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Dave Ramsey is a fast-talking, in-your-face kind of guy whose tough-love guidance—both in books and over the airwaves from Nashville—connects with a lot of Americans. Every few minutes on his three-hour weekday afternoon radio program, callers who recently paid off massive amounts of credit card obligations scream, "I'm debt-free!"

Although he is overtly Christian, Ramsey resonates with a market beyond the evangelical niche: His show is carried on 272 secular stations. In March, cbs television began filming a pilot for a reality series that will follow Ramsey around the country, helping families conquer overwhelming debt and cut the credit umbilical cord.

"I've cried over this stuff, too," says Ramsey, who established a $4 million real estate portfolio by age 26 and lost it four years later. "I've done stupid with zeroes on the end."

This year, some 200,000 people will complete Ramsey's Financial Peace University, a 13-week course that he says enables the average family to pay off $5,300 in debt and save $2,700 in the first 91 days.

"The statistics of pain are getting worse every year," Ramsey told Christianity Today. "We have more people getting behind on credit cards, more people filing bankruptcy, more people in foreclosure right now than we've ever had in this nation."

Remarkably, American consumers are simultaneously earning record income while accumulating record debt. And there is little difference between the amounts that Christians and non-Christians earn, spend, save, charge, or donate to charities.

A result of the growing economic prosperity during the past two decades is the boom in the number of personal financial advisers who counsel Americans on how to eliminate debt and where to invest money.

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In the Magazine

May 2006

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