Although personal finance is personal, millions of Americans look to the experts for advice and guidance when it comes to spending, budgeting and saving their money. If you want to get a handle on your finances but aren’t sure which personal finance guru is for you, allow me to help. Although the main goal of these personal finance experts is to help you get a handle on your finances, each takes a little different approach to achieving the same goal.
Dave Ramsey’s best selling book "The Total Money Makeover" walks you through what he calls the Baby Steps. After completing these initial steps, which include starting a beginner emergency fund and putting 15 percent into your retirement account, you will find yourself with a paid-off mortgage, a healthy retirement fund, savings for your kids' college education and more.
My big takeaway with the Ramsey plan is the guy thinks debt is evil. The only debt that he won’t yell at you about is a mortgage and then only if the mortgage payment is no more than 25 percent of your monthly net income on a 15-year fixed note. The conservative mortgage and credit guidelines aren’t for everyone, but Ramsey fans love him, to the tune of more than 4 million listeners for his daily radio talk show.
With her telltale blonde locks and upbeat yet sometimes boisterous attitude, Suze Orman is one of the most popular personal finance gurus out there. Orman is the author of a bevy of personal finance books including "The Money Book for the Young, Fabulous & Broke," "The 9 Steps to Financial Freedom" and "Women & Money." She is also the host of "The Suze Orman Show" on CNBC.
While Orman also encourages viewers to get out of debt — especially in today’s economic climate — she doesn’t take the hard line approach to debt that Ramsey does. Ramsey loathes the FICO scoring system, but Orman understands that for the vast majority of Americans, having a good FICO score is necessary.
David Bach is the new face of Equifax, one of the three main credit bureau reporting systems. Bach recently released his newest book, "Debt Free for Life," which includes an easy-to-follow system to help Americans get out of debt. Like Ramsey and Orman, Bach encourages Americans to get out of debt sooner vs. later.
In addition to his newest book, Bach is also the author of the "Automatic Millionaire," "Start Over," "Finish Rich" and "Go Green, Live Rich." Bach’s eco-friendly personal finance book helps demystify the “going green is expensive” myth. Achieving better financial health while keeping the environment in mind doesn't have to be mutually exclusive, and Bach helps you reach both goals.
Host of "The Clark Howard Show," Howard helps Americans make better financial choices and avoid getting ripped off. Howard is a consumer advocate who offers practical and easy-to-implement financial advice via his daily radio show as well as his HLN weekend television show.
Clark is also the author of several popular books including one specifically for parents — "Clark Smart Parents, Clark Smart Kids: Teaching Kids of Every Age the Value of Money." If you are a parent and struggle with personal finance, start teaching your kids about money and how it works now so they can avoid those same struggles in their future.
There are certainly more experts in the personal finance world than the four listed here, but if you want to make a change in your finances and want some guidance in making this change, one of these books is a good place to start. The good news is, your library should have a copy, so you won’t have to shell out any dough to start getting your financial house in order.