Today, I spoke to Dave Ramsey, who is a personal money management expert, is an extremely popular national radio personality, author of the New York Times best-seller The Total Money Makeover, and host of the“The Dave Ramsey Show” on Fox Business Network. In this interview, Dave talks about how he became very rich, lost it all, and recovered. He also talks about how he started his show, and built his personal brand.
When your net worth was a million dollars, how did that affect the way you perceived the world, and lived your life?
By the time I was 26 years old, I had a little over $4 million worth of real estate; a little over a million net worth, and I was making about $250,000 a year. Now, that’s fun! We were having a blast. I mean, we went to Hawaii, and we liked it, so we went back. I went and got me a Jaguar, and man, within 90 days, I was a Jaguar. I bought my wife some of those sparkly things, and they weren’t big enough, so we got her some more. It was fun! I had lots of stuff and I thought stuff meant I was successful.
When you lost everything, how did your lifestyle and way of thinking change?
I remember standing in a scolding hot shower and crying because I was so scared. Finally, with a brand new baby and a toddler and a marriage hanging on by a thread, we hit bottom, and we were bankrupt. For a minute, I laid around at the bottom of that mess and cried and whined and moaned and blamed everybody else. But then I decided I was going to learn how money really works. My wife, Sharon and I were able to turn around and start walking together again. We decided that we would never go back into debt again. I drove an old car that would barely make it from point A to point B. Our children wore consignment clothes. Although our lifestyle changed, we had a sense of control, a sense of destiny.
How did you start your show, and what steps did you take to build your audience in the beginning?
Almost 20 years ago, a local bankrupt radio station asked me to come on the air and answer a few financial questions and the phones began to ring! Since the station was bankrupt, they couldn’t afford to pay me. But, I enjoyed doing the show and would come back weekly. I took my first few years doing the radio show to learn about the radio business. We slowly added new radio stations. Now, the ‘The Dave Ramsey Show’ can be heard on over 450 radio stations across the country.
Your bestselling books are everywhere. How important was the book to extend your personal brand?
I’ve had 3 New York Times best-sellers, but that is only a portion of my brand. In 1992, I began selling my first book, Financial Peace¸ out of the trunk of my car. It wasn’t until 1997 that Viking published the book and it became a New York Times best-seller. A personal brand doesn’t develop overnight. It takes years and years of extremely hard work. Now we use many different avenues to spread our message: radio, television, books, magazines, social media and the web.
What do you think people most know you for and why?
Early on, I was probably most known for encouraging people to cut up their credit cards and helping people get out of debt. Since I have lived the debt free life now for over two decades, I have an understanding of how freeing that can be. I want to share my passion with everyone. Now that millions of people have become debt free following the plan, I find myself teaching wealth building more and more. Fun!
Dave Ramsey, a personal money management expert, is an extremely popular national radio personality, and author of the New York Times best-sellers The Total Money Makeover, Financial Peace and More Than Enough. Ramsey offers life-changing financial advice as host of a nationally syndicated radio program, “The Dave Ramsey Show,” which is heard by 4.5 million listeners each week, on more than 450 radio stations throughout the United States. On Oct. 15, 2007, Ramsey added television host to his title when “The Dave Ramsey Show” on Fox Business Network debuted nationally. More than 1,000,000 families have completed his Financial Peace University program. A frequent speaker around the country at large-scale live events, Ramsey is a passionate and inspiring presenter who is at ease on both sides of the mike. More than 750,000 people have attended Ramsey’s LIVE events.