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Dave Ramsey’s Baby Steps: The Parable of the Slippery Climb

Dave Ramsey’s Baby Steps are a revolutionary process. They are a new, fresh way to get control of your financial life. The principles behind them are ancient. They are thousands of years old. Even eternal. Dave teaches them through the lens of the Bible. I’ve corroborated them for myself with the Book of Mormon and the words of modern prophets.

The prophets, living and dead, point out the why and the what. Dave’s Baby Steps are an amazing how. He lays out a practical way to climb from broke, desperate and stupid, up to healthy, wealthy and wise.

These principles work. They’ve worked for thousands of years. They’ve worked for billions of people, living and dead. They are working for Amazewife and I, and they can work for you.  

Here are the steps:

  1. $1,000 to start an emergency fund.
  2. Pay off all debt but the house. (This doesn’t apply if you rent.)
  3. 3 to 6 months of expenses go into savings.
  4. Invest 15% of household income into retirement.
  5. Fund college for children.
  6. Pay off your home early. 
  7. Build wealth and give. (My personal favorite.)

“But RI,” you might ask, “What do these look like from the trenches?”

You may have listened to Dave’s radio show. You may have watched him online. You may have heard the Debt Free Screams of the gajillion families that have kicked their slavery to the curb. They go on the show. They describe in brief what it was like to accomplish steps one and two. Then they scream they’re debt free, everybody cheers and they leave.

These guys scream they are debt free. Sometimes, I just scream. It’s hard. I deliver pizzas and work and budget and struggle beside my amazing Wife just to stay on step 2 as long as possible before the next emergency drops us to step 1 again. 

I’m going to take the next few entries to explain what these steps are from our point of view. We’re raising three children, a dog and a cat on three payroll jobs, spotty translation work and by selling stuff. These first two steps are intense. And they’re long. But we’ve got a vision. That vision encompasses steps 3 through 7. Especially step 7.

The struggles are real. But relatable. (And made easier by your notes and kind letters and gifts. Thanks, you anonymous reader, you.) 

I want to share an uplifting experience I had with my oldest daughter from the other night. It helped me refocus. I hope it sets the tone for you on my view of a truly uphill battle: Dave Ramsey’s Seven Baby Steps to financial peace.


The Parable of the Slippery Climb

See, I love steep hills. But not too steep. We have some near our house. They were dusted with six inches of fresh snow last Monday night.

I love to sled on fresh, powdery snow. The three beautiful Princesses, Froofy Doof, Eva Diva and Nenzaborenza, do as well. We went night sledding some cold weeks previous after a nice spat had come through. They were hooked.

This time, Nena was in bed. Amazewife stayed home. It was just Froof, the Deev and I.

I mentioned the weeks had been cold.  They weren’t always cold. We had a few days of warm weather nestled between the frigid arms of Nebraskan January. Sheets of solid ice formed on top of matted grass below the previous sled runs. They were, of course, impossible to see.

We arrived at the hill and took our first ride down. Then we got up, walked back, started to climb and proceeded to tumble, fall, and bounce back down as our feet slid out from underneath us.

I may be nine years old inside, but I’m a thirty year old man. I’ve braved my own fair share of steep, icy hills. I dug my feet in sideways, increased my pitch and climbed. Eva got hold of the idea.

Ruth had a much harder time.

I watched Ruth get up, take a few steps, then faceplant. Over and over. She did this in the same spot, time after time.

“Ruth,” I said, raising my voice so she could hear. “Move over to a different spot on the hill. Try to find different footing.”

“I’m trying,” she said, raising her own voice. And there she stayed. In the same spot. Stand, step, step, blam. Faceplant. She started to weep.

I guided her from my secure place on top of the hill to where I thought there would be an easier path. It was. Barely. She did not fall, but not for lack of trying. She scrambled to the top and her seven year old mind forgot the struggle as she planted her sled and flew. Down she went with a whoop and a fit of giggles.

She got off the sled and headed back. She began to climb.

Step. Step. Faceplant.

Eva really had gotten the hang of it. She slid down on her own and climbed up on her own. She was having a good ol’ time.

Ruth faceplanted again and wept harder. Weeping turned into wails. 

I cajoled. I guided. I tried to encourage. It all just made Ruth cry harder.

So, I did what I thought a good father should do. I walked down the hill to where she was and offered her my hand. It was very slick. It’s easy to forget how slick an icy hill can be after you’ve learned how to manage it.

I kept my hand outstretched. Ruth took it, but was very upset and wouldn’t move. She was inconsolable.

“Ruth, if you can’t calm down, we’ll have to go home.” I said. She told me she was trying. And kept crying.

Then, I had an idea.

“Follow me,” I said. I let go of her hand.

“Where are we going?” she said.

I was taking small steps along the hillside instead of up. I was also headed toward the road home.

“Trust me,” I said.

“But how? I don’t know where you’re going,” she said. She had not moved.

“Just trust me,” I said.

“But how?” she insisted. Her voice was sharp.

“Just follow me and trust me, Ruth,” I said, louder.

She was still weepy, but she followed me. I looked back to check on her. She was worried and didn’t know what to expect. Her stride was timid. Careful. And away we went, step by step.

Our sledding hill became less steep as you got closer to the road. There were also a few trees. I took small steps at a much lower grade until we reached the trees. She struggled in a couple of spots because I had gone up the hill a little too far. I encouraged her to use my boot prints. She did. We reached the top of the hill a few moments later.

Ruth was sniffling and weeping at that point, but less. I kneeled down. I hugged her. She nestled her snowy hat against me. I put my hands on her upper arms and held her away from me.

“Ruth,” I said, “sometimes life is like a snowy, icy hill. We try to get up, but we slip and fall. And it’s hard. But you need to remember that you have a Father who is always at the top of the hill. He wants us to try to figure it out. He needs us to learn sometimes. And He’s there to help us, just like I helped you. Okay?”

Ruth nodded. She sniffed.

“Ok, let’s go sled,” I said.

Eva had been back up and back down several times. Ruth followed her after one screeching, giggling run. Then Ruth came right back, straight toward the hill.

“Are you going to go the other way?” I asked, gesturing toward the path I had led her to before.

“No, I want to do this,” she said. She was resolute. She came straight up the hill, got back on the sled, and asked me to push her.

“But push me hard this time, daddy,” she said. I obliged.

After that run, Ruth made it back up the hill. Straight up. But she slipped a couple of times. Eva beat her again and headed down for the last slide.

“How come it’s so easy for Eva but so hard for me?” Ruth asked. She had made it up again, but not before noticing Eva’s lack of struggle with climbing the hill.

“Well, Ruth, some things are meant to be harder for some people than others. That’s how it’s supposed to be for us to learn. Everyone is different.”

When we were walking home, I told Ruth, “You know, when I was in school, I had a bad potty mouth.”

“What’s that?” she said.

“I used a lot of bad words.”

“Oh,” she said.

“There were kids in my Church and stuff that didn’t have any problem at all with bad words.  But I did. And I stopped. It was really hard. I had to keep trying, but I stopped.”

“Yeah,” She said. “And I bet that was way harder than climbing an icy hill.”

“It was for me,” I said.

And thus are the baby steps. Some may struggle with step 1. Others, like us, step 2. And so on. But we’ve got our Father on the top of the hill. He’s helped us every time we’ve slipped, and we’ve learned so much in the struggle. It’s a hard uphill battle. And it’s just so intense.



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