At What Point Do Dave Ramsey and Suze Orman Compromise Themselves For Sales?

This is just another one of those random thoughts that flows through my head every once in a while, so forgive me.

I was thinking back on my old days when I ran a large credit counseling / debt management company and dealt with the balancing act of needing to get new clients versus always doing the right thing. I don’t care what anybody says, if you’ve got an office space, employees, and overhead, the power of the sale is like heroin, you need it to feed your habit, overhead.

At least I can tell you that I never intentionally enrolled someone in a debt management program, or some other solution that I didn’t honestly think, at the time, would be beneficial. Now that doesn’t mean that my employees didn’t. It would be impossible for me to stare inside every single client case when you have 20,000+ clients.

Commonsense would tell me that some employees would probably be more inclined than not to sell someone a credit counseling debt management solution simply because the employee felt like the sale helped to keep them employed. That’s just human nature. “If I do a good job for my boss, they’ll like me more.”

Eventually a time came when I ran into this situation face-to-face and came to the realization, that for me, putting someone into a debt solution that was not right for them was a line that I would never cross to make money. So I did the craziest thing you could imagine, I laid everyone off and closed the company.

So this conversation in my head led to me pondering the Dave Ramsey line of products, seminars, books, etc. And Suze Orman has her own line of stuff for sale as well. I wonder at what point for them does the sale of products and services become more important than the message they are trying to share with the public.

Now this is the point at which their “fans” will take issue with me. They will say things like “Dave rocks”, “You don’t know what you’re talking about”, etc. But I disagree.

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In order for Dave or Suze to survive it requires the continuous and ongoing sale of their products and services. They have employees to pay, overhead to meet and profit to make. They are both very lucrative financial enterprises.

So when should a financial guru step away from the addiction to make the sale or is it all reasonable and fair game? Is it okay for Dave Ramsey to sell someone a $3,000 business opportunity that might bury them financially?

While Dave rails against debt collectors for being dumb idiots and less than human, when is it appropriate for him to sell a $3,000 class to someone that isn’t best suited for it? Isn’t that dumb? Or is the person that buys it an idiot if they dreamed of success but instead ran into failure?

What about the employee of Suze or Dave that is focused on the per sale profit, conversion rate or up-sell in order to please their boss? At what point does the organization of a financial adviser become so big and the need to feed their company becomes so great that the adviser is more focused on making sales rather than doing the right thing? And what if they do, does that compromise their value and integrity as an adviser?


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Steve Rhode is the Get Out of Debt Guy and has been helping good people with bad debt problems since 1994. You can learn more about Steve, here.
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See also  Richard Asks "Who Is Better to Get Out Of Debt With, John Cummuta or Dave Ramsey?"

18 thoughts on “At What Point Do Dave Ramsey and Suze Orman Compromise Themselves For Sales?”

  1. They compromise themselves as soon as they advertise for a product that violates a key point they’ve made along the way. For example, if someone has always said CCs are okay if they’re used sensibly and then they appear in a CC ad, that’s fine. But if a person has sworn against all debt (a la Dave Ramsey) then appears in an ad for a debt product, they’ve lost all trustworthiness.

  2. Steve…it seems like you tend to try and down talk people “winning” like Dave Ramsey all the time, in order to try to make your points and at the same time, TRY to establish yourself as credible. That is NOT the way to win in life. Just give your opinions without bringing people like Dave Ramsey into it all the time. It’s pretty elementary to realize people like Dave and Suze have to make $ in order to touch more people. Just because you call yourself the GetOutOfDebtGuy and choose to do it for free, doesn’t mean those who aren’t doing it as a “charity” and are doing it as a legitimate business are “compromising” themselves for “sales”. There are WAY too many testimonies on both shows where they are making a MAJOR impact in the lives of people. Grow up. Sometimes your posts sound like a jealous child.

  3. I’m always amazed at the level of animosity that Dave Ramsey attracts.

    Good for Mr. Hurst for calling “BS” on that $3,000 Dave Ramsey package – that’s simply not true. Ramsey doesn’t charge a thing to listen to his daily program, or to browse his website, where all this stuff is. Yes, he’s got some books out there, but they’re available for free from most libraries (you’ll have to wait awhile, though — they’re popular.)

    He does have a 14 week course you can buy (Financial Peace University) but most churches offer that for around $100. Even if it weren’t extremely helpful (and effective), it is very entertaining. Where else could you get 14 nights out with your spouse for that price?

    Besides which, when did it become unethical to make money providing a service? I am a bankruptcy attorney, and I certainly do charge a fee (a rather high one at that) for my services.

    I wouldn’t go as far as Ramsey and always recommend against bankruptcy (sometimes it is about the only way out), but I do try to let my clients see the alternative way out of their problems.

    Again, I think it’s interesting to see how people react to Ramsey. It reminds me of the polarizing reactions to people like Sarah Palin or Al Franken.
    .-= Ben Callicoat´s last blog ..The Secret History of the Credit Card =-.

    • Ben,

      Thank you so much for your comments. Please come back often and add your opinion. Your experience and point of view are always welcome.

      Just for clarification the $3,000 business opportunity package I mentioned that Dave sells is on his site, here.

      Join us for Dave Ramsey’s all-inclusive immersion into the world of personal finance and counseling. Counselor Training is designed to teach you the one-on-one counseling process and to help you navigate budgeting, debt reduction, and other complex financial issues, as you seek to make a difference in your community. It’s boot-camp tough! Dave’s team will throw a ton of information at you, but you’ll also have a lot of fun.

      Counselor Training is ideal for professionals in need of continuing education units, ministry-minded individuals seeking to help others in their church or nonprofit organization, Financial Peace University coordinators hoping to better assist their classes, military personnel wanting to assist soldiers and their families—and anyone else who wants to learn more about financial counseling.

      Cost: $2,950 (spouse attends for $1,500)


  4. “80% of US millionaires are first generation rich” that doesn’t take away from what I said at all. What if cousin Bob had a well run business and helped you get into Harvard? What if you were born in a good neighborhood as opposed to the ghetto? True, there are self-made millionaires, but you can count them on one hand. Name me a millionaire and I’ll name a half dozen reasons they got there,(things they didn’t create) just like the homeless guy on the street, there is always a reason. Sometimes s#$t happens, more often then not. All this goody-goody work hard and you’ll reap the rewards is CRAP! If an employer knows you’re willing to work harder then the rest, he’ll work you harder then the rest! He won’t pay you any better, that would cut into his profits.
    It’s like saying anyone can be a great musician (they can), but some are born with the ability, great influences to play better (what if dad were Eddie Van Halen?)and the best instrument (costly). If you work hard at it, maybe in 10 yrs you’ll be good. Now if Tex guitar jones says he can teach you to play great in 10 easy lessons if you buy his course, do you think that will make you great?
    Yeah, Dave, Suze, and Johm Commuta all have good advise. Here it is: Budget your money, stop using credit cards, snowball your debt down, invest.
    There I just saved you thousands of dollars.
    Want to get rich on the stock market?
    Buy low, sell high. There ya go, I just made you rich!
    Dave, Suze, John and the rest are just taking advantage of the down and out, just like a snake oil salesman.
    Oh, and by the way my marriage is fine, I’ve been happily married for 25 yrs., have 10 kids, and when my wife needs to buy something, it happens. You don’t get a divorse over stupid things like that.
    I’m not on welfare and if it’s stealing in your book for me to use credit to survive, then you’ll consider me a thief….so what.

  5. “One can’t control the spending habits of their spouse” = If this is the case, you don’t have finance problems, you have marriage problems. Doing a budget with your spouse does WONDERS for all areas of your marriage, because you have to communicate and discuss your joint priorities and goals. I would even go so far as say, it’ll even improve your sex life. There’s just something about being on the same page.

    Unexpected expensive trouble is what the emergency fund is for. If my air conditioner bites the dust today, I will write a check and get a new one. I won’t have to put it on a credit card or owe some banker.

    “Some people are rich because they have wealthy relatives. Most are not rich because they don’t have the right connections. Always life is unfair, even if you’re the one making the big bucks.” = 80% of US millionaires are first generation rich. I would guess that most have a little more optimistic attitude than you. Being content with what they have is the number one key to being wealthy.

    If you don’t think any of the stuff Dave talks about is possible for you, well then it probably isn’t.

    Also, on old people. If you are old people who can’t pay your bills. Stop borrowing more money or using credit cards. At this point, since there is noway you will be able to pay back, YOU ARE NOW STEALING!

    Fielding J. Hursts last blog post..GAO Report : Widespread Special Needs Abuse in US Schools!

  6. Back to REAL life. One can’t control the spending habits of their spouse. Bills come up when other bills are paid, to replace them. Children wind up in trouble, expensive trouble. The economy keeps prices ever going higher. Towards the end of ones life makes it impossible to get caught up on bills, credit card debt that is run by sharks. Sometimes bankruptcy is the only answer. Sometimes Dave Ramsey is a shallow hack. Some people are rich because they have wealthy relatives. Most are not rich because they don’t have the right connections. Always life is unfair, even if you’re the one making the big bucks.

  7. You don’t have to spend a penny to do Dave’s thing. We are debt free and have a child with autism. By being debt free we have lots of options on helping our family that we would not have if we lived for sending all of our money to bankers.

    Listen to the the show FREE on the radio or listen to the whole show in the archives daily on his website. His book, The Total Money Makeover is great and includes all you need for $20. Again, you don’t have to spend any money. All I have ever done is listen to the show. You can get 1 hour commercial free on iTunes daily as well and his Fox Biz show is free on Hulu.com two weeks delayed. In any case, you don’t have to spend a cent.

    He would talk to you. He would tell you and your wife to do a budget together. Have a plan. Spend every dollar on purpose on paper, before the month begins. He would then walk you up his baby steps which is does for everyone if great consistency.

    1: $1,000 to start an Emergency Fund
    2: Pay off all debt using the Debt Snowball
    3: Three to six months of expenses in savings
    4: Invest 15 percent of household income into Roth IRAs and pre-tax retirement
    5: College funding for children
    6: Pay off home early
    7: Build wealth and give! Invest in mutual funds and real estate

    Fielding J. Hursts last blog post..GAO Report : Widespread Special Needs Abuse in US Schools!

  8. Maybe he does deal with some real life situations. 39 and not owing a penny is truly amazing! I have 10 kids, $58,000.00 in credit card debt, an upside-down mortgage and insurance costs thru the roof down here in FL.I earn about $50,000 a yr. Real life. I don’t think Dave would talk to me other then to say some kind of God Bless Crap. Maybe I’m wrong, but I still think he knows his captive audience and milks them for every penny….

  9. I am a die hard Libertarian, but can’t stand Dave’s political talk. I fast forward thru some of the socialist stuff.

    He does, however, talk about REAL LIFE SCENARIOS, everyday for the vast majority of the show. A lot of the times when he gets to the root of the story, folks are planning on filing bankruptcy for what ends up being just some credit cards. He says sometimes folks do end up filing, but suggests fighting the good fight first.

    Example, on his show the other day, some lady called in and said a lawyer (bankruptcy) told her she needed to file. Once Dave got to the root of the issue, he told her to sell a car that she could not afford and buy a beater to get by. It turns out that she would have been filing on like $3,000 credit card debt. He told her she would be better off selling the car and throwing the credit card bills in the trash for now. Focus on the 4 walls (food, shelter, utilities) and call up the credit card company and settle when she has the money. This is the type of call he gets A LOT.

    One of his favorite sayings is “asking a bankruptcy lawyer if you should file bankruptcy is like asking a dog if it’s hungry!”

    You can listen to all of his shows online for free in the archives on daveramsey.com

    I have drank the kool-aid so to speak. No debt of any kind, including the house. 39 years old. It is truly a spiritual thing to owe no one a single penny.

    Fielding J. Hursts last blog post..A Review of the Dave Ramsey: Town Hall for Hope event.

  10. Dave suggest bankruptcy only when it is forced an absolutely necessary, not as an “that was easy” button. You’ll find that very consistent among respected financial voices.

    Dave supported libertarian-ish, conservative-ish political viewpoints way before ever being mentioned on fox news. In fact, fox news is still a relatively recent development.

    Suze Orman was given a large some of money, but lost it all immediately. She then worked to gain it back and paid it back. Say what you will about her financial advice now, but she was very hard working and a very intense go-getter to get to where she is. A lot can be learned from her story.

    Ultimately, I ask myself “Is this person truly dedicated to positively changing the lives of others for the better.”

    In Dave’s case I’ve arrived at yes, even though I certainly don’t agree with 100% of what he says and does. He has my support.

    Baker @ ManVsDebts last blog post..May’s Budget Recap, Net Worth Update, & Future Battle Plans

  11. I don’t like Dave Ramsey, period. It might be a personality thing, but he doesn’t seem like he can understand real life scenarios. His answer is always NO credit whatsoever. I haven’t listened to him enough to know for sure, except I did hear his one show during the “Tea Party’s” and how he endorsed them, but he seems like a bit of a shill for the Fox network. Does he ever suggest a person just file bankruptcy and start over, or does he always want you to just buy his plan? I’ve read a couple of Suze Orman’s books and from what I recall, she had a big help from someone just GIVING her a lot of money to help her with her debt. Then from the experience she went into the line of work she is in now. I don’t think most people are that fortunate. She also says she can judge a persons debt by what their car looks like! What a twit! These two people have radio/tv shows and think they know everything.
    Steve, you’re much more respectable in my book, and you genuinely seem to care. Keep up the good work 🙂

  12. The only debt product ad Dave is in is for Churchill Mortgage. He is OK with a mortgage as long as it is no more than a 15 year fixed and the payment is not more than 1/4 of your take home pay. Dave doesn’t own the radio stations or Fox Business and has no control over a lot of the ads that play during his show.

    What does Dave sell for $3,000?

    I do see what you are saying, but Dave runs his business on cash. IE – He doesn’t have loan payments in that overhead.

    Fielding J. Hursts last blog post..A Review of the Dave Ramsey: Town Hall for Hope event.

  13. Hmm, very good question. I was recently impressed when I heard (don’t remember which blog it was on, but on a PF blog) that Suze Orman was talking to a woman on her show. The woman was having trouble making her debt payments and had ordered Suze’s book. Suze told her to cancel the order and go to a library instead.

    But one doesn’t often hear such stories or such advice put out there. One reason I don’t review products very often is that I don’t want to encourage people to buy if they can’t afford them. Perhaps I should have more faith in my readers to know what they can or can’t afford. Even with book reviews, I suggest checking them out at the library (being a librarian myself).

    The big issue for me is hosting and clients (from my BlogCrafted business). I worry about steering them wrong for the sake of affiliates. At the same time, I have affiliate links for a number of hosts, so I don’t have a financial motivation just to have them use one host.

    Mrs. Micahs last blog post..Keeping More Than Basic Records

  14. They compromise themselves as soon as they advertise for a product that violates a key point they’ve made along the way. For example, if someone has always said CCs are okay if they’re used sensibly and then they appear in a CC ad, that’s fine. But if a person has sworn against all debt (a la Dave Ramsey) then appears in an ad for a debt product, they’ve lost all trustworthiness.


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