Famed financial guru, radio host and television personality Dave Ramsey has long offered a video course taught at churches and community centers around the country. But the Beaumont Centre Family YMCA will soon begin a new nine-week session open to members and non-members.
Ramsey's Financial Peace University is most frequently taught at churches, as Ramsey cites Scripture from the Bible in reinforcing his ideas about how to handle money. But Lexington coordinator Rick Parsons said the classes are welcoming to people of all faiths, or no faith, because the biblical portions of the classes are minor. Plus, there are advantages to bringing it to the more public setting of the YMCA.
"The Biblical side is very important for Dave, but I've realized some people maybe want a more neutral place to hold it," said Parsons, who has served on the Beaumont YMCA's board of managers. "Sometimes people don't want to do it at their church because everybody knows who you are.
"It's a natural fit because the Y is so community-oriented. It's not just helping people with memberships and sending kids to camp but also trying to help people learn to be more successful with the money that they have."
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The nine-week course, which begins with a preview night Sept. 4, offers advice to families and individuals on how to take control of their finances and plan for long-term financial goals.
Ramsey teaches a seven-step process for securing "financial peace," thus the name Financial Peace University, Parsons said. Included in the steps are the concept of an envelope system in which you budget for expenses by inserting your allotted money into categorized envelopes. Once an envelope is empty, you wait until your next budget.
On average, families completing the course pay off $5,300 in debt and save $2,700 in the first three months afterward, according to a statement issued by Ramsey.
Financial Peace University "isn't a boring financial class," Ramsey said in the statement. "We make learning about money fun and easy to understand, so people in every situation can benefit from the information."
The classes, which began in 1994, consist of video lessons from Ramsey and then a facilitated discussion by local coordinators like Parsons.
"The beauty of these classes is you can be as interactive or quiet as you choose to be about your personal situation," Parsons said. "Obviously you get a lot more out of it if you share your own story.
"Everybody wants to feel like what they're doing is something someone else is doing, too. This is the fifth class I've coordinated, and there is a lot of commonality in what people are really trying to achieve."
Parsons also knows more about finances than the average coordinator might. He formed The Financialist, a company in which he provides accounting services for small businesses.
"I'm like a CFO for hire," he said.
Parsons initially thought he might do financial coaching, too, but that's evolved to be his volunteer work that he offers for free long past the end of the class.
"I tell everyone who comes through the classes I coordinate that if they want that one-on-one coaching, they can knock on my door in 20 years and if I'm around, I'll help them," he said.
Parsons said attendees frequently change their behavior after the classes.
"It's just that they're seeing this material and hearing what Dave has to say and the message just really sinks in," he said. "They understand it, and they want to make changes.
"It allows them to save money for emergencies, it allows them to reduce their debt and it allows them to put a plan in place."
The beauty of it, he says, is it's common sense.
"It's just what people in the '20s, '30s and '40s did with money," he said. "Buy what you can afford and live within your means. It's OK to be that way.
"This is as much about having hope and creating hope as the mechanics of doing it."