Can you imagine averaging 18% returns?

enero 30, 2016

Can you imagine averaging 18% returns? That’s what early Dave Ramsey followers were told to expect

Seriously, Dave?

Are you willing to trust Mr. Ramsey simply because he’s entertaining? I’m not. (AP Photo/John Russell)
Are you willing to trust Mr. Ramsey simply because he’s entertaining? I’m not. (AP Photo/John Russell)

I hate editors.

I say this facetiously, of course. My editor — to whom you can submit your displeasures about this column at [email protected] — omits or rewrites most of my jokes and assertions that lack substance or relevance. Without her, I probably would’ve gotten myself in trouble with my sarcasm and accusations. So, to all the editors out there I say, thank you. Without you, we sometimes say silly things.

This line of thinking is precisely why I thought it would be fun to purchase a first edition, self-published copy of Dave Ramsey’s “Financial Peace,” published in 1992. I can only assume this was published prior to Dave having an editor. Without the protection of a knightly word slayer, Dave Ramsey makes dangerous statements that will live forever on paper. Statements I’m sure he wishes he could take back. Statements that make his current catchphrases — “12 percent rates of return” and “annuities are bad” and “bonds: who needs them?” — look as harmless as a newborn kitten on Christmas morning. So, grab some hot cocoa and a blanket and join me for some wintertime fun.

You’ve read different articles debunking Dave’s 12 percent proclamation. Some with lots of math and some that are hard to follow. I hope this doesn’t fall in that latter camp. As Dave Ramsey often touts, common sense can go a long way. So, we’re going to use actual returns from the S&P 500, starting the year his first book was published.

pinocho mentiras

The predecessor to the 12 percent return

The real fun begins with a fact few are aware of: Dave hasn’t always believed in 12 percent returns. He hasn’t always used average rates rather than compounded rates. Prior to having an editor, Dave didn’t tell people to count on 12 percent; he told them to count on 18 percent. Today, he asserts the 12 percent rate with near certainty by citing past results and personal experiences as proof. But, like a doomsday prophet who uses Nostradamus writings as a formula to predict our last days, Dave recalculates and re-advises when the proclaimed date — or, in this case, rate of return — doesn’t come to maturation as prophesied.

Before I show how Dave’s first rate-of-return promise undermines his current claims, let’s look at another piece of contrary advice. Dave Ramsey has become famous, in part, for his seven baby steps.  Baby step No. 1 is “Save $1,000.” It’s not enough! I’ve argued this ad nauseam. Dave is wrong with baby step No. 1 and he knows it. In chapter 8 of “Financial Peace,” we find proof of this. Dave writes that “a good financial planner will tell you that FIRST you should have three to six months of income in savings that are liquid, just for emergencies.” He goes on to say, “If you make $36,000, you should have $9,000 to $18,000 where you can easily get it BEFORE you do ANY other investing.” (All capitalizations were as written by Dave.)

Maybe you’re thinking that, way back then, Dave didn’t realize most people found it hard to save even $1,000. (By the way, $1,000 today was approximately $590 dollars in 1992, according to We find out pretty quickly that this isn’t the case. At the bottom of page 64, Dave writes, “I know this seems like a lot of money, especially when most only have $1,000 in the bank now, but here is why the experts tell us we should save so much.” He goes on to explain why it’s important to save at that higher rate. So, Dave’s math is either wrong then, or it’s wrong now.

In other words, Ramsonites who cite how Americans are saving more under Dave’s influence do so with as much accuracy as Dave predicts future rates of return. By his own admission, he is now getting people to save either a) less than what he said experts stated was necessary or b) only about half of what they were in 1992. Neither of those seem like very promising scenarios.

OK, back to the story. Remember, we’re discussing why Dave doesn’t actually believe in a 12 percent rate of return. In fact, in my humble opinion, he didn’t truly believe in 18 percent way back then, and here’s why. In his 1992 book, Dave uses this example: A 25-year-old saves $1,000 one time and does not make any withdrawals. He writes:

“At 6 percent per year, you should have just over $10,000 at age 65; so, if we double the interest rate to 12 percent, you should have around $16,000, right? WRONG!!! You will have just over $93,000 at 12 percent at age 65. That is compound interest working for you and you see the multiplication effect rather than the addition effect that most may have thought.”

He then raises the rate to 18 percent, which he proclaims, “many good, solid mutual funds have.” At 18 percent, the end tally is $750,378.

Wait, so you’re telling me that the folks in, say, 1995 who read this book and then planned on an 18 percent rate of return are OK? I mean, Dave typically says, “Hey, if I’m wrong and it’s only a few points below, then they’re still OK, right?” He says us math nerds are arguing about a few inconsequential dollars. Hmmm. I’d love to live in a world where the difference between $750,378 and $93,000 was only a few dollars.

First, we must consider why Dave Ramsey changed his 18 percent rate of return projection. Eighteen percent is far more fun than 12 percent. It seems odd that he would change his mind on this, considering that he says mutual funds can easily make 14 percent (page 70). He even says that top funds have “averaged between 20 and 30 percent” over the last 10 years. OK, I went too far. I must be fibbing. Nope … you can find this fallacious statement on page 127 of “Financial Peace.” Like today, it’s hard to spot even a slight crack in Dave’s foundation of confidence surrounding the declaration of returns.

Given all of these confident statements, why does Dave use 12 percent now? Will he revise this number to be lower in the future?

The answer is simple: In every 10-year period since Dave wrote “Financial Peace,” the S&P 500, using annual returns, hasn’t matched the 12 percent promise, let alone the 18 percent. Based on the cold, hard evidence, Dave would have been forced to revise his 18-percent projection. I’ll get back to this, though.

A close look at the numbers

Let’s say the brazen Ramsonite who follows this path dreams of retiring with $300,000 in savings and investments. In order for this to be reality, the follower will need to save about $900 per month for the next 120 months (10 years).

Obviously, $300,000 isn’t very much, considering Dave often touts everyone should be able to retire a millionaire by saving nearly $1,000 per month. Saying things like, “Everyone should easily become a millionaire while saving nothing but 3 cents per day” sounds fun, but it’s akin to assuming everyone will drive slower in the snowy conditions of West Michigan in January. The reality is many won’t. But just for fun, here’s a chart with the annual return of the S&P 500 for each year since “Financial Peace” was published.

YEAR Return YEAR Return YEAR Return
1992 4.46% 2000 (10.14%) 2008 (38.49%)
1993 7.06% 2001 (13.04%) 2009 25.45%
1994 (1.54%) 2002 (23.37%) 2010 12.78%
1995 34.11% 2003 26.38% 2011 0
1996 20.26% 2004 8.99% 2012 13.46%
1997 31.01% 2005 3.0% 2013 29.60%
1998 26.67% 2006 13.62% 2014 11.39%
1999 19.53% 2007 3.53%    







At first glance, the 12 percent rate — heck, even the 18 percent rate — looks like it might be true. But, oh, how the eyes can deceive. Has anyone else watched the magic tricks done on the sidewalks of the Vegas strip?

We’ve determined that our Ramsonite is saving $900 per month, right? When we’re adding money, the ending balance is affected by how much money we put in and, of course, by when we put it in. So, an account with a $100,000 balance and a 10 percent return is affected more than one with a $10,000 balance.

The charts below illustrate this. One shows each ten-year period and return, using the S&P 500 since “Financial Peace” was published. The second chart shows the ending balance of our hypothetical Ramsey follower investing $900 every month — no more, no less — for each 10-year period, same as before.

Period Return Period Return
92-01 11.53% 99-08 3.44%
93-02 5.27% 00-09 1.52%
94-03 7.88% 01-10 3.93%
95-04 6.94% 02-11 3.56%
96-05 4.99% 03-12 5.19%
97-06 5.62% 04-13 9.30%
98-07 4.86% 05-14 10.24%


Period End Bal. Period End Bal.
92-01 $201,490 99-08 $91,471
93-02 $141,791 00-09 $116,555
94-03 $163,597 01-10 $132,032
95-04 $155,239 02-11 $129,482
96-05 $139,714 03-12 $141,213
97-06 $144,463 04-13 $177,182
98-07 $138,715 05-14 $186,930


OK, so lots of math. Hopefully I didn’t give anyone paralysis of the analysis. What does this all really mean? It means this: At an 18 percent rate of return, the Ramsey follower would have $300,000, but, even at a 12 percent rate of return, they’d still have a bit more than $200,000 (using compounded, since, based on his quote above, Dave makes it clear that he’s referring to compounded). However, since publishing “Financial Peace,” the average 10-year compounded rate is only 6.01 percent per period. Furthermore, the average ending balance is less than half of what his readers in 1992 would have expected and that’s IF — a big IF — they followed the path despite seeing far less favorable results.

Let’s look more closely at this six percent. Do you remember the example I cited earlier? Dave used a 6, 12 and 18 percent compounded rate of return. The 6 percent was only $15,000. That’s a far cry from the nearly $750,000 excited readers would have counted on.

Why did Dave change from 18 percent growth to 12 percent growth? It’s simple: The 18 percent was horribly far off from reality. At Dave’s current 12 percent fallacy, he states that followers can withdraw 8 percent of the account balance each year because then they’re still making 4 percent. Oh, Dave, if only this were true.  Below is a chart, again using just the plain old S&P 500. I used every 10-year period available after the initial 10-year period of accumulation. I also assumed the average 10-year balance from above $147,133, and used an 8 percent rate of withdrawal, or, in other words, $980 per month.

Period End Bal.
02-11 $53,044
03-12 $117,715
04-13 $89,507
05-14 $86,855
AVG. $86,780

After 10 years, the average remaining balance is $86,780. But Dave claims that if you’re earning 12 percent — which you should at least earn, considering he used to proclaim 18 percent — and you’re only withdrawing 8 percent annually, then your balance will continue to grow. Fact or fiction? Clearly fiction. Not one 10-year period exceeded the initial principal amount. In fact, since 1992 this statement would only be valid six times (coincidentally, between 1992 and 1997 consecutively, and never since).

Knowledge matters

Editors help us from saying stupid things. For example, in the About the Author section of “Financial Peace”, Dave states that he “ … has held mortgage brokers and securities licenses.” From this we can infer that, by the time this book had published, his securities license had already lapsed. Twenty-five years later, with only a few years of industry experience that occurred prior to the Clinton administration (I hope I never have to qualify that as the “Bill Clinton administration …”), Mr. Ramsey proclaims to be an expert on something he’s not.

I thought about showing a table with more than 10 years of accumulation, or a table comparing rates of returns of fixed annuities and cash value life insurance (adjusted for cost of insurance), but then readers would have focused on whom they believe again. Instead, the intent here was to show everyone that, from the start, Dave has been projecting horribly inaccurate future rates of return — so much so that he was forced to significantly reduce future projections. Furthermore, the numbers show his current rate is still greatly exaggerated in comparison to the reality we’ve witnessed since he started his brigade. The math of the real time periods since Dave started shows he is wrong. Way wrong. Are you willing to trust him, simply because he’s entertaining? I’m not.

As a wise(ish) man with a few years of professional securities experience once wrote:

“Ignorance is not lack of intelligence; it is lack of knowledge on a particular subject.”       

— Dave Ramsey, “Financial Peace” 1992.

As always, thanks for walking down this path with me. If you see something you’d like us to address from American’s “Favorite” finance coach, please email my editor at [email protected].

Source:, Jan 25, 2016.

Dave Ramsey’s unjust war on whole life insurance

septiembre 3, 2015

Dave Ramsey’s unjust war on whole life insurance

Seriously, Dave?

Financial talk show host Dave Ramsey works in his broadcast studio in Brentwood, Tenn., on Thursday, March 23, 2006. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
Financial talk show host Dave Ramsey works in his broadcast studio in Brentwood, Tenn., on Thursday, March 23, 2006. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

My senior year at Eastern Michigan University, I met with a counselor to make sure everything was in order for me to graduate. Apparently, it was not. I had never taken Math 118: Linear Equations.

“Isn’t there a way to test out?” I asked. Given that I had taken tougher mathematical courses in high school, I figured surely something could be done. Unfortunately, I was out of luck and had to take the course.

First test, 25 out of 25 — BOOM! But wait: That only equated to a grade of 50 percent. Shocked, I asked the teacher to explain. Turns out, it was simple. Half the credit was given for showing your work. “The answer is only half the problem,” my teacher said. “Sometimes the answer is correct, even when the steps to get there are invalid.” In other words, to prove your answers, you must be transparent about the theory behind them.

These words have stuck with me, all these years later. And I remembered them on August 12th, midway through the second hour of the Dave Ramsey Show. On this night, Dave did it again. He showed the world that his unique brand of Southern stubbornness simply will not die. He continued to attack whole life insurance, regardless of context or circumstance.

whole-life-insurance«Fortunately, I was provided a whole life policy at a young age,» Brett from Arlington, Texas says on the Ramsey Show. Now that he’s in his mid-thirties with a family, Brett feels he needs more coverage. He wants Dave’s advice on a term policy with a return of premium rider (ROP). Here I sit, car parked, right in front of my house. I had pulled into my driveway just as this segment got underway. I couldn’t get out. All I could think about was that Brett had said “whole life” and “fortunate” in the same sentence. “Dave’s not going to be happy,” I thought. “Oh, this will be fun.”

Of course, Dave quickly dismisses the ROP and tells Brett to buy a term policy without the feature. He gives a thorough and valid explanation as to why he believes this. Then — as if he were directly challenging me, like a news network moderator to an outspoken presidential nominee — he slams whole life policies and the entire insurance industry. He references Gerber Life, saying, «If you buy your life insurance from the same place you buy your baby food, you have a problem.» This is after he says that life insurance is the most gimmick-riddled industry of all.

«It’s not fortunate, it’s unfortunate,» Dave tells Brett about the whole life policy purchased for him when he was a child. «It’s a really bad product. The returns on investment are horrendous.»

But, what if this whole life policy is not an investment? What if we used it for its intended purpose … uh, what was that again? Oh, right: life insurance with premiums that will never increase and, just as important, a death benefit that will never decrease.  What if — and this is a big one, stay with me —what if the premiums under the existing policy are lower than they would be under a new policy? What if premiums for a dreaded, horrible, waste-of-paper whole life policy were equivalent or actually lower than the suggested term policy? (Take this out of context and I’ll probably be losing some carrier appointments.)

I was going to grab my financial calculator to extrapolate the math. But then I thought, “Wait a minute, Mike, if your opponent doesn’t use a calculator, isn’t it an unfair advantage for you to do so?” So, for today, no calculator. I promise … sigh.

Alright, let’s do this.

I went to Mutual of Omaha and found a $50,000 whole life policy for $16.00 per month. Since interest rates were considerably greater 30–35 years ago, the monthly premium Brett pays is likely to be lower, despite the more favorable mortality tables used today. If I had my trusty calculator, we could make a reasonable adjustment for this, but I promised to shelve the calc. for today. If only there was another way to find out how much Brett was paying for the policy. How could we do such a thing? I suppose our host could’ve asked this question, but who has time for questioning a suspect we’ve already concluded is guilty? Best we can do, then, is go with the $16 per month premium we could purchase today.

Next, how much would a $50,000 twenty-year term policy cost for a 35-year-old male? Go to and click on “instant term quote.»

Question 1: Date of Birth? Easy enough; let’s go with 1-1-1980.

Question 2: Gender? Another easy answer; male.

Question 3: Have you used any tobacco products in the last 12 months? I have no idea. Let me go listen to the radio archives found at … nope, the question wasn’t asked. How can a financial professional advise against a product whose cost is undisclosed in favor of a product whose cost will vary greatly depending on tobacco usage? I’m sure this was just an oversight.

Question 4: Your health class? Another question we can’t answer. See, this is what happens when someone who is not licensed to counsel folks on proper financial decisions does just that. Mistakes are made. It’s a mistake to advise the replacement of a life insurance policy without asking simple qualifying questions. Ask any insurance agent how to determine the suitability of a life insurance replacement, and I guarantee they’ll do a better job than Dave does here.

Using the Zander term quote, I got $7.83–$21.18 per month for a non-smoker. If Brett does smoke, the premiums vary from $19.69–$44.94. Looking at these numbers, it seems very likely that this is another example of Dave giving harmful, financially impactful advice. Dave has now convinced poor Brett to pay more for life insurance in any of the following circumstances:

A. Brett doesn’t qualify for health class underwriting, which qualifies for the lower premiums.

B. Brett has used tobacco products in the last 12 months.

C. The actual premiums for the existing policy are lower than we assumed and are thus lower than the proposed replacement.

D. The cost of insurance (premiums minus the cash value component) are less than the proposed cost of insurance adjusted for the interest gained on the «invested difference.»

E. Brett’s need for life insurance exists past the term of the purchased policy, in which case the existing policy per thousand dollars of death benefit is certainly less expensive.

F. Brett becomes uninsurable, and the purchased policy is not convertible.

G. The policy is a dividend participating policy!

We cannot ignore letter G. How can we be so certain there are no dividends being paid? Can we assume this just because Brett said he’s taken over the policy? No. We cannot. As insurance agents, how many people have we met who continue to pay the premiums despite the dividends being great enough to offset the amount due?  I personally can say I’ve seen this happen a lot. Today, many of the infant life insurance policies are non-participating.  As a whole, participating policies have lost their market share, but in the early 1980s, this simply wasn’t the case.  It’s very likely that Brett’s policy is a participating policy. This means we must add point G subset 1.

G.1. The death benefit is increasing due to dividends being applied as additional paid up life insurance.

Until a moment ago, we didn’t even discuss the possibility of dividends, which means we didn’t discuss the likelihood they were being applied towards additional paid up life insurance. On a small policy this isn’t expected to be much, but it’s certainly a point to take into consideration. Except that, in Dave’s world, it’s not. In Dave’s world, it appears that any cash value life insurance policy is suitable to be replaced as long as it’s being replaced with a term policy.

Maybe Brett is in good health and will qualify for the best underwriting class available, and maybe he hasn’t used tobacco in the last 12 months, and maybe the premiums for his existing policy aren’t lower than $16 per month. Maybe. Maybe not. But given the close proximity of the cost of both policies, even when considering the preferred underwriting qualification, the advantage must be given to the existing policy per thousand dollars of coverage.  If Brett happens to be a smoker — which, again, any LICENSED AGENT would have asked — then, all other variables ignored, Brett will pay higher premiums for a policy which has increasing premiums after 20 years.

Many question why I believe proper licensing is important. Here’s why: Licensed agents are trained and regulated to make proper comparisons. Those who don’t make proper comparisons are not likely to be practicing for long. It’s time for “entertainers” to be regulated appropriately within the industries that require regulatory oversight. We must stop the permeation of unsound, biased, mathematically flawed financial and insurance advice given by those who are not licensed to give it.

Math 118 taught me some lifelong lessons. Like Dave, I can be stubborn. In order to show how ridiculous my professor’s request was, I decided to show work that had nothing to do with the answer. After all, the test was not multiple choice. Who’s lucky enough to guess 25 random consecutive correct answers? Furthermore, what was the probability it could be done twice? Surely, my professor would have to grade this test based on the validity of my answers, since I had placated his sophomoric request to show my work. I think you can guess what happened here. On the second test, I got 25 out of 25 again, but received another failing grade. Even when I knew the likely outcome of my actions, I proceeded along the wrong course simply to prove my point.

The difference: My actions only hurt me, not eight and a half million listeners. Dave does this with life insurance and with bonds, which we’ll address next month. In both cases, bad math equals bad advice, and bad advice influences people to make bad decisions.

Is Dave actually giving advice, though? Last month, IOWAGUY commented:

«I don’t know, going on TV and saying «here is what I would do» is not practicing. Does he sell them a policy or investment? No. I can tell a friend «If I was you, I would put that inheritance in a CD.» Does that make me practicing, if I don’t sell them a CD or get paid for suggesting it? No. You can argue if the advice is good or bad, but just talking with callers does not make you practicing. Peace to all.»

I was going to reply within the comments, but this was worthy to share with everyone.


In regards to life insurance, how many people listening have now decided to surrender their cash value policies without doing the math, since Dave, with great charisma, has advised his listeners to do so? How many people have been duped into thinking a balanced fund is «very conservative» (see next month’s column)? Moreover, Dave refers to himself explicitly as ‘America’s most trusted source for financial advice.‘ So, before anyone says Dave’s not really giving financial advice and therefore shouldn’t be regulated, please check out this citation.»

Next month, we’ll grab the financial calculator and dispel Dave’s bad advice on bonds with math and a dash of wit.

As always, thanks for walking down this path with me. If you see something you’d like us to address from American’s “Favorite” finance coach, please email my editor at [email protected].

Source:, Aug 31, 2015.




The dangerous lie Dave Ramsey tells about cash value life insurance

agosto 20, 2015

The dangerous lie Dave Ramsey tells about cash value life insurance

Seriously, Dave?

Dave Ramsey has a bad habit of giving harmful advice to any caller who asks about cash value life insurance or more conservative investments. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
Dave Ramsey has a bad habit of giving harmful advice to any caller who asks about cash value life insurance or more conservative investments. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

Numbers fascinate me. Patterns and coincidence puzzle me. The other day I was in a meeting, sitting across from one of those leg-crossing men. I sat there, captivated not by the conversation but by the way he’d flick his left foot towards the ceiling no more than three times before lifting the heel of his right foot, allowing his right knee to act as the fulcrum for his bobbing left foot. I was able to predict with near certainty when he’d lift his foot to break the sequence. This was all done in my head, of course, as I suspect no one knew I was terribly bored and annoyed. Was he purposely doing this, or was the behavior so natural he was unaware of the predictability of his actions?

life insuranceWe are all creatures of habit, but bad habits can be harmful. Dave Ramsey has a bad habit of giving harmful advice to any caller who asks about cash value life insurance or more conservative investments.

On July 10th, 2015, the host of «The Dave Ramsey Show» gives very bad advice to two separate callers regarding separate issues. Dave causes thousands of dollars of harm to one caller by suggesting she cash out a cash value life insurance policy; with the other caller, he reveals his lack of understanding of bonds by suggesting a money market account to be superior. Like the leg-crossing man, Dave is a creature of habit. He gives cancerous advice over and over again.

Today we’ll disprove Dave’s recommendation that a couple cancel their cash value life insurance policy with math, fact, and a bit of sarcasm — uh, I mean wit.

The circumstances

Here’s what Dave says to the caller who owns the cash value policy — a universal life (UL) policy issued by Mutual of Omaha (MOO), to be more specific: «Yes, I would cancel this garbage,» said Dave, «[It’s] one of the worst products I’ve ever heard of … you got burned; you got fried.»

The caller, a 50-year-old women, had just finished describing how she and her 55-year-old husband had eight years ago purchased a 20-year UL policy, which had a return of premium rider (ROP) at maturity. She questioned if this was a good idea, since they aren’t good savers and this would act as a forced savings plan. It doesn’t appear they thought this was a bad choice prior to becoming Ramsey followers.  They had now paid $26,400 into the policy. If they continued to pay $3,300 for the next 12 years, they’d pay a total of $66,000 into the policy, but would be refunded $66,000. In other words, pay another $39,600 over 12 years to get a payment of $66,000. This is the contractual guarantee of the insurance policy based on the claims-paying ability of the insurer, not a hypothetical value based on aggressive assumptions that are likely to be overly allocated into particular market segments due to overlap.

Now, let’s discuss how much they can receive to cash out the policy right now. It’s just about enough to go buy a rusted-out van without windows: $2,400 according to our caller (for the insurance product, not the van).

Fifteen minutes into the meeting with the leg-crossing man, he stopped. Excitedly I watched — remember, I was quite bored — as he switched from his left foot to his right foot. His pattern changed. He went up to five foot flicks before doing a heal raise. Are you serious?! You can’t change the pattern. Yet he did.

Dave, with his southern roots of stubbornness, has never shown a propensity to change. But this time, July 10th, 2015, I actually thought Dave was about to do just that. He talked with the caller and seemed to be crunching the numbers with his imaginary financial calculator. (I assume he doesn’t own a financial calculator, given his consistently bad math and cynical criticism of those who «punch numbers.») I thought, Dave’s going to go against his heart. He is going to do what he instructs his callers to do. He will use his head and tell her to keep the MOO policy. But, as the famous saying goes, «When all you have is a hammer, then everything you see is a nail.» And Dave hammered the screw into the wood until it bent over and wouldn’t go in any further.

Dave tells the caller to cancel this thing out, to invest the $3,300 into «good» growth mutual funds and to do so in a Roth IRA. Dave gave advice he’s not licensed to give when he suggested the caller replace, finance or terminate an existing life insurance policy and instead invest those premiums into securities. Given the regular and consistent recommendation to implement his advice through one of his endorsed local providers (who, as discussed in an earlier column, pay a fee to Dave for these referrals), regulators must not continue to allow such devastatingly incorrect dribble to be broadcast without consequence.

The math

Enough with the verbal argument; it’s time for the … dun dun dun … math. You knew I’d eventually pull out my nerd machine. OK, here we go. The first set of math is easy: Continue to pay $3,300 for an additional 12 years and get $66,000 back, with no risk other than the (very unlikely) financial default of one of the oldest and largest insurers in our industry.

The next set of math takes a bit more work. Right now, the couple pays the premiums annually by using their tax return refund. Dave says to adjust their withholding to eliminate the refund. Then, he recommends that they set up an auto draft to invest each month. Take the $2,400 cash value and invest that, too. If you want to follow along with me using your HP 10bII+, then here are your inputs:

$2,400 PV (present value), 1% I (interest), 144 N (number of periods; 12 years times 12 months per year).

Using the one percent interest per term input given above, we get a hypothetical return greater than Dave’s famously inaccurate, inept, cancerous 12 percent assumption, since ours is NOT an average annual rate. Input $275 under PMT (payment), and you get ninety three thousand.

But, wait a minute … bad math equals bad advice. Our couple won’t have $275 to invest, oh no. There are several deductions we need to make before arriving at our investable number. First, our couple will be without life insurance. Dave and I BOTH believe in the value of life insurance. Dave counsels his followers to purchase life insurance at a value of 10x income, or, in the case of a stay-at-home parent, $400,000. (I use “counsels,” since, not being licensed, he is careful to avoid using the word “advise.”) Not knowing what our couple makes, since Dave did not ask, I used Dave’s $400,000 number. (For your consideration, you should also know he did not ask how much debt they have, nor how much they have for emergency savings.)

Anyway, back to the rabbit hole. We need to know how much to deduct from the $275 of monthly premium. Where could I find a reliable quote from a company Dave trusts? Ha! I went to Zander insurance agency, «the only company,» Dave trusts. I used their simple and consumer-friendly online calculator. (Seriously, it was an easy process; I give kudos where kudos are due.) Lastly, in an effort to give Dave’s bad advice every advantage, I assumed our mid-50s couple would qualify for the absolute best non-smoker health rating, even though I’m not sure what kind of health they’re in. Do you know why I don’t know what kind of health they are in? Because the popular radio show host was more concerned with bashing a reputable company and a particular type of product than he was with getting the facts.

Now, imagine my surprise when I saw the company who had the lowest rate among the quotes provided by Zander. It was comical to see our friends in the wild kingdom, United of Omaha, perched at the top of the winner’s circle. (For readers who are not insurance people, United of Omaha is part of Mutual of Omaha.) The rates for a 10-year term policy were $31.72 and $64.62 per month. So, rather than having $275 to invest per month, our couple only has $178.66 to invest per month.

Now that we have our input for PMT, we can solve for FV (future value). Hit the button and we get sixty seven thousa … dang it, I forgot another detail. Dave recommends the use of front-end load (this means commission) mutual funds. He recommends you do this over four fund types: growth, growth and income, aggressive growth and international. Amazingly, this isn’t seen as advice, since it’s not specific to the particular fund.

I want to get back to the math but we need to first take a little field trip. Don’t worry this will be f-u-n, fun.

Dave often says that if we flip a question so that we use our brain and not our hearts, then the answer will become clear. For example, he’ll ask someone who wants to invest $10,000 rather than use it to pay off $5,000 of interest-free credit card debt whether they would still think it was a good idea if we flipped the question around. Meaning would they, with no debt, take out $5,000 on a no-interest card to invest in the market. Everyone says, of course not. Dave smiles and tallies up another victory on his wall of glory. So let’s do the same, shall we?

Imagine if Bernie Madoff, who’s clearly barred from the securities world — as well as the free world, for that matter — were to develop a newsletter from his posh 8×8 Italian brick cell. Bernie’s newsletter preached how to make sure you’re not investing in a Ponzi scheme. Next, imagine that after enough positive public brand equity, Bernie were to create a system in which he could make money by referring his followers somewhere. I’m not too creative, so why don’t we just say he calls it Bernie’s Accredited Representative of Finance (BARF for short). Like Dave’s followers do with ELPs, Bernie’s followers could meet with a BARF advisor to invest in financial products. Our BARF founder would be paid a fee for each referral.

I’m not saying ELPs are anything but wonderful. I am saying that Dave is giving advice he’s not licensed to give, and that he should be held accountable. Currently Dave says whatever he wants. Since he’s not providing financial or insurance advice, he’s not under regulatory authority. And here’s where it gets fun. Would you say the same thing about Bernie’s BARFs? Would you agree that it’s not Bernie giving the advice, it’s his BARFers that are giving it? Our brains tell us this wouldn’t be right, and that regulators should step in to prevent such … what is the phrase I’m looking for … ah! … such parasitic, cancerous advice from being given.

Yes, more math

Here’s the last round of math. Brace yourself.

Our couple doesn’t have $275 per month to invest, nor $178.66. After deducting 5.75 percent for commissions, they only have $168.39 to spend. Solve for future value and we get $64,631. Are you kidding me? Dave «counseled» our couple, without knowing how much they have saved, without knowing their health, without knowing how much debt they have and without knowing their income to give up a guaranteed amount of $66,000 with no risk other than the default of MOO. He said to instead invest those dollars into an allocation of securities, which has a large potential for over-concentration into particular market segments and which is arguably more risky than the contractual minimum obligation of the «horrid» UL policy. Moreover, even at a compounded annual growth rate that exceeds the inexcusably deceitful, overly optimistic number he undoubtedly uses himself, this investment comes $1,369 shy of what our couple could’ve had, had they only not taken a bite of the forbidden fruit. In the words of my friend Jim Carey when playing Ace Ventura, «lah-who’a-zer.» (By the way, I’m not actually friends with Jim, but I would certainly consider accepting a friend request from him on Facebook.)

You might remember that I had planned on discussing how Dave gave equally bad advice to another caller on the very same show. But we are out of space; I already get yelled at over my word counts. We’ll circle back to that tragedy next month. Besides I need to keep some content in reserve for future columns … er … who am I kidding? As long as Dave keeps being a creature of habit, I’ll never run out of inaccurate advice void of proper mathematical footing.

As always, thanks for walking down this path with me. If you see something you’d like us to address from American’s “Favorite” finance coach, please email my editor at [email protected].

Source: –  07/20/15



These are the 7 steps Dave Ramsey followers really need

Ramsey’s tenets sound pretty good … until you actually look at his math.



Why Dave Ramsey is wrong about permanent life insurance

abril 2, 2015

Why Dave Ramsey is wrong about permanent life insurance

In his arguments for term insurance, Dave Ramsey accidentally reveals why permanent insurance can be better. (AP Photo/John Russell)
In his arguments for term insurance, Dave Ramsey accidentally reveals why permanent insurance can be better. (AP Photo/John Russell)

It’s absolutely, unequivocally, undeniably, inexplicably clear Dave Ramsey does NOT believe in permanent insurance. He believes there’s no need for life insurance when you have no mortgage, no debts, and have saved hundreds of thousands of dollars earning 12 percent “average” annual returns.

life-insurance-policy-02Dave tells his followers to be intentional with their money. Is it possible Dave is intentional with his wordings? Is it possible Dave himself would’ve been better off owning permanent insurance rather than term? Is it possible Dave is wrong about 12 percent annual returns (which is another primary reason he advises term)? Is it possible there’s a perpetual need for permanent insurance for some people, and that permanent insurance provides increased liquidity and spending capability in retirement?

The math proves yes.

Permanent vs. term: A mathematical analysis

A while back I stumbled upon an episode of Dave’s TV show in which he read an email from a listener named Tyler that posed the following question: How can you advise term insurance when it expires just when people need it the most? In response, Dave tried to insult Tyler, saying he sounded like a true life insurance salesman. Dave goes on to explain that he recommends term because when it expires his followers will have no debt, no house payment and hundreds of thousands in savings.

As the rant continues, Dave accidentally reveals one reason why permanent insurance can be better.  It’s not about the level premiums or the internal rates of return or estate taxes or income replacement as my compadres (as one reader referred to us last month) have vehemently argued in the past. It’s about security. Insurance equals security, and the security of death benefit proceeds doesn’t completely or necessarily evaporate with the elimination of debt and/or creation of wealth.

Dave has said, and I quote: “I’m 47 years old and still carry a few million in term insurance because SWI.”  He gets this southern boy grin and explains, “SWI is because Sharon wants it.” (Sharon is Dave’s wife.) He goes on to say that it’s more important to have the coverage than it is to put something new on her finger.

Now, this is where we get to have some fun.

Let’s look at the math between permanent and term for a hypothetical 40-year-old. We need a name for our mystery man. Let’s call him Dave, shall we? We’ll compare Dave buying a 20-year term policy at ages 40 and 60 versus buying a guaranteed universal life policy (GUL) at age 40. With the term scenario, we’ll assume he invests the saved premium into the market. We’ll break down the comparison with the following gross rates of return rate: 6, 8, 10, and 12. We’ll factor 1 percent for annual expenses and front end sales charges of 5.75 percent. Lastly, we’ll review if being half wrong on the rate of return equals out to half the value. (Your guess is as good as mine, unless of course you’re guessing yes … then your guess is half as good as mine.)

I ran the rates through a life insurance quote engine and took the median price for each age bracket, assuming the best underwriting health class. Keep in mind that I’m giving a huge advantage to term here, since it’s more likely for a 40-year-old to qualify for best class underwriting and less likely for a 60-year-old, which is the attained age for the second term scenario.

Using today’s rates, our 40-year-old Dave can get a $2M-death-benefit, 20-year term policy for around $1,345 per year. The 60-year-old Dave could purchase the same policy for $9,830. In comparison, our 40-year-old Dave could purchase a GUL for $10,170.

This means the 40-year-old term-buyer can invest $8,317 after sales charges into four different Class A “good growth” mutual funds. (Remember I’m only referring to our hypothetical Dave, not the real Dave. Use the math as illustrative and inspiration to do the math. Side note: One thing the real Dave and I agree on: Being intentional with our wordings is impactful.)

The 60-year-old Dave only has about $320 of saved premiums to invest per year.

I’ve also assumed that once every 10 years we’ll want to completely rebalance the gains in the portfolio. This would create capital gains and additional sales charges. In other words, we have a portfolio turnover rate of once every 20–30 years, since we’re only rebalancing or reallocating the gains.

Here’s how the chart looks for each at 10, 20, 30 and 40 years.

Years / (hypothetical Dave Age) 5% Net Rate of Return 7% Net Rate of Return 9% Net Rate of Return 11% Net Rate of Return
10 / (50) $99,089 $106,737 $115,238 $124,680
20 / (60) $244,448 $290,125 $347,474 $419,647
30 / (70) $362,407 $502,573 $704,687 $997,585
40 / (80) $535,447 $867,583 $1,424,567 $2,364,854

Dave yells at financial people like myself for hurting people with our “theories” and lack of real world experience helping people.  He jokes about how we grab for our HP calculators. Well, my HP calculator proves his math wrong. Even at a gross 10 percent compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) you have nearly $600k less than the death benefit of the life insurance in 40 years.

Who wants 10 percent when they can get 12 percent? The 12 percent Dave uses is an average rate, not a CAGR (see Stoffel vs Ramsey). Ten percent CAGR for the S&P 500 is more mathematically valid than 12 percent. Remember that stock price reflects growth, which is partly a byproduct of inflation. The currently higher CAGR includes higher inflationary periods, which, during lower inflationary periods like we’re in now, equates to lower CAGR. Hence, the long term 12 percent math is flawed. Warren Buffett expects CAGR to be closer to 7 percent due to the lower inflationary period we’re currently in.

Dave’s math is further flawed given two things:

First, the majority of the savings between term and GUL is during the first 20 years, not the second.   Thus, a lower CAGR during this period would greatly reduce the outcome.

Second, the death benefit of the life insurance is guaranteed. It’s not hypothetical. It’s a risk-free $2M benefit (oh, and tax-free,too … the numbers above don’t account for any estate taxes). Now, what would the risk adjusted return of the S&P 500 be? I’ve seen that number to be less than 5 percent. In fact, one of our readers who is an actuarial statistician wrote to me personally and showed how he got 4.91 percent. (Thank you, Anthony!)

Side note: Ever wonder why at 12 percent returns anyone would pay off a mortgage? One reader last month sent in an audio clip where a millionaire asked why he should pay off his 4 percent fixed interest rate mortgage. In summation, Dave said the 12 percent has risk and being debt free changes your mindset. (Thanks for the clip, William!) Shouldn’t this be the same argument with permanent life insurance?  The death benefit is guaranteed, whereas the discipline to save the additional premiums, the rate of growth and the number of years to grow are not guaranteed. Hence, the additional risk outweighs the possible additional benefit.

Those who practice personal finance and make plans for an individual’s specific situation are held accountable to the mathematical results. We use calculators to examine the results. In the Total Money Makeover, on TV, and on the radio, Dave often proclaims that even if he’s half wrong, he has still helped his followers. Just like term insurance isn’t better 100 percent of the time, this conclusion isn’t 100 percent correct. It’s nowhere close, in fact. If the math is half wrong, if 12 percent gross is actually 6 percent gross — which is 5 percent net after the 1 percent fee — then the person who followed this advice would’ve bought term, invested the difference, and been left with $1.4M LESS than the $2M death benefit in 40 YEARS.

Let that sink in for a minute.

The cost of security

The real Dave Ramsey owned term insurance at age 47, and showed no regrets about owning it, nor any indication his term insurance ownership years were coming to an end. If the real Dave had bought permanent insurance at age 40 right now, he would be better off at age 54. He would be better off through his early 80s, even at a 10 percent gross rate of return. He would be better off not because of the internal rates of return, but because of his family’s desire for security. See, we make the mistake of believing that at $1M of liquid savings we’ll be secure. When $1M is your new normal, then $1M is where you feel secure. Then it’s $2M, then it’s $4M, and so on. Once you have what you’ve got, you don’t feel comfortable going backwards. Losing your spouse financially means the reduction of income, whether by the elimination of wages, pensions, or Social Security. Life insurance provides security against this.

Now some of you may argue the GUL premiums don’t cease at age 80, whereas if we see a 10 percent gross CAGR then the saved insurance premiums plus interest have matched the desired security blanket somewhere past age 80. You’re right; you pay the GUL premiums until you pass. This may be prior to reaching 80, or it may be later. But I think this was a fair comparison. If you want to squibble about it, then let’s squibble over the rate of return, as well. Anyway, to prevent future squibbling I ran a 10 pay GUL policy starting at age 40 and paid up at 50. (And don’t yell at me about “squibble” not being a word.  It’s not. I made it up. I took a page out of Mr. Ramsey’s book: see investing advisor.)

We accounted for the cost of term insurance during the different age bands based on the rates assumed earlier. The first table below shows term insurance ending at age 60; the second shows it ending at age 80.

Term ending at age 60

Years / (hypothetical Dave Age) 5% Net Rate of Return 7% Net Rate of Return 9% Net Rate of Return 11% Net Rate of Return
10 / (50) $257,422 $269,777 $291,261 $315,126
20 / (60) $377,626 $463,506 $586,968 $745,518
30 / (70) $553,960 $796,355 $1,182,897 $1,763,724
40 / (80) $812,634 $1,368,225 $2,383,854 $4,172,565

Term ending at age 80

Years / (hypothetical Dave Age) 5% Net Rate of Return 7% Net Rate of Return 9% Net Rate of Return 11% Net Rate of Return
10 / (50) $257,422 $269,777 $291,261 $315,126
20 / (60) $365,065 $449,708 $571,796 $728,816
30 / (70) $443,730 $671,804 $1,041,432 $1,602,160
40 / (80) $559,128 $1,053,390 $1,987,874 $3,668,292

Again, the glaring point here is that being half wrong on the rate of return doesn’t equate to the outcome being half as much! This is why we use calculators and not blank statements or simplistic math that isn’t valid. (Thanks, HP calculator.) Furthermore, if you argue the first chart is more accurate since if you save the money you’ll no longer “need” the insurance, remember the mathematical need is not the same as the behavioral reality to maintain the additional security. Lastly, the ending amounts do not account for estate taxes, which certainly do change from time to time and would make the tax-free benefit of life insurance more attractive.

Building an estate with life insurance

I noted earlier that life insurance can be used to create an estate. It doesn’t sound like a radical assertion, I know, but it goes against what Dave says.

On July 14th, 2014 a reader asked Dave if his 71-year-old mother should continue a universal life insurance policy she purchased to leave an estate, or if there was a better investment alternative.  Dave answered this: “…You don’t use life insurance to leave an estate. It’s a bad idea. You leave an estate by saving and investing. The only people who will tell you to use a life insurance policy to leave an estate are life insurance salesmen.”

Wrong! Just plain wrong. Many individuals benefit from using life insurance in an estate. Let’s call our 71-year-old woman Betty. Like many of her generation, Betty has plenty of income from Social Security and pensions, but has relatively lower invested assets. At this point she’d like to make sure she leaves an estate. How would this be a bad thing? Earlier I mentioned the show where a caller asked why he should pay off his mortgage, since earning 12 percent growth is much better than 4 percent paid in interest.  Dave replied that if your house was paid off and you were told to take out a mortgage and invest the proceeds, you’d think that was nuts. What he meant was that the security of having one’s house paid is greater than the potential additional interest made through leveraging. As our examples illustrated, the security of a known amount is better than the potential interest made through leveraging one’s need or desire for death benefit proceeds with volatile 100 percent stock investments made over the course of many years.

Here’s a shortened version of Dave’s response to Betty’s investment dilemma: “It would probably take about 13 years for the money to turn into $250,000. Assuming she’s healthy, I’d rather do that and bet on her living. That way, she can leave an estate and avoid the expense and rip-off part of the universal life policy.”

Interestingly enough, my HP calculator found that Dave’s right: It would only take 13.75 years to accumulate $250,000 if I input a 12 percent CAGR. But Dave has stated he understands the difference between compounded and average. He has also stated that he uses the 12 percent “average” rate to inspire and illustrate the power of compounding interest (once again see Stofell vs Ramsey). Yet when we do the math here, he’s using his standard go-to number of 12 percent, but in CAGR function not averaging. (There are plenty of examples online which will show how the math differs. Just use Google.)

Here’s the problem. First, when you use different growth methods at different times and don’t differentiate, it becomes very hard for people to know what you mean. Second, the average life expectancy for a 71-year-old female is 15 years (15.6 years, to be precise). So, what if Dave is half wrong? What if she earns only 6 percent before fees? Then it takes a bit over 20 years. If we account for the same tax and rebalancing as earlier, then it’s nearly 24 years. Furthermore, this assumption puts a portfolio which exceeds the average risk tolerance for most 71-year-old individuals. Therefore, even if the math is correct, it’s improbable that our Betty will maintain this course during adverse periods.

Think of it this way: When Betty first starts putting money away, she can be riskier with these funds. As the balance accumulates and her life expectancy decreases, it’s reasonable to conclude she’d want to scale back on risk. It is one thing to experience a downturn after year three or four, when there’s only twenty to thirty thousand dollars at stake, but when the number is bigger — say a hundred thousand or so — then a sizable downturn has a greater impact, especially when you consider her life expectancy has decreased. Will she live long enough for the benefit to come back? Will she continue to save and invest during this period?

The importance of income replacement 

Lastly, let’s look at income replacement. Let’s talk Social Security for a moment. A few years ago we started to notice a trend. I noticed that married spouses rarely pass away in the same year. Mind-blowing information there, I know! When the first spouse passes, the surviving spouse (assuming they don’t remarry) is taxed as a single individual the following calendar year. The surviving spouse also loses the smaller of the two Social Security benefits and possibly some pension income, but let’s ignore that.

Here’s an example: Let’s say that Bob and Mary get $3,000 per month from Social Security combined. Bob gets $1,800 and Mary gets $1,200.They take out $1500 per month from their IRAs to supplement their income. They have no debts. They just like to live life, travel some, and help out the kids or grandkids where they can. In short, they’re a normal couple. Approximately $500 of their Social Security benefits are taxed. No big deal. Their adjusted gross income is $18,500 and standard deductions should wipe out all of their federal income tax liability.

Bob dies. And here’s the trend we’ve noticed. Spending doesn’t drastically change. Mary still wants to do the things she did while they were together.  She still wants to give or help out the kids, do a little traveling, and live life. There are a few bills that are eliminated from Bob’s death, say a Medicare Part B premium, a car insurance, a supplemental insurance, and a cell phone bill. But overall, two do not spend much more than one. After Bob’s death, bottom line expenses change by less than $500 per month.  Mary’s new Social Security benefit is only $1,800, and her monthly income need has gone from $4,500 down to $4,000.

What to do? We’ve noticed many who were taking $2,200 from the IRAs continue to do what they were doing before. The $2,200 per month distribution was $700 per month more than before, or $9,400 more annually. At the end of the year, Mary would owe a little more than $4,500 of tax she didn’t owe before.  This wasn’t to increase her lifestyle; it was just to maintain it. If we deducted this as a monthly amount, she’d be short about $400 per month. If she wanted to make that up, she’d have to increase her withdrawals by another $5,500 per year. So, while as a married couple Mary and Bob were fine, as a surviving spouse, Mary must increase her distributions by about $14,000 per year. Not to mention, without any life insurance, their estate saw a negative cash flow of about $30k for burial and income for the 12 months +/- depending on funeral costs and depending on the month Bob passed. In this example, $20k-50k of permanent insurance would be beneficial to some and unnecessary for others depending on the other details regarding their personal situation.

How life insurance can increase spending capacity

I noted earlier that permanent life insurance can increase the spending capacity for retirees. I’ll give you a simple scenario. I met a woman whose husband had passed. He left her with $400,000. Together they had a goal of leaving $50,000 to each of their five children. To accomplish this goal without life insurance, she would need to purchase standalone LTCI insurance to protect against future healthcare costs, and could only base spending on the $150,000 of net assets. She would need to continue to work to make sure this would happen. The solution offered by life insurance is much more attractive: All she needed to do was purchase permanent life insurance. Make it a single pay and then make an irrevocable life insurance trust the owner. This eliminates the need for LTCI insurance, frees up more cash flow and leaves her with over $300,000 to spend as she sees fit, while still accomplishing their goal of leaving $50,000 to each child. The freed-up premiums would have increased her cash flow and therefore freed income to spend by nearly $400 per month, and now she had two times the amount of assets to draw an income from. Permanent insurance can increase one’s spending capacity if used in the correct form for the correct situation.

Dave Ramsey is an intelligent person. He understands the difference between compounded annualized growth rates and annual averages, but chooses to ignore the mathematical impact since the wonder of compounding interest will “inspire” people to invest. He asserts that we math nerds fight over a few percentage points which are irrelevant as long as he gets people to invest. He says there’s no need for permanent insurance, that it’s garbage and a rip-off. He uses the example of a 32-year-old buying a 20-year term policy who follows the Ramsey system to illustrate why permanent life insurance is not needed. Yet poor unknowing Dave proves his very own point wrong by sharing with us that, at 47 years old, with no personal or corporate debt, no mortgage, ample savings, and ample income, he still maintains coverage past the point where his plan says it’s needed.

I’m not making this up. I’m just stating the facts. The fact is term insurance exists for a reason. It’s good and appropriate for people given particular objectives, needs and desires. The fact is permanent insurance exists for a reason. It’s good and appropriate for people given particular objectives, needs and desires.

Source: LifeHealthPRO, Apr 17, 2015.



Two great Dave Ramsey myths, debunked

marzo 31, 2015

Two great Dave Ramsey myths, debunked
Seriously, Dave?

Personal finance guru Dave Ramsey works in his broadcast studio in Brentwood, Tenn., on March 23, 2006. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
Personal finance guru Dave Ramsey works in his broadcast studio in Brentwood, Tenn., on March 23, 2006. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

Last month, I wrote about the Seven steps Dave Ramsey followers really need to thrive financially. I was astonished with the amount of interest and debate the piece sparked. To the many who support our voyage, thank you and I’m excited to walk with you down this path, holding America’s Favorite Finance Coach accountable for his investment advice. To the critics who believe anyone disagreeing with the guru means they haven’t read his books, listened to his show, or attended his FPU … you’re wrong, wrong, and right. I have not attended FPU nor do I intend to. I don’t need to smoke a cigarette to know they stink, cost lots of money, and are negative for my long-term health. Financial Peace University is taught by those who’ve mistakenly taken a myth for a truth.

This sort of mix-up is one that Dave is familiar with.

«I have heard it said that if you tell a lie often enough, loudly enough, and long enough, the myth will become a fact. Repetition, volume, and longevity will twist and turn a myth, or a lie, into a commonly accepted way of doing things.»

-David L. Ramsey III “The Total Money Makeover” (TTMM)

Hmm … 12 percent annualized rates of return, 8 percent safe withdrawal rates, no debt EVER, 7 percent mortgage rates used to debunk the tax benefits of mortgage interest, 100 percent stock-based mutual fund portfolios, asset allocation is a dupe, term insurance is better than permanent … I could keep going but I think you get the point.  Many of Dave’s truths are actually myths, but they’re said often enough and passionately enough that their validity is accepted without challenge.

Myth No. 1: The Ramsey brand of endorsement benefits clients and advisors.

Let’s turn our attention toward a classic Ramsey-backed idea: the endorsed local provider, or ELP. To be or not to be an ELP, that is the question.

Working with an ELP or an investing advisor (Dave’s fictitious title, not mine) is recommended in Step 4 of Dave’s seven-step plan. Please note that an investing advisor is not the same thing as an investment advisor representative (IAR). They get paid to sell you something not give you advice. But that’s not the real issue here. The real issue is I don’t think Dave actually believes in some of the core teachings he spouts with, as he puts it, “extreme confidence.”

It’s important to note up-front that Dave’s entire marketing plan points to the fact that his recommended advisors must be commission-based, rather than fee-based. Instead of going into his reasons, let’s take a look at the facts.

Fact: Investment advisors are prohibited from using endorsement. SEC Rule 206(4)-1(a)(1) of the Investment Advisers Act of 1940 determined testimonials or endorsements are a form of misleading advertising since they only share positive experiences.

Fact: The statement found on Dave’s site, “98 percent of users highly recommend using an ELP” would most likely be in violation of SEC Rule 206(4)-1(a)1.

Fact: The very term Endorsed Local Providers would also most likely violate the above rule.  I suppose you could argue he could rename them Dave’s Elite Squadron of Advisors. (Dave, if you’re reading this, feel free to use this term. No royalties needed.)

Fact: If ELPs were IARs they would have to disclose they pay a fee for the clients referred to them by the Ramsey system. 

Fact: Working in a fee-based relationship would make it nearly impossible for ELPs to take on the types of clients Dave sends their way. 

Fact: Dave states he at some point held the appropriate investment, insurance, or real-estate licensing to give advice in the applicable areas. I could not find a currently registered or previously registered IAR or FA whose full name matched or was from the Tennessee area.

OK, so, if the name is no longer ELP and we remove Dave’s endorsement (he could still use his name in the agency titling, or advertise the firm on his site and his workshops with much success, I’m sure) and we omitted that 98 percent of users highly recommend an ELP, then his team could work as fee-based advisors, right? Not quite. Even if the necessary changes were made to Dave’s marketing approach, a fee-based advisor would very likely starve by working as an ELP.

Let’s look at the math behind all of this. While it was impossible to find the exact referral fee paid to Ramsey for the endorsement, multiple Google searches revealed fees ranging from a few hundred dollars well into the thousands. For the purpose of this column, let’s settle on a referral fee of $100 dollars, which seems reasonable compared to other lead sources.

Now, here’s the math for an American household with an annual income of $48,000 (the average annual wage for U.S. households, as provided by Dave) that is looking to invest 15% of said annual income, per Dave’s Step 4.

Average American household income: $48,000.

Example of 401k Employer Match: 3%

$48,000 x 15% = $7,200

$48,000 x 3% 401k employee contribution (to max out employer match): $1,440

$7,200- $1,440 = $5,760 left to invest with ELP per year, or $480 per month.

In scenario one, let’s consider an ELP who is fee-based at 1 percent AUM.  ELPs must have the heart of a teacher, not a salesperson. So we can assume they’d meet with the client a few times prior to making any recommendations. After investing 2–3 hours (roughly 1 hour per appointment) the ELP accepts a check from our client in the amount of $480. For the purposes of our example, let’s assume the initial investment takes place at the beginning of a quarterly billing cycle. Over the cycle, there’s $1,440 invested, but only an average balance of $960. The ELP would be entitled to one quarter’s advisory fees of .25% (1% divided by 4 quarters). In other words, our ELP would make a whopping $2.40 for 3+ hours of work.

But Mike, you’ve forgot these fees add up! Why, yes, they do. One full year later the client’s balance will be $6,087. (I used the conservative, widely-agreed-upon, historical S&P 500 12 percent average rate of return.)  If billed at that amount, our ELP would make a meager $15.22 for the first quarter billing. I even rounded up.

First year total fee compensation: $37.48

Second year total fee compensation: $103.11

Total compensation, first two years combined $140.59

I know ELPs are supposed to have the heart of a teacher, but in a fee-based relationship they certainly wouldn’t be compensated as much as one. If the ELP were to meet with the client a few times at the beginning and once a year for the first two years, then our ELP would have at least 5 hours invested with them.  If we subtract $100 from the total fees paid to the advisor of $140.59 (remember, this is going to Dave for the referral), then our ELP is left with $40.59 for two years’ worth of work.

Let that sink in for a moment, then we’ll move on to scenario two.

This time, our ELP is commission-based and uses mutual funds with 5.75 percent upfront sales charges. Every month, the ELP will make $27.60. He or she will also have some ongoing compensation from the funds sold and kept. Yet just the commissions will equal $662.40 over the two-year span. Subtract the $100 referral fee and you’re left with $562.40. That’s $521.81 greater than our first scenario.

Here are a few other things to consider. Will the ELP convert every referral? Not likely. Let’s say he or she converts 70 percent of referrals. Most referral services, and presumably this one as well, charge per referral sent, not per referral captured. So, 10 referrals equals seven clients.

Here’s the fee-based total over two years:

7 x $140.59= $984.31 minus $1,000 (10 referrals at $100/ea.) = ($15.69)

Here’s the commission-based total over two years:

7 x $662.40= $4,636.80 minus $1,000 (10 referrals at $100/ea.)= $3,636.80

Our fee-based ELP is in the red after two years. This person has worked for FREE for two years! What if they got two referrals per month rather than 10 referrals over two years?  I’m not going to bore you with prorating them, let’s just use the same math as above. Two referrals leads to 16 clients (yes, 70 percent of 24 is 16.8 however you can’t have a partial person; we only count whole people here) which gives us a loss of $150.56.

How many 100-percent altruistic advisors do you expect are out there?

Myth No. 2: Invest Dave’s way, and you can expect a 12 percent annualized rate of return.

I said earlier Dave doesn’t even believe his own math. He defines long-term investing as five years or longer. He then says to pick out a “good” mutual fund. Dave says never finance a car, yet today you can finance a used car for 1–3 percent. (Dave and I agree new cars are highly depreciable and often a poor choice.)  If you can make a 12 percent average on your good ole mutual funds, then why wouldn’t you invest the $10,000 car fund and make payments? Oh, because if you play with snakes you will get bitten! But here’s the thing: We’re talking about folks who have completed Steps 1–3 and are midway through Step 4. They’ve got a robust emergency savings now and no debt. Couldn’t they afford to do this?  Haven’t they proved they have the discipline to be financially responsible?

Dave clearly doesn’t believe in the 12 percent returns fallacy. Why? Ask this question: What about a mortgage? You don’t ever want a mortgage longer than 15 years, according to the guru. What about the tax deduction CPAs tout? “I can do the math,” Dave says. Why pay $7,000 in mortgage interest (7 percent is his number, not mine) on a $100,000 mortgage to save $2,100 in taxes (he uses 30 percent).  Um … I can do math, too. One hundred thousand dollars will make 12 percent. Twelve percent interest on $100,000 is $12,000. Mortgage rates are 4 percent, not 7 percent. And let’s use the more typical federal bracket of 15 percent, since the 30 percent pertains to higher income individuals who are certainly NOT using his advice.

OK, so $12,000 in interest. We’ll assume gains are taxed as capital gains, since I can’t imagine how he’d argue for using IRA dollars to pay off the mortgage. So, here’s what we have:

$12,000 ­– $4,000 in mortgage interest paid + $600 tax deduction = $8,600 (capital gains tax should not be applicable)

That’s right: If you believe in 12 percent long-term averages, you do not pay off your mortgage early.  And you will not be bitten by snakes because you have discipline. You have proven your discipline by accumulating 3–6 months’ worth of expenses in cash savings and by paying off all of your debts, according to the earlier steps in Dave’s plan.

If all of this is true, Dave Ramsey doesn’t believe in 12 percent returns for long-term averaging and neither should anyone else.

The big picture

There are many great advisors out there.  Many of these hardworking, honest, sincere, and genuine advisors also happen to be ELPs. ELPs are not bad. Commission-based investing has its place. The collage of contradictions and inaccuracies related to Dave’s “investing advisors” and his “investment” advice are what bother me.

I’m very lucky to be walking this journey with you all. Thank you for your support.  Help me hold America’s Favorite Finance Coach accountable to his words by emailing my editor [email protected] with any thoughts or questions.  And, in the words of all of our mothers, “words hurt people; choose them wisely.”

Source: Life Health PRO.

Michael Markey

About the Author

  • Michael Markey

    Michael is a co-founder and owner of Legacy Financial Network and its associated companies. His vision has expanded the organization from one location to three, with the hopes to make Legacy a nationwide company. He attained his Bachelor’s degree from Eastern Michigan University while playing baseball for the Eagles. Currently, he attends Northwestern University where he’s completing a post graduate degree in financial planning.

    Michael’s accolades include being recognized as the trainer of the year for a previous insurance employer and being a Million Dollar Round Table member in 2010, ’11, ’12, ’13. He earned Court of the Table honors in ’11 and ’12 and Top of the Table honors in ’13. You can hear him locally on 102.9 FM every Thursday at 11 am for his weekly radio show, “Financially Tuned.”

    In addition to being an Investment Advisor Representative for LFN Advisors LLC, and an Insurance Agent for Legacy Financial Network, Michael’s main passions are his family and his faith. He shares his faith with his clients and incorporates it into the Legacy four step system. If you’re on the lakeshore, you’re likely to see Mike and his family on their 1966 wooden boat during the summer.


These are the 7 steps Dave Ramsey followers really need

marzo 30, 2015

These are the 7 steps Dave Ramsey followers really need

Seriously, Dave?

Ramsey’s tenets sound pretty good … until you actually look at his math. (AP Photo/Josh Anderson,File)
Ramsey’s tenets sound pretty good … until you actually look at his math. (AP Photo/Josh Anderson,File)

It’s no secret that many financial professionals don’t agree with much of the advice Dave Ramsey gives. This is because his financial assumptions are often false. Yes, he’s entertaining, but truly helpful … not always.

About a year and a half ago, Ramsey used Twitter to lash out at several financial professionals who had been chastising his investing advice. He tweeted:

@ScottTruhlar @BasonAsset @behaviorgap @CarolynMcC// I help more people in 10 min. than all of you combined in your ENTIRE lives #stophating

— Dave Ramsey (@DaveRamsey) June 1, 2013

These comments strike me to the core. Many financial professionals help more people in the course of their career than Dave Ramsey ever will. So this column is for you, the thousands of financial professionals who strap on your boots (boots sounds tougher than nice leather oxford shoes), and spend their days, nights, sometimes their weekends helping everyday Americans struggling with poor spending and savings habits. Every month, I will dissect a piece of Ramsey’s financial advice and hold him accountable to providing sound financial principals instead of idealistic fallacies. If the pen is actually mightier than the sword, then, Sir Dave, I challenge you to a duel of math and wit.

l7 baby steps to getting out of debt

Let’s start at the beginning. On his website, Ramsey lists “7 baby steps to getting out of debt.” These steps are the cornerstone to his popular book Total Money Makeover. Like so much of his advice, they sound good until you dig in and challenge the assumptions.

There are savers and spenders in this world. Ramsonites are inherently spenders. If they were savers they wouldn’t need his seven-step system. Spending is an addictive habit, which leads to less and less contentment as time goes by. Other addiction counseling services have found it takes 12 steps to recovery, not seven, but I digress. The table below outlines Dave’s seven steps, and what I believe they should be:

1. Save $1,000 emergency fund 1. Save $5,000 emergency fund
2. Pay off debt using the Debt Snowball 2. Give
3. Save 3-6 month’s worth of expenses 3. Save 3-6 month’s worth of expenses
4. Invest 15% of gross earnings 4. Equally pay off debt using Debt Snowball and invest until debt is eliminated and investing 15% of gross wages.
5. College funding for children 5. Personal decision (pros/cons)
6. Pay off home early 6. Good idea unless close to retirement and using liquid retirement assets
7. Build wealth and give 7. Give MORE!

Now, let’s go through these step by step to illuminate the strengths and weaknesses.


Step one: Save $1,000 for an emergency fund. Ramsey calls for this $1,000 emergency fund to pay for “… those unexpected events in life that you can’t plan for: the loss of a job, an unexpected pregnancy, a faulty car transmission, and the list goes on and on. It’s not a matter of if these events will happen; it’s simply a matter of when they will happen.”

This is a good first step, considering that you can’t save $1,000 before you’ve saved $10 or $100. However, what does $1,000 really prepare you for? By Ramsey’s definition the loss of a job — but if you’re making $12 per hour, then you’ve managed to save a whopping 2 weeks’ worth of wages (cut it in half for a dual earning household). How far will $1,000 go towards an unexpected pregnancy or a faulty car transmission? Dave, when was the last time you paid attention to the actual costs for these sorts of expenses? I’ve got good insurance, yet our last child was still over $3,000 in out of pocket expenses. (And let’s not forget the fact that giving birth typically translates into time off from work, which isn’t always paid.)

This step starts with a few dollars but needs to continue to at least $5,000. Five thousand dollars can help protect families from unexpected life events. One thousand dollars doesn’t come close.


Step two: Pay down debt using the Debt Snowball. Ramsey’s rational is this: If you target the smallest debts first and ignore the ones with the highest interest rates then you’ll be encouraged by the psychological effect of lowering the total number of open accounts. He goes on to recommend that we re-allocate the funds used to pay off each card to the next smallest debt that you owe, so that over time your payments become larger.

Common sense tells us this is a good idea, just like common sense tells us driving faster to an appointment will get us there more quickly … unless of course you happen to go past a police officer. But ask yourself this: Is paying down debt the same as saving? No. Paying down debt is spending your money in a different way. Spenders have debt because they’re spenders.  Spending down debt is not the same as saving. As we pay down debt it relieves stress, but it does NOT teach us how to save. What happens if you follow Mr. Ramsey’s advice and suddenly lose your job? Great, you have $1,000 saved and you’ve made extra payments on your Macy’s credit card — remember, the debt snowfall rule says target lowest balances first which would most likely be retail store cards, not universal credit cards or auto loans — but you have no job and no money. Don’t worry, though; you can go buy a nice new Chaps blazer for your job interview.

Step two should be to give. You might be thinking that giving prior to paying down debt only further prolongs a debt-ridden life. It doesn’t, and here’s why. First, at this point you’ve created a reasonable safety net of $5,000. Second, gifting — or tithing, as some call it — is fundamental to becoming a saver. Giving is voluntary; paying down debt is not. As a voluntary practice, it takes discipline to habitually do this each and every month. If you have the discipline to gift every month then you’ve created a lifestyle change. The discipline of gifting is the same as the discipline of saving. Gifting at step two helps yourself and those around you.


Step three: Save 3–6 months’ worth of expenses. I agree with Dave here. I review too many financial plans where people only have a month or so in cash or cash equivalents, with the rest of their assets invested. I always ask, “What would you do in an emergency?” They usually respond with something like, “We’ll put it on the credit card.” While I understand they have the assets available to liquidate after the fact to pay the card balance back off, it’s still more conservative to have this amount of expenses stashed away in the bank. If you’re like me, you’ll even keep this fund partially in cash.


Step four: Invest 15 percent of household income AFTER debts are paid.

I heartily disagree here. Investing and paying down debt should occur simultaneously because, again, you only learn how to save by SAVING and continuing to save. While I’m not advocating debt is good or leveraging is appropriate, I am suggesting that habits are often lost if not continued. Think about the number of New Year’s resolutions to eat and drink healthier that are broken during the Super Bowl weekend and never adhered to again. Don’t stop saving. Instead, invest and pay down debt.

Continuing with step four, Ramsey says to use commission-based investing and to work with an “investing advisor.” While I don’t want to go into great detail on this now, it’s important to note that there’s no such thing as an investing advisor. I guess if you’re not a licensed advisor or an insurance agent, you can make up any title you want. Notice how “investing advisor” sounds very close to “investment advisor;” in fact, Google “investing advisor” and you’ll only get results for “investment advisor.” Ramsey intentionally uses a similar term, since investment advisors are held to a fiduciary standard, whereas investing advisors (who I can only assume are stockbrokers/financial advisors considering the commission structure) are held to a suitability standard as well as the Ramsey standard (#YesI’mHating).

Ramsey calls his legion of investing advisors ELPs, or endorsed local providers. Wonder why he doesn’t believe in a fee-based model? Consider Rule 206(4)-1(a)(1) of the Investment Advisers Act of 1940. (If you don’t recall the specifics, don’t worry. Next month’s column will use facts and math to prove why ELPs can only work in a commission structure.)


Step five: College funding for children. I’m not going to argue about college funding. That’s a choice for each individual to make, and there are good points for each side. Ramsey thinks parents should pay for college, and that’s fine. I think kids will appreciate college more with every one of their own dollars that goes towards it. Additionally, there are practical considerations at stake. If a parent has three children and they don’t start saving until the parent has reached age 30, then they’ve only got 12 years to recoup/save for these expenses per child (36 years until retirement divided by three). On the other hand, each child probably has 40+ years using the same retirement age. But to each their own on this step. I’ve met some people who take great pride in the fact they were able to help their children through school and their kids graduated with no student loans. I don’t think there’s a right answer here.


Step six: Pay off the mortgage. Eliminate the biggest debt most people have … it makes sense, right? This should help individuals need less income in retirement. Again Ramsey almost got it right but missed a very important point. Retirement is about income, not assets. You must have assets to have income, you say? Wrong. Social Security is not an asset, is it? It’s only income.  Think about it this way. Many of the people whom I serve would have a very nice retirement with $2,000,000 in assets — unless $1,950,000 is tied up in their home. If that’s the case, then they’re broke. But good news: They’d still have completed Ramsey’s steps 1-6 (assuming Social Security and $50,000 covers 3–6 months’ worth of expenses).

Here’s an example of when step six doesn’t make sense. Last year I helped a husband and wife, one still working and the other retired, but both taking Social Security. They had previously followed the advice of an advisor who I can’t say for certain was an ELP but his plan certainly stunk of one. He had them refinance their home to a 10-year mortgage so they’d pay less interest and get the house paid off in their lifetimes. In order to cover this larger monthly mortgage payment they had to do two things. The husband had to continue to work and they had to withdraw money from their retirement savings each month. We did some simple forecasting using reasonable rates of return based on a Morningstar report and found that, yes, they would get their house paid for in full by their early 70s. At that time, they’d have a $350k house free and clear and about $100k in retirement savings. In the process, they converted a liquid asset (retirement savings) to pay off an illiquid asset (home equity).

I asked if they ever want to leave their home. They replied no, especially not after working the extra years to pay it off.  Yet somewhere between their late 70s and early 80s, they’d have to sell or tap into their equity. They weren’t concerned with leaving the house to the kids mortgage-free. They needed to take care of themselves first. The only thing this plan accomplished was more years of working and a debt-free inheritance for the kids … oh, the good life.

Paying off the mortgage can be a noble thing, but it can be absolutely the wrong thing if you’re in retirement or close to retirement. Tying up most of your assets into the place you love and never want to leave is just as harmful as having too much debt. You may have no debt, but you also have no money.


Step seven: Build wealth and give. I agree with Dave that we should give back. The more we get, the more we should give. Again, I think this should happen much earlier because when you learn how to gift you learn how to save. Gifting should really be step two, as I previously stated.  This is especially true when you consider that Ramsey preaches much of his advice is faith-based. How on earth can he suggest to give only once someone has received so much? By the time he suggests you give, you’ve saved tens of thousands of dollars for emergencies, you’ve paid off all your debt, you are investing 15 percent of gross wages, you’ve paid or are paying for your children’s college, and you’ve either paid your house off or are close to it. Only then are you supposed to give. In other words, don’t go without so you can help someone else first. Take care of steps 1–6, then learn the word generosity.

This was just the beginning. Today we debunked several of the 7 baby steps, which are core to Dave Ramsey’s “Total Money Makeover.” While the advice wasn’t entirely bad, there are certainly some glaring deficiencies.

I like math — strike that, I love math — and I don’t particularly care for opinions. Remember, this column is for you. If you notice any particular financial advice from Dave you’d like to refute, please email my editor at [email protected]. I appreciate your help holding America’s favorite finance coach accountable to good, sound financial advice and not just the entertaining garble that most won’t take the time to validate.

Source: Life Health PRO.

More information:
Two great Dave Ramsey myths, debunked

Michael Markey

About the Author

  • Michael Markey

    Michael is a co-founder and owner of Legacy Financial Network and its associated companies. His vision has expanded the organization from one location to three, with the hopes to make Legacy a nationwide company. He attained his Bachelor’s degree from Eastern Michigan University while playing baseball for the Eagles. Currently, he attends Northwestern University where he’s completing a post graduate degree in financial planning.

    Michael’s accolades include being recognized as the trainer of the year for a previous insurance employer and being a Million Dollar Round Table member in 2010, ’11, ’12, ’13. He earned Court of the Table honors in ’11 and ’12 and Top of the Table honors in ’13. You can hear him locally on 102.9 FM every Thursday at 11 am for his weekly radio show, “Financially Tuned.”

    In addition to being an Investment Advisor Representative for LFN Advisors LLC, and an Insurance Agent for Legacy Financial Network, Michael’s main passions are his family and his faith. He shares his faith with his clients and incorporates it into the Legacy four step system. If you’re on the lakeshore, you’re likely to see Mike and his family on their 1966 wooden boat during the summer.