Rachel Cruze provides financial guidance to younger audiences

Rachel Cruze, daughter of well-known personal finance expert Dave Ramsey, takes her dad’s message to a younger audience, including a kindergarten class recently at Central Primary School in Gonzales. Show caption
Rachel Cruze, daughter of well-known personal finance expert Dave Ramsey, takes her dad’s message to a younger audience, including a kindergarten class recently at Central Primary School in Gonzales.

Dave Ramsey is one of America’s well-known personal financial advisers. His daughter is trying to put him out of business.

Well, that’s not quite true. But if Rachel Cruze’s message to the younger generation gets traction, there will be a lot fewer people drowning in debt.

“That’s what I tell people: ‘You don’t have to read my dad’s books when you get older if you just follow what I say now,’” Cruze said.

Cruze, 23, is one of Ramsey’s three children and the only one working for her father’s business, which includes books, radio broadcasts, seminars, CDs, DVDs and speakers. Cruze is one of his speakers, and she targets younger audiences to help them become savvy about money, debt and the attitudes necessary to maximize the former and minimize the latter.

She first spoke at one of Ramsey’s events when she was 15 years old. By the time she enrolled at the University of Tennessee, she realized that she liked public speaking, and that her friends knew next to nothing about money.

Cruze had learned the Dave Ramsey way not only by attending his events and working at his business, but because he applied his principles to the family. Biggest example: If the children wanted a car when they turned 16 — and they did — they would have to pay for half of it themselves.

“I remember when my sister who is two years older than me turned 16, and I was, like, ‘Oh, gosh, he’s serious! He’s really making her do this!’” Cruze said. “Parents say things and don’t always follow through, but he was following through with this one.”

In two years, she worked and saved $8,000, which her parents matched to buy her a $16,000 car.

“Looking back on it, that was a huge financial steppingstone for me,” she said. “As a 16-year-old kid to associate that I saved up for this and bought this, even the way I drive my car is way different from the way my friends drive their cars that were just handed to them. You learn the value of something if you work and save up for it.”

Primarily speaking to college and high school students, Cruze also speaks to younger audiences. Much younger. When Cruze visited Baton Rouge on Sept. 15 to address the Jump Start Coalition gathering of teachers and others who deal with students, she also accepted an invitation to speak to Sarah Millet’s kindergarten class at Central Primary School in Gonzales.

At that age, the message is simple. Where does money come from? Work. What can you do with money? Save it, spend it and give it to those in need. To reinforce that point, she read “The Gift of Giving,” a book about a child who, after visiting an orphanage, gave some of his toys to the children there and used birthday money to buy a baseball and glove for a boy who lacked both.

Giving, Cruze said, is essential.

“It makes you less selfish when you give,” she said. “It’s not all about you.”

Cruze also emphasizes developing a work ethic and personal responsibility. She didn’t receive an allowance as a child; the Ramsey children received “commissions” based on chores they completed, which taught them that money must be earned.

“By the time they get into high school, I always encourage parents to get their kids their own checking account,” she said. “That happened to us. When we were 15 years old, we were given our own checking accounts. Mom and Dad put a certain amount of money in our checking account for us, what they would normally spend if we asked them to go out to dinner with friends, for clothes or gas for the car.

“What they would normally spend for us they would put in an account, and we were in charge then of writing our own checks, swiping our debit card, keeping up with our checking account, keeping it balanced. That’s a great tool for them to still provide, but still learning responsibility.”

She also points students to developing a budget, learning to save and, of course, avoiding debt. College students, she points out, are highly coveted by credit card companies.

The difference in her message is because of its intended audience.

“Dad’s like the emergency surgeon,” she said. “I’m more of the preventative medicine. It’s so much easier, I’ve realized, just to stay out of debt and stay away from all these things and do the right thing vs. going and making all the mistakes and getting deeply in debt and trying to get out.”