts (REITs), can be a lucrative way to build wealth. Ramsey suggests investing in rental properties that generate positive cash flow and purchasing REITs through a brokerage account.
  4. Stay disciplined: To achieve success with index funds and real estate investing, it’s important to stay disciplined and avoid impulsive decisions. This means investing regularly, avoiding market timing, and avoiding high-risk investments.
  5. Educate yourself: Building wealth with index funds and real estate requires a solid understanding of these investment vehicles. Ramsey suggests educating yourself through books, online resources, and financial advisors to gain a better understanding of how these investments work.
  6. Be patient: Building wealth takes time, and it’s important to be patient and avoid making impulsive decisions based on short-term market fluctuations. Ramsey suggests investing for the long term and avoiding the temptation to sell during market downturns.

By following these steps, you can build wealth with index funds and real estate and achieve financial independence over time.


In his book “The Total Money Makeover,” Dave Ramsey emphasizes the importance of giving and supporting charities as a key component of building wealth and achieving financial freedom. Here are the key principles he outlines:

  1. Give first: Ramsey suggests giving a portion of your income to charity or causes you believe in before paying bills or making other purchases. This helps align your spending with your values and establishes a culture of generosity in your life.
  2. Make a plan: Establish a giving plan and stick to it, just like you would with a budget or investment plan. This means setting aside a specific amount of money each month for giving and deciding which charities or causes you want to support.
  3. Give wisely: It’s important to be wise with your giving and make sure your money is going to organizations that are effective and aligned with your values. Ramsey suggests researching charities, comparing their financial health and impact, and giving to those that meet your criteria.
  4. Avoid debt: Ramsey stresses the importance of avoiding debt when giving, as debt can limit your ability to give and support causes you believe in. Instead, he suggests building wealth and saving money so you have the resources to give freely and generously.
  5. Teach the next generation: Finally, Ramsey encourages individuals to teach the next generation about the importance of giving and the joy of helping others. This includes teaching children about money management and helping them understand the importance of supporting causes they believe in.

By incorporating these principles into your financial life, you can build wealth and achieve financial freedom while also making a positive impact on the world. Remember, giving and supporting charities is not just about money, it’s about making a difference in the lives of others and creating a better world for all.


The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey is a comprehensive guide to personal finance, paying off debt, and achieving financial freedom. The book provides practical advice, step-by-step guidance, and real-life examples to help readers take control of their finances and achieve their financial goals. Whether you are just starting out on your financial journey or are looking to take your finances to the next level, this book is a must-read for anyone who wants to achieve financial freedom and live a rich, fulfilling life.

Financial Literacy

The Fastest Way To Pay Down Debt

If you have several outstanding loans, what’s the fastest way to pay them down? How should you prioritize which loan to pay down first?

The most efficient way to pay down existing debt burden is better known as the debt avalanche method.

It goes like this:

  1. Make an inventory of all the debt you have and their associated interest rate.
  2. Keep paying the minimum payment on all debt to avoid any fees and deteriorate your credit score.
  3. Focus on one loan at a time and make an extra payment on the loan that has the highest interest rate. Keep doing it until the loan is paid.
  4. Congratulations, you now have one loan paid off. Move to the next highest interest rate loan and use the extra cash freed from the minimum payment of the loan you just paid to pay this second loan even faster.
  5. Rinse, repeat, until you do not have any more outstanding debt, paying each loan faster by redirecting the extra cash from each paid off loan towards paying the next one.

This strategy minimizes the amount of interest you pay by targeting the loans with the highest interest rates first.

Some argue that in the battle towards paying off debt, the psychological aspect may be more important as it is often a marathon more than a sprint. And therefore seeking early sign of encouragement may go a long way to stay on the path of debt freedom.

In that regards the debt snowball approach is sometimes considered. The principle is similar to the debt avalanche method but instead of focusing on the loan with the highest interest rate, you’d focus on the loan with the smallest balance. So you more quickly scratch a loan off your list as an early encouragement.

However Mr. Honu is way too cartesian to allow extra interest payment to run and would focus on the debt avalanche method instead. But that’s just me. The debt snowball can be a decent alternative and is certainly better than letting your debt run away.

There are more resources on the debt avalanche and the debt snowball on the internet.