Is Financial Peace University Worth It?

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This is a topic I hear come up every now and again, so let’s discuss it to help those contemplating FPU.

In case you are unfamiliar, Dave Ramsey is the host of the nationally syndicated personal finance radio show The Dave Ramsey Show.  He is the New York Times best selling author of Total Money Makeover, Financial Peace Revisited, and The Money Answer Book, and among other things has developed the incredibly popular debt relief system Financial Peace University.

Today let’s focus on FPU and whether or not it’s worth the initial investment of $100, or whatever the going rates are these days.

Is FPU worth the money?

Some people argue that they wouldn’t, or couldn’t, attend Ramsey’s Financial Peace University if they wanted to because it costs too much money; and since they can’t afford their bills, they’re not about to shell out $100+ for some stupid debt book. Others say FPU is the best thing that ever happened to them and that the financial stuff was only a smidgen of the blessings they received from attending.  Still others may rant about how Dave Ramsey is rich enough already, how he has built an empire off the chronically indebted, and that he should be ashamed of himself.

Before we get to far into the discussion let’s be sure to evaluate what the cost of the program truly amounts to. What is $100 actually worth anyway… what can it buy? A month, maybe two months of cable television.  A month, maybe two months of a mobile phone contract.  One week’s worth of groceries… maybe?

You get the point.  Before we let the sticker shock of a cool Benjamin cloud our perception of value or worth, it is imperative we patiently evaluate the costs and benefits of the purchase.

What do you think?

My history with Dave’s programs officially began in November of 2009.  At that time I had already been running Debt Free Adventure for 11 months and was fully immersed in everything personal finance.  So why did I enroll in the class?  To get my wife and I on same page financially.  And it worked. In fact, it worked incredibly well.

Was the experience worth the $100 cost of a life long membership in the program?  Uh… yeah, without a doubt.  The value of the FPU program will be paying us back for the rest of our lives.  Because of that fact… I recently decided to give back to the program.  A few weeks ago I signed on as a volunteer FPU class leader, and have already watched God bless us amazingly because of it.

Is Financial Peace University worth the $100 you’ll have to spend to get it?  Yes.  It absolutely is. And Dave Ramsey – just like you, me, and everyone else – fully deserves to earn money from his honorable labor.  After all, what is $100 compared to a life of financial ruin anyway?  Hardly a drop in the bucket I’d say.

DIY FPU?

Is it possible for a group of financially struggling people to form a strong PF community on their own?  Yes, but I’m sure the rates of success would be much lower.  I don’t have any stats to back that statement up, but consider this… if it were easy to do this on their own, wouldn’t people be doing it in droves?

The truth is, starting from scratch to build community, formulate debt plans, and work those plans through to completion is doable for some, but not for many.  For everyone else there is FPU and other programs like it (Crown Money Map, etc.)

In closing

If you have been on the fence about trying FPU because you’re reluctant to pay the money… go do it, I am willing to bet that you will not regret your decision.  After all, what is $100 compared to financial peace?

If you’re the one still whining about not having $100 to take the course, I have a solution for you.  Call your service provider and cancel your TV service for a month, and use the $100 to get your financial life in order.

Without sacrifice there is no benefit, and the small sacrifice of $100 is nothing compared to the dividends FPU enrollment will pay for years and years to come.

So is Ramsey’s FPU worth the sticker price? Well… I guess you’ll never know until you go see for yourself.

http://www.debtfreeadventure.com/go/amazon.php?asin=0670032085


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1 Brad Chaffee

I agree Matt! If doing it on your own without a monetary investment, which I believe actually works to keep someone serious about it, hasn’t worked then it’s time to consider alternatives. As an FPU coordinator, we have done scholarships, half and full, to those “without the funds” to pay half or even all of the cost of attending, and EVERY SINGLE ONE of those people either stopped coming or missed more than half the classes.

I also hate when people act like Dave Ramsey should work for free, when almost anyone else can barely lift a finger unless they are getting paid to do so. Dave deserves to get paid and even become wealthy off of his program that has helped millions of people find financial peace.

One more thing. Getting my wife and I on the same page was likely the largest benefit! It helped us SO MUCH!! We both wanted the same things but weren’t on the same pager as far as making it happen. FPU taught us how and why we should work together for the common good of our family.

I first took FPU Online while my wife was busy getting her Nursing degree and I loved it so much I went through all the lessons in about two weeks. It’s how Enemy of Debt was born! (sorry for the long comment Matt)

2 Matt Jabs

Your point about those receiving the course at no cost having a higher drop out rate is very interesting and telling. Unfortunately this pattern of unfaithfulness may very well be the reason they cannot afford it to begin with. It is important for us to really focus on reaching out to these people, since they are the most needy, but in the end they will have to help themselves.

3 Brad Chaffee

At my church we have something called the Mercy Ministries which helps those families on a completely different level. We do still give full scholarships occasionally but the stats don’t lie, most of the time it ends up being a waste of money. When that same amount of money could have helped two people go through the class for half price, it’s obvious where the line should be drawn. There is still some level of commitment that is missing from the ones who only paid $50, but at least there is a difference.

The bottom line is that I think $100 hurts more, and has more of a chance to keep someone from dropping out. The hard part is trying to get broke people to realize it’s a better investment than most of the junk they purchase in any given month. 🙂

4 Matt Jabs

Amen… and therein lies our challenge! 🙂

5 Olivia

Hello Matt,

A couple points, if you don’t have cable or cell phone, (or Netfix, etc.) to waylay you may not have the cash (really) to sign up. However there are tons of great free resources out there, it just takes more time to find them and find what works for you. Dave Ramsey has done the spade work and if your time costs you, as you said, the extra support of a community, accountability, and the teaching materials may be worth it.

Some favorites. An alternative may be working with Crown Financial Ministries’ money coaches. Their counsel is free. However the courses and books also cost. The self study route means a lot of reading. Archives at Dollar Stretcher (stretcher.com) cover all kinds of topics.Gary has been in the PF business for some time. That site has free online access and a great supportive forum. Bankrate.com has a slew of articles too, plus some nifty calculation tools. Then there is the good old library system with it’s interlibrary loan program to help you find books on personal finance.

6 Matt Jabs

Yeah, there are a ton of sources out there, if people will just dig. The important thing to do is to realize which path will work best for each individual, then point them in the right direction accordingly.

7 Robert Espe

I’m in this camp, Dave is just recycling resources Crown has had available for years, and with a lower price tag. The Crown Bible study still costs, but it is a little cheaper, and from what I’ve seen of both is a better program.

8 Brad Chaffee

Crown is definitely a great program and undoubtedly what inspired Dave Ramsey, but I think there is definitely a difference. Like Matt, pointed out, there is the motivational fire that Dave has the ability to spark in people, and the community aspects that really help people work through what they learned and apply it to their own lives.

From what I hear the most, FPU seems to come out ahead, although I don’t think they are saying Crown’s program is bad. People say that Dave’s program tends to give more guidance and leaves less up to the person learning new principles sometimes for the first time. It’s at that stage of transformation that something like that would mean the most because it makes the process less overwhelming. FPU you teaches you the basics and then shows you how to apply them to your life. FPU teaches you what to do when you are at the bottom, truly overwhelmed and think there’s no hope in sight.

This is only what others have told me, not my own observation, as I have never checked out the Crown program. Ultimately I would say that different things work for different people, so either way, if the goal gets accomplished it doesn’t really matter who you learned it from. 🙂

9 Broke by Choice

Dave may have repackaged resources from Crown Ministires, but this is not a new concept in our society. Therefore it should not be a reason to not attend FPU.

McDonald’s, Dairy Queen, Whataburger, Sonic, Burger King and many others sell hamburgers, fries and drinks but people still spend their money at each location.

10 Ben Douglas

Robert, you say, “Dave is just recycling resources Crown has had available for years, and with a lower price tag.”

They both are doing this, ultimately. Who had the envelope/Mvelope system first? Who had a monthly budget first? Who made it biblical-based first? It doesn’t really matter. What is captivating about DR’s program is the personal touch involved. You get what you pay for!

11 Matt Jabs

What about the community support and excitement/motivation surrounding FPU? Crown doesn’t compete on the same level as FPU in this area, which it is definitely something to take into consideration, especially since the price difference we’re talking about is quite minimal.

12 Peter

I think the class is totally worth the $100 investment. If you really consider what you get – it’s actually a bargain. You get a 13 week class with support group attached, you get all the class materials, a cash envelope system folder, the audio CDs and if you follow his materials – you become debt free!

I also remember in the class hearing Ramsey talk about why he doesn’t give the class away for free to some people – because when they have no money personally invested it’s much easier for them to back out or not follow through with the class. They actually found that when the people that paid for the class were much more successful. It makes sense to me.

13 Matt Jabs

Brad mentioned above that his experience as an FPU classroom leader has shown the same results to be true. I think not giving away the program is a very wise decision on Ramsey’s part. Don’t get me wrong, giving is great, but only when it’s called for. The fact remains that when people are not personally invested in something, they simply do not take it as seriously.

14 Heidi

Don’t forget that the $100 initial investment gives you a lifetime FPU membership. You can repeat the entire class or just portions of it if and when you want to without having to pay up again. I have seen many lives transformed as a result of them actually acting on what Dave Ramsey teaches. Others not so. You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink it.

15 Matt Jabs

Great point Heidi, I also mentioned that in the article and it is a very important consideration indeed. The class I am now leading has several returnees; not because they failed the first time through, but rather they enjoy and benefit from it anew.

16 Greg

$39,000 less debt for the cost of $100…definitely worth it for us.

We would’ve probably paid off around $3-4k by ourselves in the same amount of time at the pace we were going.

But one of the readers said it all above…the PEACE part has no pricetag. Being on the same page as my wife is worth way more than the $100 it cost us to go through.

17 Matt Jabs

Congrats Greg, please continue to move forward in your financial goals, it will only serve to increase your options.

18 Nicole

If you are truly low income, FPU does offer a discount beyond the usual $100. It is worth asking about if you qualify.

19 Matt Jabs

I think this option should only be pursued after the individual goes over their own spending with a fine-toothed-comb, making sure they cannot sacrifice something more to fund their own recovery. But yes, it is an option for those who simply can cut no more.

20 Broke by Choice

The $100 is worth it to me. When I first attended FPU in August 2007 I was 26 with $105,000 in debt. My debt was scheduled to be paid off in 300 months (30 years).

Today I am 29 and I only have $49,000 to go and plan to have it gone in the next 2 years.

So for $100 I became more financially literate, avoided paying debt for 25 years, and so far I have avoided $27000 in interest payments. I have attended the class 3 times and will definately attend again when I plan to get married.

it was worth it to me!

21 Matt Jabs

Another superb example of what a small $100 investment can bring to a person willing to put the program to work. Great job.

22 Jason @ Redeeming Riches

If $100 is a bit pricey for those who are in a ton of debt, consider finding yourself a “backer” so-to-speak. Our church recently held this class and asked members of the church to sponsor a family that needed this class, but couldn’t afford entry fee.

23 Matt Jabs

Now this sounds like a solution I could get behind. I think it would work best for all involved parties if there were scheduled payments and/or a specified time frame for repayment.

24 Brad Chaffee

I tried doing that with a few people, and all three walked away from the obligation paying nothing. In theory it sounds like a great idea, but then you still run into the same problem. For someone that couldn’t come up with $100, paying it back, is the last priority on the persons list. Someone living paycheck to paycheck, crisis after crisis seems to always have a reason to not be able to pay. After the first one defaulted and quit the class, I tried making the payments SUPER small and not one single payment was ever made.

It still boils down to “investment determines commitment”. I will probably still work with people as long as my church allows me too, but I was just pointing out my experience with it. 🙂

25 Katrina

My husband and I are FPU coordinators at our church. We have had the best success with refunds for people completing the program. Our scholarship for those requesting help with the fee is $50 back if they attend 10 of the first 12 classes and bring their completed homework each week. They must also attend week 13 to pick up their refund.

26 Matt Jabs

That sounds like a great way to give people the extra push they need. Thanks for sharing Katrina.

27 Jessica Ward

I prefer offering to sponsor them–but the attendee must attend the sessions, and then I will reimburse them for training. The class facilitator can produce a report that shows if the attendee has gone to all of the lessons or not.

28 EnnisP

Hey Matt,
Great post! I haven’t had the privilege of participating in the FPU but I did read Dave’s book “Financial Peace” (I believe the first printing) and enjoyed it very much. In fact, I did a review of the book on my site. I think he is doing a great job and admire his willingness to share. What he is doing and saying the world really needs. Would probably sign up for FPU but I don’t think it is available here.

I enjoy the great information you provide on your site and the spirit with which it is offered. All the best.

29 Matt Jabs

Thank you Ennis, I simply try to write about the things that help me, so hopefully they can help others as well.

Cheers

30 Lisa Cleveringa

I just found your page today and love the discussion – have learned a lot that I will implement right away!

My question on FPU…
Probably 25 years ago I took a course by Larry Burkett, with the same principles of living debt free. I am grateful to say that my husband and I had similar priorities and we are living debt free except for our mortgage.

I have considered over the years taking an FPU class just to get a refresher, maybe learn a few new strategies. Is the 16 week class relevant for those who are already familiar with and following the basic principles?

Thanks for your input!
Lisa

31 Matt Jabs

Awesome Lisa, thanks for visiting… I’m really glad you find the site helpful.

I would advise taking the course. The first few weeks may be elementary for you, but there is A LOT of advanced material beneficial for anyone past debt reduction, ready to build wealth and give. I highly recommend the course… so much that I volunteer to teach it for free at my church – which speaks volumes!

32 Shawna

My husband and I have been through FPU once already and we are currently taking it again—for free, since it’s a lifetime membership.

The first time we took the class, 7 families in our group managed to collectively pay off $40,000 worth of debt in 13 weeks.

Believe me, it’s worth it!

Also, the church putting on the class we are taking right now had discounted memberships for around $60-$70. And I know that our old church had scholarships available for people who couldn’t afford the cost of the class. So if you’re interested in FPU, but the price of the class is holding you back, please talk to your pastor or your class coordinator about it.

33 Matt Jabs

Thanks for sharing Shawna.
For anyone else reading, her story is not unique, this happens with the majority of FPU classes… the program just plain works – but only for people who are ready to establish a proper relationship with their debt and finances.

34 Heather T.

I have just been turned on to Dave, in April, and would love to do FPU but, I know there is the word but, its an hour drive to the closest one, each way. They are just on Sunday nights and I work 3rd shift Sun, Mon, and Tue, my husband works Sun days for the BOP is there any way to look into getting one near my home? What does this involve, I am now reading the FP book, have already read The total money makeover, loved it! Should I just stick with the book for now? Thanks for the article, I know it is older hope to get an answer.

35 Matt Jabs

Hi Heather, I’m proud of you for reading the books, that is a great first step. You can also take the class online if it’s too far away.

36 Heather T.

We did get lucky and a class came up about 25 min away and on a night my husband and I had of together, such a great class, I would recommend this class to anyone. I have tried to get my MIL to go even offering to pay, its amazing the reasons people will give to stay broke, I simply told her and my SIL that when they get serious about wanting to give up being a slave let me know! We are well on our way to being debt free, oh and I am pregnant with our 4th child and will be able to finally stay home with my children, its such a blessing. As I type this I am listening to the archive Ramsey radio show. Thank you for the article once again and I hope people continue to “look” for a way out.

37 Matt Jabs

Awesome, congrats all the way around!

38 mrspb

Is the $100 worth it? $53,603.20 paid off in 36 months! Yes, it is worth it!!!!

39 Matt Jabs

Amen! I agree wholeheartedly.

40 Emily

Some people just flat-out won’t do what they need to unless they invest time and money into something where they are constantly hearing someone verbally kick their behinds.

If you’re that person, and you’re in debt, you need FPU.

41 David

I have a question Matt. Our church is hosting FPU but I’m concerned about what everyone means when they say the small group time comes with “accountability.” I am embarrassed how much debt we have and if I have to share the number with everyone in the class I won’t go. So, does one have to tell everyone else how much they owe? Thanks!

42 Matt Jabs

Absolutely not David. You only share if you want to and if you have reservations about sharing now, don’t do it. That said, I’ll bet you’ll be happy to share once you conquer that debt! Attend FPU with confidence, it’s an awesome program. The small groups are simply to allow people to talk over the details of the lesson together, so everyone has a chance to share their input on the lesson if they want.

43 David

Thanks! That really helps.

44 DebtFree

I completed the FPU course online and have the DVD course. I would say there is not much value beyond what you can get by reading his books borrowed from the library and listening to radio show for free. If you need the group dynamic to keep yourself motivated then pay the $100.

45 Visitor

I already don’t get TV because I can’t afford it. I do have internet but I am a student and in this day and age you can not attend college without a computer/internet. Trust me I tried. I am already one of the most frugal people I know. I don’t eat out, I don’t buy expensive coffee. I try not do to any more driving than I have to in order to save gas. I am taking 19 credit hours, plus have clinical hours, I still have to study so picking up more hours at work isn’t an option. I use coupons as much as possible to save every penny I can. I shop at the dollar store. So how should I come up with the $100?

46 Patty Snyder

Ask your church for a scholarship and let them know you’ll provide one when you’re financially able. I don’t advocate scholarships for anyone, but it sounds like you’re already doing all you can, so ask for help. You don’t know who you’ll be blessing by letting them help you.

47 Nicole

Our church is hosting FPU and I’m not comfortable sharing what my husband makes and the among of our bills do we have to tell anyone those amounts in order to attend this class? We don’t really have list of debt except 1 thing and due to unemployment for over 2 yrs it’s now a garnishment and I don’t think it’s anyone else’s business in the class

48 Patty Snyder

No one knows the other persons’ debt. It’s all annonymous. You put your debt on a piece of paper collected by the facilitator. At the end of the 13 weeks you put your current debt on a sheet of paper and give it to the facillitator. He/she calculates the amount of debt paid off and that number is announced. No one needs know how much your debt is. However, when your on the other side, you’ll be telling everyone how much you paid off…it just feels so good!

49 angela

I am scared of that $100 price as well. I’m sure it’s worth it though. I also know I would not miss cause it was free but I’m just one for dedication! My husband left myself and my children and so I will need to learn all this stuff on my own now. I had asked him to attend FPU some years back and he totally shot me down. He thinks he has nothing to learn! I have much to learn and hope to start the class this summer. I will certainly ask about scholarships and I promise every person who posted about it, I won’t miss my classes and I will do my homework!

50 Matt Jabs

Well then you’ll be just fine Angela! Do the work, accept the support of the coordinator and classmates, and you’ll be alright. God bless.

51 Erika

I’m currently taking the class and have purchased the lifetime membership. If I want to attend another round of classes, how do I prove that I’ve already paid?

52 Matt Jabs

Just bring your class completion form with you next time you attend.

53 Michelle

For those that don’t have the money, do what I did. I rented the book Total Money Makeover (basically the same thing from what I have read online) from my local library. I read it in one day, took notes on the first few steps. I’ll return it when my time is up, but when I need motivation or a quick reminder/review of the steps, I can always go to the library!

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