Dave Ramsey Tells Millions What to Do With Their Money. People Under 40 Say He’s Wrong.
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Dave Ramsey Tells Millions What to Do With Their Money. People Under 40 Say He’s Wrong.

Young adults are rejecting the finance guru’s advice to live frugally while getting out of debt

By JULIE JARGON
Wed, Feb 21, 2024 9:08amGrey Clock 4 min

On their own for the first time, young professionals are craving sound financial advice. They just don’t want to hear it from Dave Ramsey.

Ramsey, the well-known and intensely followed 63-year-old conservative Christian radio host, has 4.4 million Instagram followers, 1.9 million TikTok followers and legions more who listen to his radio shows and podcasts. His message is brutal and direct: Avoid debt at all costs. Pay for everything in cash. Embrace frugality.

Plenty of 20- and 30-year-olds are pushing back, largely on TikTok. The hashtag #daveramseywouldntapprove, for instance, has 66.8 million views. Many say they don’t want to eat rice and beans every night—a popular Ramsey trope —or hold down multiple jobs to pay off loans. They also say Ramsey is out of touch with their reality.

Rising inflation has led to surging prices for groceries, cars and many essentials. The cost of a college education has skyrocketed in two decades, with the average student debt for federal loans at $37,000, according to the Education Department. Overall debts for Americans in their 30s jumped 27% from late 2019 to early 2023 —steeper than for any other age group. And home prices have risen considerably, while wages haven’t kept pace.

“What Dave Ramsey really misses is any kind of social context,” says Morgan Sanner, a 26-year-old who runs a résumé-advice company in Columbus, Ohio, and has shared her feelings about Ramsey on TikTok.

She began paying off $48,000 in student loans (a Ramsey do ) and also took out a loan to buy a 2016 Honda (a Ramsey don’t ). Her rationale was that it was safer to pay extra for a more reliable car than a junker she could buy with cash. She feels these sorts of real-life decisions don’t factor into his advice. Her video about this has 875,000 views.

Through a spokeswoman, Ramsey declined an interview request. Direct messages to Ramsey went unanswered.

For Ramsey—whose TikTok posts often contain incendiary tidbits from his radio show—the pushback might be part of the plan. After all, uncomfortable advice is a key component of his success.

‘Pretty much screwed already’

Naiomi Israel began watching Dave Ramsey’s videos on YouTube when she was in college at New York University, before TikTok became the go-to platform. (He has more than 500,000 subscribers on YouTube.)

“Not knowing about money feels scary, especially when you’re a young adult and have to pay your bills,” she says. “You wonder, ‘Should I go on a trip or invest in the S&P 500?’ I’m just looking for the right answers.”

Israel, who now at age 23 works for a company that develops finance curricula for schools, says she was initially drawn in by Ramsey’s no-nonsense advice. He recommends setting aside some money for emergencies. She did.

But eventually, some of his messages triggered a different response from her: “Wait, what?”

When she saw a comment from Ramsey online about how people receiving pandemic stimulus payments were “ pretty much screwed already ,” Israel felt it came across as shaming people. The pandemic shutdowns ended a decade-long economic expansion for Black Americans , a disproportionate number of whom lost their jobs and relied on those checks.

“Moralising financial decisions is very damaging to marginalised groups,” says Israel, who is Black.

From bankruptcy to broadcasting

Ramsey’s anti-debt evangelism arose from personal circumstances. He says on his website that he took on too much debt while accumulating real estate as a young man. He also bought a Jaguar, jewellery for his wife and a trip to Hawaii. In 1988, he filed for bankruptcy.

How did rich people stay rich? By not paying interest to banks, he concluded.

He started a radio show in 1992 to answer callers’ money questions. It became the top-rated show in Nashville, Tenn., and eventually became a nationally syndicated call-in program with about 20 million weekly listeners.

The radio program begot Ramsey Solutions, a 1,000-person company that encompasses a podcast, 23 money-management books, a budgeting app and personal-financial coaching. Dozens of Facebook groups are devoted to following his methods. Ramsey’s net worth is estimated at more than $200 million.

No credit scores?

Many young adults scratch their heads over his advice that people should let their credit scores dwindle and die .

People need a good credit score, says Mandy Phillips, a 39-year-old residential mortgage loan originator in Redding, Calif. She uses TikTok and other social media to educate millennials and Gen Z about home buying. Scores are vital when applying for mortgages and rentals.

She also takes issue with Ramsey’s advice to only obtain a home loan if you can take out a 15-year fixed-rate mortgage with a down payment of at least 10%. Few younger buyers can pay the large monthly bills of shorter-term mortgages.

“That may have worked years ago in the ’80s and ’90s, but that’s not something that is achievable for the average American,” Phillips says.

Ramsey acknowledges on his website that his views aren’t always in step with conventional economic thinking. “I have an unusual way of looking at the world,” he notes, nodding to his past debt troubles.

Housing is a particularly hot-button topic. He advises people to only buy a house with their lawfully wedded spouse. Yet many young adults are pooling their finances with partners, friends or roommates to buy their first homes.

The debt snowball

Ramsey is perhaps best known for advocating a “ debt snowball method ”: People with multiple loans pay off the smallest balances first, regardless of interest rate. As you knock out each loan, he says, the money you have to put toward larger debt snowballs. Seeing small wins motivates people to keep going, he says.

Conventional economic theory would be to pay off the highest-interest loans first, says James Choi, a finance professor at the Yale School of Management, who has studied the advice of popular finance gurus.

“What Dave Ramsey would say is, ‘I don’t care if paying down the highest-interest debt first is cheapest, because if you give up midway through, that’s more expensive.’ I think the jury is out on that,” Choi says.

Ramsey’s advice has helped a lot of people reduce their spending.

A University of Copenhagen researcher conducted a study that found that when Ramsey’s radio show entered new markets between 2004 and 2019, households in those cities decreased their monthly expenditures by at least 5.4%.

Embracing debt

Ramsey’s save-not-spend message sounds logical, young adults say. It’s his all-or-nothing approach that doesn’t work for them.

Kate Hindman, a 31-year-old administrative assistant in Pasadena, Calif., who has taken an anti-Ramsey stance on TikTok, ended up with $30,000 in credit-card debt after she and her husband faced income-reducing job changes. They’ve since turned it into a consolidation loan with an 8% interest rate and pay about $1,200 a month.

She wonders if the debt aversion is generational. Perhaps younger people are less willing to make huge sacrifices to be debt-free. Maybe carrying some amount of debt forever is a new normal. Hindman’s video about her credit-card debt journey—and how it doesn’t align with Ramsey’s perspective—has more than 745,000 views.

Hindman said in the TikTok video: “I’m sorry, I’m not willing to do anything to get out of debt. I’m not willing to eat rice and beans every day.”



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Millennials Are Coming for Your Golf Communities

Living on golf courses has surged in popularity since the pandemic. Many courses have upgraded facilities and broadened amenities. Now the 40-year-olds want in too.

By JESSICA FLINT
Sun, Apr 21, 2024 8 min

Gabrielle Sloan, 30, and her husband, Brandon Sloan, 30, never thought they’d live on a golf course. Gabrielle doesn’t even play golf—yet, at least.

But in January 2020, the Sloans spent $660,000 to buy a three-bedroom, roughly 1,960-square-foot ranch house on approximately 0.25 acres that backs up to the course at Tequesta Country Club, a private golf club in Tequesta, Fla., a village on Palm Beach County’s northern border.

Gabrielle and Brandon Sloan with their son and dog at their house in Tequesta, Fla. PHOTO: JAMES JACKMAN FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

“We loved how family-friendly the neighbourhood is,” says Gabrielle, noting that the club is catering to a younger crowd. “That lifestyle is something we wanted.”

Across the U.S., millennials like the Sloans are moving to where the grass is greener: private golf communities. “Millennials are starting to solidify their lives,” says Cindy Scholz, a real-estate broker with Compass in New York City and the Hamptons, on New York’s Long Island. “And they are strategically using real estate to shape their lifestyles.”

In Texas, about 10 miles west of downtown Austin is Barton Creek, a community where the Barton Creek Country Club is a selling point. “Before the pandemic, millennials were sporadically buying in Barton Creek,” says Stephanie Nick, a Douglas Elliman sales agent. “Now it’s a full-bore, ‘let’s get going on the country club lifestyle’ movement.”

In Barton Creek, Nick says millennial house hunters typically budget about $3 million to $4 million. In 2023, she sold a millennial a four-bedroom, 5,500-square-foot house for $3.5 million. Recently, she showed a $5 million house to a young couple with one child.

Nick believes millennials—born between 1981 and 1996—are tired of paying more for less in the city. In Austin, $3 million might buy a roughly 3,000-square-foot house on a small parcel, she says, whereas that same price in Barton Creek might buy a 5,000-square-foot to 6,000-square-foot house on a half to one acre in a community with easy access to four 18-hole golf courses, tennis, workout facilities, swimming and more.

In Georgia, Mary Catherine Smith, a real estate agent with Corcoran Classic Living, says millennials are moving to Jennings Mill Country Club, less than five miles south of downtown Athens. In March, Smith listed a typical Jennings Mill property—a five bedroom, 4,984 square foot house on 1.07 acres—for $965,000.

One reason Smith thinks young homeowners gravitate to the club is for its social life. “Many Jennings Mills residents have golf carts,” she says. “They’ll trolley around together on the weekend.”

“There are millennials who have never picked up a golf club, and a country club neighbourhood is still the only place they want to be,” says Byron Wood, a real estate agent with Sotheby’s International Realty – Westlake Village Brokerage, about 10 miles from Los Angeles’s city limits.

Millennials moving to private golf communities is a trend that might have seemed unthinkable before the Covid pandemic, when such enclaves seemed destined for the rough due to waning interest in the sport, especially among young people.

Then an unlikely coincidence occurred.

A bucket of balls at the Bermuda Dunes Country Club. PHOTO: OLIVIA ALONSO GOUGH FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

Golf play surged during the pandemic and continues to grow: In 2023, more golf rounds were played than any other year on record, according to the National Golf Foundation.

Meanwhile, since the Great Recession, there are private golf clubs that have been transforming themselves into amenity-rich lifestyle hubs, whose resort-style pools, sports facilities, fitness centres, dining and social programming have broad appeal, says Jason Becker, co-founder and CEO of Golf Life Navigators, an online platform that connects golfers to golf clubs and golf communities across the U.S.

At the same time, during the pandemic, millennials started turning 40 years old. Research from Club Benchmarking, a private golf club business intelligence firm, shows that the average age of new private golf club joiners is early 40s, says Michael J. Timmerman, the company’s chief market intelligence officer.

That means at the same time golf and private golf clubs came back into style, the next generation of Muffys and Skips were primed to start their country club years.

Consequently, the NGF has seen a shift toward younger private golf club members on the heels of the pandemic. Since 2019, the number of golfers at private golf clubs has increased by approximately 25%, from just under 1.5 million to 1.9 million, according to the NGF. Adults under the age of 50 comprise 60% of those memberships, with young adults, ages 18 to 34, representing about 30%. The latter can include adult children of members, typically up to a certain age.

There is no one-size-fits-all U.S private golf club community. Some clubs have housing within their gates; other clubs are integrated within regular residential neighbourhoods. Roughly speaking, a top-tier club’s golf initiation fee could be $250,000 or much more, with annual dues in the mid-tens of thousands and up. However, there are also clubs with golf initiation fees and annual dues in the low thousands or less. Typically, there are lower-priced membership options that don’t include golf, such as social or pool- and tennis-only memberships.

In December 2021, Tyson Hawley, 37, and his wife, Maital Hawley, 40, paid $1.15 million for a turnkey four bedroom, 4,272 square foot house on 0.4 acres backing up to the golf course at the Bermuda Dunes Country Club. It’s located in California’s greater Palm Springs area, which has more than 110 golf courses, of which more than half are private.

“I leave my house and I’m on my club’s first tee in two minutes,” Tyson Hawley says. Hawley is a real estate agent with Desert Sotheby’s International Realty. He says within a prestigious desert club’s gates, houses might be in the multi-millions. However, there are lower priced golf community options that work for his millennial buyers, who typically have house budgets of about $800,000 to $1.2 million, he says.

undefined “It is very possible to buy a house at $350 per square foot in a golf community and be super pumped about what you get for your membership,” he says. “There are clubs that understand that millennials are in a season of their lives where they can’t hang with the big dogs paying $250,000 for an initiation fee.”

Golf Life Navigators’s Jason Becker says some private clubs have invested in their amenities, golf course and branding, while others have not and rely upon their historic status. “Millennials are very cautious by nature in terms of their finances and investments,” Becker says. “Industry officials are seeing very in-depth questions coming from millennials pertaining to the club’s financial health and long-term plan to remain healthy.”

Becker says there are, of course, golf communities where there aren’t many younger members, specifically those in the U.S.’s Southeast or Southwest that are geared toward retirees or second-home owners. “There’s just so much demand from the baby boomers,” says Becker, noting that since the pandemic, generally speaking, membership wait lists are now lengthy, fees associated with being a member are up, attrition rates are down and tee time availability is compressed. He added that the cost of being a member at some clubs can be prohibitive for younger people, especially in an era when the average initiation fee at a private club has increased 50% to 70% since 2021. In the Sunbelt, the average age of private golf club searchers is between ages 55 to 57, according to Golf Life Navigators’s data.

That’s not a hard-and-fast rule, though. In the Phoenix area, Lisa Roberts is a real-estate agent with Russ Lyon Sotheby’s International Realty. She is working with a young millennial couple at McCormick Ranch Golf Club, in Scottsdale. They recently went into contract for $1.1 million on a three bedroom, 2,550 square foot house on 0.21 acre. “They plan to upgrade once they have children and a more established income,” Roberts says, “but this house lets them lay a foundation within the club’s gates now.”

Becker says whether younger people will be battling generational stereotypes hinges on the club’s culture, which sets the tone for all members. “It is up to the club’s board and management team to lead the way of established culture, such as playing music on the golf course or wearing a hat in the clubhouse,” Becker says. “For younger, new members, the club’s culture has to be understood or frustration will likely surface.”

Club Benchmarking’s Michael J. Timmerman says, “It really depends on how the club is designed, whether the club wants to focus on programming that will attract different members.” Timmerman adds that clubs catering to younger members and families will develop social programming specifically tailored to that age group.

Around the communities of Monterey and Carmel on California’s Central Coast, there are storied golf courses including the public Pebble Beach Golf Links and the private Monterey Peninsula Country Club. Nic Canning, managing partner at Canning Properties Group with Sotheby’s International Realty – Carmel Brokerage, says retirees and second-home owners typically live around these premiere courses, where he says properties can range from roughly $15 million to $35 million around Pebble Beach, and $3 million to $10 million around MPCC.

However, the area is rich with golf—there are roughly a dozen public courses and a half-dozen private clubs—and Canning has seen an influx of millennials buying in  family-friendly private golf communities such as the Club at Pasadera, Santa Lucia Preserve and Tehama Golf Club, and the semi-private Carmel Valley Ranch. He says since the pandemic, the area has particularly attracted tech workers migrating from Silicon Valley, with San Jose being only about 70 miles north.

At these clubs, Canning has recently sold millennials properties such as a three bedroom, 2,717-square-foot house on approximately 0.23 acres for $3.792 million, and a house with roughly similar specs for $2.7 million. Another house that has three bedrooms and 4,396 square feet on 13.3 acres just sold to a millennial for $4.42 million.

“Millennials are less driven by ocean views and care more about the community, the school district and access to things like restaurants, grocery shopping, trails and beaches,” Canning says.

Similarly, millennials want to equip their private golf-club houses a certain way. Kate O’Hara, CEO and creative director of O’Hara Interiors, which is based in Minneapolis and Austin, says the country club houses her firm works on might include everything from golf-simulator rooms and yoga studios, to outdoor-access showers and expanded mudrooms for equipment storage.

Back in Tequesta, Fla., the Sloans spent about $150,000 to optimise their house to fit their lifestyle, including adding durable furnishings and built-in cabinetry and jazzing up their outdoor entertaining area. They did so with the help of local interior designer Victoria Meadows Murphy, 35, who has a knack for taking the Bob Hope vibes out of country club homes without losing the martini spirit.

Meadows Murphy and her husband, Evan Murphy, 35, are building their own house, a project budgeted at $2.8 million, on a tear-down lot on the Sloans’s same golf course. “It’s exciting seeing the turnover of houses as young people are moving in,” Meadows Murphy says.

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This stylish family home combines a classic palette and finishes with a flexible floorplan

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