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Published:January 30th, 2007 13:05 EST
Dave Ramsey chats with Judyth Piazza

Dave Ramsey chats with Judyth Piazza

By Nancy Lee Wolfe (HR Development/Content Manager)

Hi, Dave, it`s a pleasure to have you on the show.

Well, thanks, Judy, we appreciate you calling us.

Well, I know that you have talked to many people and have trained many people about finances and you had a very interesting story.  Can you tell us what happened to you and how you got into this line of business?

Well, I started teaching people about money after I did stupid with zeros on the end in our personal financial lives.  My wife, Sharon, and I started with nothing when we came out of college and we started buying and selling real estate and I got rich " at least by a kid from Antioch, Tennessee standards.

And, uh, we ended up with about four million dollars worth of real estate, a little over a million dollar net worth making about $250,000 a year.  That was rich where I come from.  The only problem was we had too much debt.

And the bank got sold to another bank and, the short version of the story is:  Over the next two and a half years, we ended up losing everything we owned.  We were sued a gazillion times, we were foreclosed on; and, finally, at 28 years old with a brand new baby and a toddler and a wife scared out of her mind that, uh, thought she was married to Goober, uh, we hit bottom and started over.

And decided we were going to -- at the bottom of that mess we were going to have to learn to handle money.  And, as we learned how to do it then we, uh, started teaching a few other people.

Well, you`re doing a phenomenal job.  I want to commend you.  I had a chance to read a few of your books and look on your website and you`re awesome.

Well, thanks!  We`re having a good time.

Um, who are some of your mentors that may have helped you along the way with your journey into this?

Well, on the financial side, I certainly have, uh, you know, admired and read a lot of people.  Uh, Larry Burkett is really well known in the Christian financial world " Larry passed away a couple of years ago.

Um, Ron Blue is really well known in that arena as well.  So I have read virtually everything those two guys have written and, uh, stolen a lot of it and claimed it as mine " with their permission.  Wink.  Wink.  (laughing)

And, uh, you know, so, so, in that arena, you know, when we hit bottom and decided we were going to learn how to handle money God`s ways, uh, we decided that, that we were going to have to learn from someone that had done it before.  So we set that idea up and, uh, started working with those guys.

And, then, you know, but, in different areas of my life I guess I`ve got different mentors.  I don`t have a single mentor that covers everything, you know, marriage and physical condition and spiritual walk and financial and business and, uh, I`ve got, you know, a group of, uh, guys that I meet with that we call our Eagles Bible Study that are all guys that have done phenomenal things, uh " hugely successful in their arenas " and, um, use them for accountability as well as some mentoring.

Um, who, what inspired you to help others, um, with this?  Was it just, you know, being in that situation yourself?

Absolutely, uh, we are truly wounded healers " as Larry Crab says.  We, uh, by hitting bottom and knowing what it felt like to hurt, knowing what it felt like to be scared, knowing what it feels like to, um, uh, you know, to just face these demons of " of money. Knowing what it feels like to almost be divorced over money problems and money fights.

Then when you see someone else that`s hurting like that, you know, you`d have to be a pretty cold character to not want to help them, um, anytime somebody`s been through something.

My wife, last year, uh, was, was training for a marathon and got a stress facture.  So she was in a cast for several weeks -- six, eight weeks.  For the rest of her life she has -- will have empathy and sympathy for when you run into somebody on crutches, you know, and, uh, whether it`s a break or a permanent thing.  So once you`ve been there, if you`ve got a heart, you do tend to, uh, "you do tend to align yourself with those kinds of things.

What important quality do you think someone needs in order to succeed?

Well there`s a lot of important qualities, uh, that folks have to succeed "I don`t think there`s one.  Um, a couple that come to mind as you ask that question is:  I`ve seen several studies that indicate that most people that are inordinately, unbelievably successful have high levels "fanatical levels "of integrity.  Unbelievable willingness to be the truth, tell the truth and walk in the truth; unbelievable aversion to anything that`s hidden or anything that`s under the table.  And, uh, they`re fanatics about it and most people that I meet that are extremely successful fit that bill.

Um, another thing that we always run into is that they are relentless in their perseverance and in their pursuit.  Uh, they, they have not " very few people that I meet that are successful have done so in an extremely short period of time.  It took them awhile.  Uh, you know, you work your butt off 15 years and then you`re an overnight success.

And so they are the tortoise in The Tortoise and the Hare.  And the slow, ugly but never quits and never takes his eye off the ball "just keeps going.  No matter whether it`s raining, whether it`s snowing whether your friends make fun of you, whether your relatives think you`re crazy -- cause all of that`s going to happen on the way to being successful " in every case.  It just doesn`t -- there`s no exception.

Uh, and, and you`re going to fall down, you`re going to fail, you`re going to screw up and, and you`re going to get back up and do it again.

So, that relentless perseverance combined with unbelievable, fanatical levels of integrity are two character traits that certainly would be on the list.

Well, I can definitely agree with you on that because I know that I`ve had to work for free, probably, for a couple of years before I started seeing any results.  And, you know, it`s like, when you go to bed at night with a purpose and you wake up in the morning with the same purpose, it gives you that motivation to keep on going.

It`s exactly right.  You have to have your eye on the ball; you have to be able to see the goal line.  Um, I mean, football without a goal`s rugby.  (laughing)

(laughing)  I`ve never heard it put that way.

Well, there`s no fun in playing if you don`t know where you`re going.  You`ve got to be going somewhere.

You know I`ve heard you refer to plastic surgery many times but you had a different meaning for it.  Can you tell us about it?

Well, plastic surgery is when we teach people "like Sharon and I did many years ago "to cut up all your credit cards.  Chop them into little pieces.  It`s time to have a plasectomy.

I have met with literally thousands of millionaires across North America in our process of financial recovery ourselves and in teaching others to financially recover.  And, uh, in all of those millionaires, I`ve never met one that said, Dave, you know, I made all my money with my Discover Points.  It was those airline miles that was my break-through moment, Dave.  I mean, this is what turned my whole life around " were credit cards. "

No, I meet people every day, though, that their lives " financial lives -- have been ravaged by stupid credit cards.  And so, I don`t own a single credit card.  I`m a weirdo.  But I`m also not broke anymore.  I have a debit card -- it`ll do everything your credit card will do except get you in debt.

And so that`s the world "that`s the world that I live in and I found out, when you don`t have any payments, it`s fairly easy to become wealthy.

Well, I can`t wait to be just like that.

I`m sure you`re on your way.

Well, I`m really interested in your Financial Peace University.  Can you tell us a little bit about it?

Well, when we started doing one-on-one counseling years ago there was a frustrating experience that I was having.  After I met with somebody for two hours, showed them what to do, helped them lay out their budget, then they would go home and not do it.  And that was really frustrating to me.

And I started discovering " probably 10 or 12 years ago " that personal finance is really about 80% behavior.  It`s only about 20% head knowledge.  So the, the trick to getting control of your money is a behavior change.  It is not some new piece of knowledge that I didn`t ever had before, you know.

It`s doing the stuff you already knew how to do and doing it on purpose and doing it every day:

Live on less than you make.  Get on a plan.  Save money. Get out of debt.  Things we already know to do but doing them.

So it`s more akin to weight loss then it is " getting out of debt and handling money " is more akin to weight loss than it is to some kind of corporate CFO finance.  It`s not about math.  Uh, it`s about controlling the idiot I shave with every morning.  If I can get that boy to behave, I can win.

And that`s how Financial Peace University was born.  We put together a 13-week series with "not only 13 lessons where I teach on video, uh, and about 150,000 families will go through that this year "but, also, after the video plays, there`s a small group discussion for accountability and for encouragement.

And so what ends up happening, then, is that behavior is changed by the small group holding you accountable.  And it`s not " it`s nothing mean, it`s not too tough; but, it is an in-your-face process.

I mean, if you`re going to go to Weight Watchers and get up on the scales every week and get fatter and fatter, something`s got to stop.  The point of going up there and getting on the scales is those scales will hold you accountable.  And you go, Oh, well, I`ve got to have to stay out of the Hagen Daz, " you know, I`m not going to win doing that. "

And so that -- the 13-week process to change habits and behaviors with a small group accountability is -- man, it`s amazingly effective.

And you do this with the military?

We do it in on about 95 military bases; we`re in about 3,000 churches; we`re in YMCA`s; uh, we`re in major national corporations as an HR training benefit.

Ah, we`re in not-for-profit settings like Habitat for Humanity " like, um, uh, you know, homeless shelters, those kinds of things. And so we`ve got it in a Spanish version that`s just been launched " so it`s in -- it`s all over the place.

That`s amazing.  How can people find out more about you and about some of the books that you have out?  And can you tell us about any new projects you have out?

Well the Total Money Makeover is the last book that we did.  And it is a, uh, New York Times bestseller and it`s done extremely well.  Um, it`s getting ready to get some more boosts with some press we`ve got coming in the fall.  So we`re going to see it back on some of the best seller lists, I`m sure, in September/October.  Uh, we`ve got some pretty big hits coming.

And, uh, uh, so you can get that or anything about us.  Just -- the easiest way to find out everything about us is

Okay, I want to thank you so much for being on the show and sharing all your wonderful information and I hope that you`ll come back again.

You got it, Judy.  Thanks for calling me.

Read Dream Reachers Featuring Judyth Piazza