Well, in a way, that is exactly what the Total Money Makeover is trying to convey. It tells you, that it is possible to be out of debt, with very little worries, within the next 3-5 years... and all you have to do is live like no one else today, so you can live like no one else tomorrow.
Well, I'm hear to tell you, that there is only a slight hint of truth to this teaching. Most of the information is not designed for a one income family that makes $40k or less.
The author provides many examples that are purely irrational, or totally impossible, for a normal family on this income to ever hope to achieve.
The upgrading car principle is bull. When you need a reliable car now, you need a reliable car now. You can't buy a crappy car in 4 months, and expect to upgrade every 4 months until you get a stunningly reliable ride. First of all, you need the reliable car now. What are you going to do? Walk? Or ride your bike? You need something now, not in 4 months when you'll be able to afford the worst junker on the car lot. Plus, when you do purchase the clunker, how often are you able to drive it without having to repair it at some point, or not have it break down on you? And how realistic is it to have your wife and kids riding around in a car that you know could break down at any moment? Yeah... I didn't think so!
Personally, you are better off buying the nicer, more reliable car (never buy brand new, but you knew that right?) to begin with, and then paying it off early. And, then, stop buying a new car every two years. That is one of the most asinine things you could do... keep rolling over into a new car purchase or lease every couple years. Buy a good car, and keep driving it until it falls apart.
The idea that you can just go out, and pick up part-time jobs, to jump-start your savings plan is ludicrous. Sure, getting a second part-time job is easy enough. But, it's not normal if you want to have any time at all with your spouse, or if you want to have a marriage left at the end of your savings spree. And, it's also not recommended if you want to have any time to share with your children.
Let's just look at a quick example. Say, you work 40-45 hours per week. Now, you want to get a second job working 4 nights a week and weekends for 20-30 more hours. So, you will only see your spouse and kids twice a week, for any length of time. Next, let's say your spouse also works a job. So, they are gone more often as well. And now, your kids will have to go into a public school, no matter if you want that or not. And they will still be sitting home, alone, for hours, until you or your spouse get off of work and make it home.
If you want to have a decent marriage, this is NOT the way to do it.
Personally, I think you are far better off trying to run some kind of part-time small business out of your house, and including your spouse in the business with you. That way, you can both spend time together, doing something you somewhat enjoy, and you will be home. Oftentimes, by spending this time, and working together, you create bonds that help build and grow your marriage relationship. This may not be a feasible alternative for every family, but what a great way to save your sanity, your marriage, and your long-term relationship with your kids.
In fact, I think it's safe to say, your relationship with your kids will be hurt by pursuing this type of lifestyle. It's tempting to say... "Oh, it's only a couple of years, it won't be that bad". But, I'm here to tell you that you will never get those years back with your kids... NEVER! If you've ever said... "They're growing up so fast". Just think of what it will be like when you disappear for two years because you have to work extra hours to save up money for your retirement. Really?
In fact, if we were to look at the author as a personal example, we should build a thriving information empire, getting other people to buy into our ideas, and skip the minimum wage part time work altogether. I pick that up reading between the lines of his teachings. Although I've never heard him say such a thing publicly. Just remember this euphemism when you're working all those hours... do as I say, not as I do.
How many of the people he speaks with on his radio program, have incomes over $50k? Most. How realistic is it, to expect to put his program in place, when your income is barely enough to meet your bills, even when your only debt is a mortgage? I have the answer for you... It's not! Maybe, if you had an under $75k mortgage, like some of the extreme examples in his books. Again, this amount of mortgage is NOT the norm. Sure, all of his examples have home mortgages under $75k, but I've rarely met a person with this little of a mortgage amount. Even our starter home, which we bought 11 years ago, wasn't even under $120k.
I totally agree with his concept of paying off your mortgage. For years now, this has been our dream. Imagine, what your life would be like without a mortgage payment every month. Imagine how much you could save, buy, splurge, donate, or use for fun. Can you see it? This is a worthwhile goal. However, none of his examples or scenarios make it half-as-easy as he makes it seem. And, mostly, it's because of the high dollar mortgages that people find themselves in now.
I guess it's the fact that the author has such a huge following that has me so bewildered. In fact, I am hesitant to publish this article because of the strong opinions people have about his system.
The thing is... he gives dreams, hopes, and ideas to people who have absolutely NO WAY of actually achieving everything he says you can. And, it is in no way feasible to match the examples he is using to make his claims.
The thing is... he is portraying a debt-free lifestyle that is rarely achievable as quickly or as easily as he makes it seem. And the accomplishment of that dream is much harder than the examples and ideas he shares. Most importantly, he is SELLING an illusion of happiness, worry-free lifestyle to millions of people who will have no way to fully achieve the picture he is painting. And he is making MILLIONS off of his product sales, all the while, he is telling you to go ahead and pick up that minimum wage part time job.
In his perfect scenario, a family who is out of most consumer debt and has saved up about 6 months of expenses, will also be in this position:
- Saving 15% per month on retirement
- Saving some amount per month for your kid's education
- Giving 10% to a charity
- Paying down extra on your mortgage each month
- And still having enough to match all your living expenses, and to continue to live debt free.
I 'am' that scenario. And I can assure you, we are not in a position to do this. We certainly aren't worry free, about our futures, about our jobs, about our home, about our family, or about just about anything. For him to state it so boldly is annoying. And for other people to follow him hook, line, and sinker is also annoying.
Now that we've pushed into a couple of big issues I have with the Total Money Makeover system, I want to get into a HUGE misconception that I believe the author spreads with his program.
I call this, the Total Money Hangover.
Having been out of consumer debt for awhile, the light at the end of the 'debt free' tunnel isn't as bright as I thought it would be. We don't have large amounts of money in any of our accounts, and we still struggle WAY more than he says you will.
Just my experience.
I do agree with the debt free lifestyle, or else I wouldn't be living it. However, living this way is NOT all peaches and cream, as the author would have us believe. For the most part - it is an uneventful, and still stressful, way of life. And, imagine, not having anything fun to look forward to in your near future because you're sticking away every extra cent you have to save up for your retirement. And who knows, by the time you get to retirement age, they might tack on another 5 years to when you can actually retire. You might not even make it that long? Who knows?
Ok... rant is over. For now anyhow. Let me know what you think, and how much you despise me now for saying all this?