In a Nutshell: After overcoming bankruptcy in the 1980s, businessman and real estate agent Dave Ramsey started informally offering financial advice to others. He was so successful, he eventually turned this advice into a comprehensive platform called Ramsey Solutions. The platform includes books, radio and YouTube shows, and a comprehensive money management course called Financial Peace University. More than a decade ago, Jade Warshaw, a musician and entrepreneur, and her husband used Dave Ramsey’s advice to eliminate over $400,000 in debt. Today, Warshaw is a popular Ramsey Personality and coaches her viewers on strategies to become debt-free. Warshaw is also hosting a Financial Peace University course beginning May 8 and running through June 7.
Jade Warshaw said she was in college when she first heard “The Ramsey Show,” a caller-driven money show, on her brother’s car radio. At the time, she didn’t relate to host Dave Ramsey’s advice, but still enjoyed listening.
“I thought he was entertaining, so I listened to it for the entertainment value. I didn’t know how I’d use what I learned until years later when I graduated from college and got married, and those student loans started rolling in,” Warshaw said with a laugh.
At that point, she and her husband had a considerable amount of debt. And as young musicians, they didn’t have the types of established careers that would allow them to pay down that amount easily. So they came up with a plan.
Warshaw remembered her years of listening to Ramsey on the radio. She and her husband also purchased his popular book, “The Total Money Makeover,” and listened to advice from the show for three hours every day.
The Warshaws came to understand personal finance — but more importantly, they implemented these strategies into their spending and saving habits.
“We really got serious in 2009. I remember right in the thick of it, we were trying to sell our house to move from Nashville to Florida. It was a townhouse worth about $90,000. When it sold, we were able to get rid of that debt. After that, we were off to the races, just working through Baby Steps,” Warshaw told us.
Eventually, the Warshaws paid down all their debt while building successful careers as musicians. In 2022, Jade was tapped to become a Ramsey Personality, a role where she gets to share her personal finance knowledge and help others get out of debt — just like Ramsey had inspired her to do years before.
Today, Ramsey Solutions offers a wide variety of books, live events, shows, and other programs that can help anyone on their journey to financial peace.
Jade’s Advice for Paying Down Debt
Tapping into her own experience of paying down a significant debt, Warshaw shares her most effective tips for attaining, and maintaining, financial peace.
The first thing she suggests is that people stop using credit cards altogether. Warshaw says credit cards are security blankets for a lot of people because society tells us credit scores are dependent on having at least one credit card. The Warshaws said they believed they needed credit cards, especially when they were working as traveling musicians. But these cards kept accruing balances and fees. Warshaw said at some point, you have to draw a line in the sand and stop borrowing money.
“For the first two years, we were working on our debt payoff plan, but we kept those credit cards around. Then finally, we were like, ‘No, we’re going to do this plan, and we’ll do it right!’ That’s really when things started taking off for us,” Warshaw said.
In her work on the Ramsey Network, Warshaw often encounters people who are overwhelmed by their debt like she and her husband once were. The debt payoff method she and Ramsey recommend is called the debt snowball method
To use this strategy, individuals should pay off their debts from the lowest balance up to the highest. For instance, if someone has a $200 parking ticket, they should pay that before moving on to a $1,000 home improvement loan.
“The thing for us early on was seeing that we could actually pay debts off and they would be gone. So we were knocking out those little ankle biters. Every time you do pay something off, you have more money freed up, so you’re able to get to those bigger debts. I remember the first really big debt I paid off was a $6,000 student loan. Once that was paid off, I was like, this works,” Warshaw said.
Part of the reason this debt payment approach works is that only 20% of personal finance success is about knowledge, and 80% is about behavior. So, if individuals see results in paying down their debt, they’re more likely to stick with habits that work.
Creating a Budget that Helps You Build Wealth
One of Ramsey Solutions’ most prominent pathways to financial peace is laid out in the “7 Baby Steps” plan. These are:
- Save $1,000 for an emergency fund.
- Pay off all debts (other than a home mortgage) using the Debt Snowball Method.
- Save three to six months of expenses in an emergency fund.
- Invest 15% of household income into a retirement account.
- Save for children’s college.
- Pay off your home mortgage.
- Build wealth and give.
Of course, these steps are part of a long-term strategy, and many people who turn to Ramsey Solutions for the first time may not be ready to complete the first step. So Warshaw recommends that people begin by identifying how they spend every dollar they earn. Then, they can start to understand where their money is going by creating and maintaining a detailed budget.
“Over 70% of people have no clue what they spent last month. So the budget is really digging down on that. You list all of your income for the month and then, you should go in and put every single line item that you plan to spend money on. The idea is to plan ahead of time how your money is going to be spent,” she said.
The key to using a budget effectively is recognizing that, when the allotted amount for the month is used up, that’s it. For example, if someone creates an $800 budget for groceries and has spent $600 midway through the month, they only have $200 left to spend. This is where behavior comes into the equation. Creating the budget is important, but sticking to that budget is what counts.
Warshaw recommends simplifying budgeting by downloading an app like EveryDollar to stay on track of spending. The app allows any user to create a customized budget for free, and provides access to premium tools, including bank account connectivity, goal setting, paycheck planning, and financial coaching.
“There are always notifications and alerts you can set up. A lot of apps are gamifying saving and spending more, so you’re really kind of competing with yourself and always striving to do better,” she said.
Resources Help Readers and Listeners Get Out of Debt
While behavior can determine much of personal finance success, many people need to understand how to make better decisions — and be held accountable for following through. This is where Ramsey Solutions’ Financial Peace University comes in. The nine-lesson course demystifies personal finances for the more than 10 million students who have enrolled.
“Most people who enroll in Financial Peace University are on Baby Step One. They don’t even have $1,000 saved, and they have tons of debt,” Warshaw said.
Warshaw is hosting her own virtual Financial Peace University class starting on May 8 and running through June 7. The classes meet on Mondays and Wednesdays, and the enrollment price includes a year of access to Financial Peace University and three months of the premium version of EveryDollar.
Warshaw said some people enroll in Financial Peace University because they’re facing various challenges with their money. Some are living paycheck-to-paycheck. Ramsey Personality Ken Coleman is the on-staff “career guy” who can help people identify purposeful careers that pay well. Warshaw said other people are facing mental health or relational issues relating to their money. Dr. John Delony, Ramsey Personality, explains the intersection between mental health and personal finances.
“It’s not always just about their money. We’re able to intersect with different things going on in their lives, and support them in other areas beyond just the financial,” Warshaw told us.
Financial Peace University isn’t just for individuals struggling with debt. Some enrollees are on Baby Step Four. They’ve paid off debt and have started saving and now want investment help or a better understanding of their 401Ks.
“There’s really an on-ramp for anybody,” Warshaw said.
If anyone feels trapped under considerable debt, Warshaw encourages them to seek help from Ramsey Solutions. She believes the team of personalities and the Ramsey community help those trying to get out of debt to feel less alone — and more hopeful.
“We don’t want you to just pop in here to buy our products. We want to be with you through investing, through paying for your kids’ college, through building wealth. We want to help you learn how to handle money throughout your financial life. That’s really important to us,” Warshaw said.