Faith-based financial advice for sale in Federal Way

Proverbs 22:7 is pretty clear: “The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is the slave of the lender.”

In other words, don’t go into debt.

This month, several churches in the Federal Way area will offer nationally-syndicated radio personality and personal finance deity Dave Ramsey’s faith-based Financial Peace University classes. That bit about not being a slave to lenders is a key to Ramsey’s teachings — he does not believe in credit cards — along with saving, investing and donating to charity.

Rick Battershell, who runs Battershell and Co., an accounting firm that specializes in assessing church finances, will coordinate the 13-week Financial Peace University beginning Jan. 16 at Northwest Church. He’s been giving the seminar at Northwest Church for several years. He said the seminar is for people of any financial status, from those deeply in debt to those who are secure.

“We’ve had people with no consumer debt, but who want to know how to better handle finances,” he said. “We’ve had people in with consumer debt between $10,000 and $150,000. Most people are coming because what they've done hasn't worked and they want to find a better way to handle finances.”

Battershell said the university teaches seven “baby steps” to financial security:

- Setting up $1,000 emergency account;

- Eliminating consumer debt;

- Making sure to have savings that could support you for three to six months;

- Setting up a college fund;

- Paying off your mortgage;

- Investing 15 percent of your earnings;

- Charitable giving.

The university gives people a road map "and helps them know what is the next step to take,” he said.

The university lasts 13 weeks and is held on Sunday nights (except Feb. 6 because of the Super Bowl). Ramsey does not appear in the flesh, but each class includes a one-hour video lecture by him. The video is followed by small group sessions to discuss how to apply Ramsey’s teachings to your life.

Like every other university, you may have go into a little debt to attend. Families must purchase $105 worth of Ramsey-branded materials. The materials include a workbook, homework assignments and audio of each of Ramsey’s lectures, in case you miss a class. The first class is free and there is some financial aid available, but there are no refunds. Battershell donates his time to coordinate the class.

In addition to Northwest Church, Federal Way’s Christ Church will offer Financial Peace University beginning 6:30 p.m. Jan. 12. St. Luke’s Lutheran Church in Federal Way has offered the classes in the past.

Bryan Mann, a member at St. Luke's, led the classes last year. He wants to do another Financial Peace University this year, but does not have any immediate plans. He brought it to his church, he said, because he and his wife have followed Ramsey's teachings.

"It's solid, it's principled and it works," he said.

Meg Grunke, a spokeswoman at Ramsey’s Tennessee-based Lampo Group, said the pervasiveness of Financial Peace University has not been affected by the recession that began in December 2007. There are some 4,000 organizations across the country that will offer Financial Peace University this January, and 49 within a 30-mile radius of Federal Way, according to figures from Grunke.

When asked why university attendees, some of whom may be in dire financial situations, are required to buy materials, Grunke said that students “take things more seriously if they have to make an investment.” She also touted that on average, graduates pay off $5,300 worth of debt and save $2,700 within 90 days of taking the class.

“The investment is well worth the turnaround,” she said.

Ramsey is, according to his biography, a graduate of the real-world school of financial hard knocks. He “lost everything” — he claims to have had a worth of more than $1 million — in the 1980s after getting called on real estate debts by his lender. He went bankrupt, but in the early 1990s, he began writing books and giving talks on all that he had learned about money and how to manage it. Today, he lords over a faith-based financial advice media empire. He has a line of kids’ books and bestsellers like “The Total Money Makeover.” He had a show on the Fox Business Network and his radio show is syndicated around the country.

The core teaching, Grunke said, is for people to get out of debt and never go back — to not be that proverbial slave. Ramsey does not believe in a credit score, and detests debt collectors. Ramsey’s skepticism of consumer credit is the difference between him and other financial advice givers, Grunke said; that, and his lessons are rooted in common sense.

“It’s God and grandma’s way of handling money,” she said of the university.

Learn more

To learn more about Financial Peace University, visit To inquire about the upcoming program at Northwest Church in Federal Way, call Rick Battershell at (253) 839-1620.

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