Knowing how to deal with debt is easy—pay it off! Investing, however, isn’t quite so simple. Most people have questions about when and how to invest their money, so here’s an inside look at Dave Ramsey’s investing philosophy. Just remember, investing is personal. A financial advisor or investment professional can help you create a retirement plan that’s right for you.
Any successful investment strategy relies on a firm financial foundation, so it’s absolutely critical to lay the groundwork for financial success by working through the Baby Steps.
Here is Dave’s investing philosophy:
Get out of debt and save up a fully funded emergency fund.
Invest 15% of your income in tax-favored retirement accounts.
Invest in good growth stock mutual funds.
Keep a long-term perspective.
Know your fees.
Work with a financial advisor.
Are you ready to get your money working for you?
Your income is your most important wealth-building tool. As long as it’s tied up in monthly debt payments, you can’t build wealth. That’s like trying to run a marathon with your legs shackled together!
Be confident about your retirement. Find an investing pro in your area today.
And if you start investing before you’ve built up your emergency fund, you could end up tapping your retirement investments when an emergency comes along, sabotaging your financial future in the process.
If you haven’t paid off all your debt or saved up three to six months of expenses, postpone investing for now. After all, avoiding a financial crisis with a fully funded emergency fund and paying off debt are fantastic investments!
A Simple Investing Plan
Once you’ve completed the first three Baby Steps, you’re ready for Baby Step 4—investing 15% of your income for retirement. This is where things get really exciting!
As Chris Hogan, a retirement expert and the bestselling author of Everyday Millionaires, would say:
"Investing 15% allows you to save for the future while you also pay off your mortgage and save for your kids' college. Once you're completely debt-free, you can invest even more so you can enjoy your dream retirement." — Chris Hogan
You’ll get the most bang for your buck by using tax-advantaged investment accounts like these:
Pre-Tax Investment Accounts
Thrift Savings Plan (TSP)
Tax-Free Investment Accounts
If your employer matches your contributions to your 401(k), 403(b) or TSP, you can reach your 15% goal by following these three steps:
Invest up to the match in your 401(k), 403(b) or TSP—that’s free money!
Fully fund a Roth IRA for you (and your spouse, if you’re married).
If you still haven’t reached your 15% goal and have good mutual fund options available, keep bumping up your contribution to your 401(k), 403(b) or TSP until you do.
Does your workplace offer a Roth 401(k)? Even better! If so, feel free to invest your entire 15% there. Just be sure the plan offers plenty of good mutual fund options so you can make the most of your investment.
What Does Dave Ramsey Invest In?
You have lots of investment options to choose from, and making sense of them all isn’t easy. That’s why we’ve included a quick guide to help you understand what Dave recommends investing in—and what he does not.
Of course, it’s your money, and you should always understand what you’re investing in before you invest a single dime. Don’t copy Dave’s plan simply because that’s what Dave does. Work with an investment professional to compare all your options before choosing your investments.
Want to know more of the specifics? Here’s an explanation of some common investment options and why Dave does or doesn’t recommend them.
Mutual funds enable you to invest in many companies at once, from the largest and most stable, to the new and fast-growing. They have teams of managers who choose companies for the fund to invest in, based on the fund type.
Why is this the only investment option Dave recommends? Dave prefers mutual funds because spreading your investment among many companies helps you avoid the risks that come with investing in single stocks. Since mutual funds are actively managed by pros trying to pick stocks that will outperform the stock market, they’re a great option for long-term investing.
Exchange-Traded Funds (ETFs)
ETFs are baskets of single stocks designed to be traded on the stock market exchanges. ETFs don’t employ teams of managers to choose companies for the ETF to invest in, and that often keeps their fees low.
ETFs allow you to trade investments easily and often, so a lot of people try to time the market by buying low and selling high. Dave prefers a buy-and-hold approach with a long-term view of investing.
With single stock investing, your investment depends on the performance of an individual company.
Dave doesn’t recommend single stocks because investing in a single company is like putting all your eggs in one basket—a big risk to take with money you’re counting on for your future. If that company goes down the tubes, your nest egg goes with it.
"Spreading your money across different mutual funds helps you in another way. If one area—say the tech sector—goes into a slump, your other investments can make up for those losses. Diversifying gives you a cushion between your money and the unexpected." — Chris Hogan
Certificates of Deposit (CDs)
A CD is a type of savings account that enables you to save money at a fixed interest rate for a set amount of time. Banks charge a penalty for withdrawing money from a CD before it reaches its maturity date.
Like money market accounts and savings accounts, CDs have low interest rates that don’t keep up with inflation, which is why Dave doesn’t recommend them. While CDs can be useful for setting aside money for a short-term goal, they aren’t suitable for long-term money goals that take more than five years to reach.
Bonds enable companies or governments to borrow money from you. You earn a fixed rate of interest on your investment, and the company or government repays the debt when the bond matures. Although bonds’ values rise and fall like stocks and mutual funds, they have a reputation for being “safe” investments because they experience less market volatility.
When you compare investments over time, the bond market doesn’t perform as well as the stock market. Earning a fixed interest rate might protect you in down years, but it also means you won’t profit from the good years. As interest rates go up, the value of your bond on the market goes down.
Fixed annuities are complex accounts sold by insurance companies and designed to deliver a guaranteed income for a certain number of years in retirement.
Dave doesn’t recommend annuities because they are often expensive and charge penalties if you need to access your money during a defined surrender period.
Variable Annuities (VAs)
VAs are insurance products that can provide a guaranteed income stream and death benefit.
While VAs do provide an additional option for tax-deferred retirement savings if an investor has already maxed out their 401(k) and IRA savings accounts, you lose much of the growth potential that comes from investing in the stock market through mutual funds. Plus, fees can be expensive, and VAs also carry surrender charges.
Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs)
REITs are companies that own or finance real estate. Similar to mutual funds, REITs sell shares to investors who are then entitled to a portion of the income produced from the company’s real estate investments.
Dave recommends investing in paid-for real estate bought with cash and not REITs.
Cash Value or Whole Life Insurance
Cash value or whole life insurance is a type of life insurance product often sold as a way to build up your savings.
Cash value or whole life insurance costs more than term life insurance. When the insured passes away, the beneficiary only receives the face value of the policy and loses the money saved within it. Dave recommends term life insurance instead, with coverage that equals 10–12 times your income. Start with a 15-year policy—longer if you have young children.
Separate Account Managers (SAMs)
SAMs are third-party investment professionals who buy and sell stocks or mutual funds on your behalf.
Dave prefers to invest in mutual funds with their own teams of experienced fund managers who have long track records of above-average performance.
How Do You Choose the Right Mutual Funds?
Your employer-sponsored retirement plan will most likely offer a selection of mutual funds, and there are thousands of mutual funds to choose from as you select investments for your IRAs. Dave divides his mutual fund investments equally between each of these four types of funds:
Growth and Income
Choosing the right mutual funds can go a long way toward helping you reach your retirement goals and prevent unnecessary risk. That’s why it’s important to compare all your options before making your selections. Here are a few questions to consider as you determine which mutual funds are best for you:
How much experience does the fund manager have?
Does this fund cover multiple business sectors, such as financial services, technology, or health care?
Has the fund outperformed other funds in its category over the past 10 years or more?
What costs are associated with the fund?
How often are investments bought and sold within the fund?
If you can’t find answers to these questions on your own, ask your financial advisor for help. It’s worth the extra time if it means you can make an informed decision about your investments.
Understanding Investing Fees
The fees associated with investing are often confusing, but they’re an unavoidable part of investing for retirement. Fees will also have an effect on your savings, so it’s important to understand how much you’re paying and why.
For example, most investing professionals are paid one of two ways:
- A fee-based pro receives ongoing compensation based on a percentage of the assets they manage for you. Their pay rises and falls with the value of your assets.
- A commission-based investing professional is paid up front based on a percentage of the money you invest. That percentage varies from one investment to another.
Each arrangement has its pros and cons, and you can find trustworthy, client-focused professionals who use either method. However, if your investment professional doesn’t take the time to explain the costs of their services or the fees associated with your investments, that’s a huge red flag. Never invest in anything until you understand how it works, how much it will cost, and how that cost will affect your savings long term.
How Does Saving for College Fit Into Dave’s Investing Philosophy?
Once you’re investing 15% of your income for retirement, you can start saving for your kids’ college fund. Just remember, retirement saving comes first! Your kids will have options as they pay for college: scholarships, grants, part-time jobs—anything but student loans. But you will only have your retirement savings to get you through your golden years.
You’ll have some tax-advantaged college savings options that are similar to your retirement accounts. Education Savings Accounts (ESAs or Coverdell Savings Accounts) are simple and work like an IRA. You can also save for college through a state-specific 529 plan.
Working With an Investment Professional
Even though Dave has a thorough understanding of how retirement investing works, he still prefers to work with a financial advisor. It’s a pro’s job to stay on top of investing news and trends, but their most valuable role is keeping you on track to meet your retirement goals.
A good financial advisor or investment professional provides insight and direction based on years of investing experience, but they know you’re the decision-maker. Look for a pro who takes time to answer your questions and gives you all the information you need to make good investing choices.
If you’re looking for a qualified investment professional who’s committed to helping you make informed decisions with your money, try SmartVestor. It’s a free and easy way to find investing advisors in your area.