I am the biggest advocate of DIY when it comes to money. I know you will be most successful with getting out of debt and building wealth when you:
1) Do your own research
2) Build your own strategies
3) Basically do most of the heavy lifting.
But there are still some pretty good (and some awful) writers and experts on the topic of getting out of debt, investing, and everything else under the umbrella of Financial Freedom, Personal Finance and Get Rich Slowly but Surely. The following list covers some prominent authors/speakers and blog authors, their main stratagem, and any other worthwhile information to consider about each one.
The GURU Category
1. Suze Orman: The most famous and the biggest hack. Her resume of working in finance is not impressive. She has written a lot of books, all of them best-sellers, but her advice is mostly simplistic, emotional or wrong, as this article will tell you. She also has a co-branded “tool kit” with FICO (how many million did you get for that, SUZE?), which explains why she pushes the credit score as the most important part of your financial record. If you have cash to pay for all of your expenses, why is your FICO score so important? It’s not. You should be focused on paying off debt and creating a savings fund to account for emergencies.
FINAL CALL: TOSS
2. Dave Ramsey: He has a Southern accent and he works really hard at convincing you he’s no-nonsense. He just doesn’t have the time (Southern: taaahm) for your nonsense, darn it! His best book is The Total Money Makeover, although you can get the same ideas from his website and radio show (I just saved you $15). He advocates never using credit, creating a budget every month and his motto is “Cash is king and the paid-off mortgage has replaced the BMW as the new status symbol”. I’ve been following the Dave Ramsey/Debt Snowball plan for 10 months, so I’ll go into detail on how that’s been going in my next post. Dave Ramsey is a great place to start for anyone who is in debt, but I don’t plan on following his “mutual funds and money markets” investing plan once I am out of debt. Dave Ramsey is Christian and his advice is tied to his religion, but if you are not religious, don’t get worked up about it. It’s practical advice for anyone who is breaking old habits of never budgeting and spending more than you earn. Check his website to download monthly budgeting forms.
FINAL CALL: READ
3. Robert Kiyosaki: The author of the Rich Dad, Poor Dad books has a bad rap. Deservedly so, but I still think there are a few ideas you can take from him, even if his more specific ideas are not very helpful. The most important idea of his is building and generating passive income, whether as an investor or business owner. He advocates that these two roles are better ways of making money than being an employee or even self-employed (where you might still be working full-time). When you work full-time for a business that is not your own, someone else is getting rich off your back. Do you want to help someone else get rich for the rest of your life? So even though you don’t need to read his books, that is a key idea to keep in mind as you take control of your finances. He also doesn’t advocate mutual funds ad nauseum like most of these gurus, and this article by Kiyosaki has some great common sense advice.
FINAL CALL: TOSS
4. Kevin Trudeau: This guy is hilarious. Seriously, where did “they” find him? Trudeau is mostly known for his weight loss and natural cures titles (and time spent in federal prison in the ‘90s), but he also has a (once best-selling) book, Debt Cures “They” Don’t Want You To Know About, which is light on content and heavy on repetition. A main tenet of advice in his book is not paying your debt until the statute of limitations on your debt runs out (between 3 and 5 years in most states), thus freeing you of your obligation to pay. Not only is this not guaranteed to work, but 3 to 5 years is a long time to sit around and wait for a statute of limitations to expire, while bill collectors harass you and your family. And call me old-fashioned but I believe that walking away from your obligations will come back to haunt you in some form or another. What if you become a reality TV star and your crazy ex exposes you for the $50,000 in credit card bills you never paid? Keep your dignity. I know you can get out of debt without believing the lies of this infomercial lifer.
FINAL CALL: LAUGH AT, THEN TOSS
5. David Bach: His most famous book is Smart Women Finish Rich and the Finish Rich series (Smart Couples Finish Rich and Start Late, Finish Rich to name a couple). He is a clear, straightforward writer, and although there is a sales pitch involved with all of these gurus, his doesn’t feel as sleazy and deceitful as the Suze Orman variety. I would recommend taking a look at any one of his books, but you definitely don’t need all of them. Smart Couples Finish Rich is a good starter book for couples to begin talking about their finances. Even if you’ve never talked money with your significant other, this book will help you start doing that without it being totally uncomfortable.
FINAL CALL: READ
Having reviewed just a few of these personal finance experts, I want to look at some favorites of mine in the blog category. The personal finance/debt blogs offer a ton of targeted, specific advice and are extremely useful. I think they have to provide more value since a reader may only linger on their site for a few seconds before deciding to stay and look around or leave. Check some of these sites (which I will also add to my blogroll) until American Debt Project really gets busy…
The Blog Category
1. Frugal Dad: A boatload of information. This website is what inspired me to start my blog. As Frugal Dad says, everyone should have a side hustle. This website is updated frequently, but he also an excellent archive of articles. Check out the Get out of Debt post and 7 Side Hustles for quick inspiration.
2. Get Rich Slowly : A top personal finance blog. So much information on here and a lot of personal background on the author and his wife, like this recent Redbook interview, that is very interesting.
3. 20smoney: Focused on markets, investing and generating income as a self-employed person, especially generating online income. A lot of useful information regarding how he has built his site into a sizeable monthly income. He doesn’t focus at all on personal finance but I still learned a lot from the PF Manifesto.
4. Google: Oh yeah. Whenever I get bored with the usual sites, I just start searching for key terms on debt, investing and business (and desperately try NOT to get distracted and search for “Mob Wives”). New blogs are being made every day and they deserve a chance too. Great writing happens everywhere: craigslist, hubpages, whatever. Keep branching out.