My husband and I took a Dave Ramsey Financial Peace University class a few years ago, which has saved us countless marital money fights, no doubt. We are thankful for the work that Dave is doing to help folks gain and keep financial freedom. We don’t agree with all of his premises and promotions, and that’s ok. We took what was applicable and true for us from the course, and we left the rest.
Today, I noticed a several month-old Dave Ramsey blog post that disappointed me. The post is a distinction between 20 things that the rich regularly do that the poor don’t do. It’s content taken from a man name Tom Corley, but without disclaimer or addition from Dave Ramsey, one is left to assume he agrees or supports this information.
As a social worker, and a Christ-follower who is trying to figure out the church’s role in caring for the poor, I’m disappointed in a fellow Christ-follower for posting something like this.
Jesus commanded His followers to care for the poor, to give to the poor, and to welcome the poor – not draw lines in the sand and judge the behaviors of the poor.
I’ll give you a few examples of the comparisons:
70% of wealthy eat less than 300 junk food calories per day. 97% of poor people eat more than 300 junk food calories per day.
Maybe Dave doesn’t know about food deserts or how challenging it is to shop healthy on a restricted budget. Maybe instead of pointing out how healthy the rich eat, Dave should encourage his wealthy readers to lobby for food stamps (SNAP benefits) to be raised not cut so that the poor can afford healthy food. Maybe Dave should encourage his wealthy readers to go into low-income communities with healthy options and nutrition education.
76% of wealthy exercise aerobically 4 days a week. 23% of poor do this.
Maybe Dave isn’t aware that gym memberships cost about $40 a month per person, and the average low-income person can’t afford that when they’re struggling to cover rent, utilities, and food. Maybe Dave isn’t aware that many poor individuals live in neighborhoods that are less than safe for outdoor aerobic activity (since a gym membership is out of budget). And maybe Dave forgets that many poor have several jobs so finding time for regular exercise is extra challenging than for the rich who typically just manage one job. Maybe Dave should encourage his wealthy readers to start walking groups and open community health centers in low-income neighborhoods to offer health outlets for poor people.
63% of wealthy listen to audio books during commute to work vs. 5% for poor people.
Maybe Dave doesn’t realize that many poor people rely on public transportation as their vehicle, which are not equipped with personal sound systems. Sure, some poor have mp3 players (or discmans, or walkmans), but certainly not the majority of them. Maybe Dave should encourage his wealthy readers to donate to public libraries to increase their supply of audio books and to donate mp3 players to those that cannot afford them.
67% of wealthy write down their goals vs. 17% for poor
Maybe Dave doesn’t realize that it’s really hard to plan for the future when you’re not sure you’ll survive the present due to violence, abuse, hunger or… Maybe Dave doesn’t understand priveledge and power and class and race and the ability to dream and set goals that comes with priveledge. Maybe Dave should encourage his wealthy readers to mentor youth and rally with community members for safe neighborhoods.
67% of wealthy watch 1 hour or less of TV every day vs. 23% for poor
Maybe Dave doesn’t realize that it’s cheaper to watch TV than it is to do a lot of things. It costs money to play sports and sing in choirs and go to camps and go out to eat and go to movies. The wealthy have more money, so they have more options. Maybe Dave should encourage his wealthy readers to donate to and create community-based programs and camp funds and scholarship opportunities that would get poor youth and their families access to more opportunities
6% of wealthy watch reality TV vs. 78% for poor.
Maybe Dave doesn’t know my friends. I have a lot of friends who I’m assuming qualify as wealthy (as in roof over heads, own a car, don’t struggle to put food on the table, take vacations every few years, and even have a savings account) who watch loads of reality tv. Maybe all 6% are my friends? This one seemed skewed to me. Maybe Dave should check his sources?
86% of wealthy love to read vs. 26% for poor.
Maybe Dave doesn’t realize the stark academic achievement differences between students who qualify for free and reduced lunch in school (those students who are close or under the poverty line), and those who do not. Maybe Dave doesn’t realize that poverty is generational and that many of the parents of the low-income students don’t read well, so they can’t teach their children to read. Maybe Dave should encourage his wealthy readers to volunteer to help children and adults learn how to read (often a love of reading comes with the ability to read).
Dave, what if, instead of promoting differences between habits of the rich and habits of the poor, you promoted closing the gap between the rich and the poor? You talk about living like no one else so you can give like no one else in your Financial Peace classes, so why not talk about how people can do that?
Many poor people can’t just “pick themselves up by the bootstraps”, or they would have. The poor people that I know have more grit and determination and hard-work ethic than most wealthy people I know. I’ve never met a poor person who wanted to stay poor. There’s a lot that goes into being poor, and most of that “a lot” doesn’t contain laziness, as many assume.
As Christ-followers, we shouldn’t be ok with the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer. We shouldn’t be ok with being proud of the wealth gap. We are called to live differently.
“There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your brothers and toward the poor and needy in your land.”