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Continued: Schafer: Financial adviser gives tough love – and hope

  • Article by: LEE SCHAFER , Star Tribune
  • Last update: November 30, 2013 - 2:00 PM

If you listen long enough to his show, you also will see glimpses into the lives of people just short of desperate. Ramsey will actually help those folks, too.

Melinda in Los Angeles recently called to ask if it was OK to not pay some medical bills. Cash was tight.

Ramsey quickly learned that rent took all but $50 of her husband’s monthly disability check. Melinda had been unemployed for years, and was struggling to retrain after failing to find any job for her old wage of about $15 an hour.

Worse, they owed a friend $11,800 on a car worth at most $8,000, paying it off at a rate of $100 a month. What was keeping them alive was the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which Melinda called by its old name: food stamps.

So what would Ramsey’s critics suggest he say to someone like Melinda?

It would obviously have done her no good to hear from Ramsey that productivity improvements and outsourcing have all but eliminated jobs like she used to have, or how the job market has been particularly cold for older workers.

It would not have helped to hear Ramsey mention the 11.3 million Americans now looking for work or complain about the obvious unfairness of a compensation system capable of producing an average perks package — just perks — worth $321,000 for the 100 highest-paid CEOs.

What Ramsey did say was dump the medical bills. Nothing gets spent if it’s not on shelter, food, lights, water or transportation, and by the way that car should be swapped for a cheaper one.

Ramsey didn’t blame her for any of this. Moreover, amid his more-or-less common-sense advice was an implicit message that her finances could be turned around.

At that moment, hope may have been what she needed the most.

lee.schafer@startribune.com • 612-673-4302

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