Sunday, June 07, 2009

My Sunday Feeling

One of our more prominent local "life coaches" was on the radio the other day. I guess he is relatively prominent. He was on the radio and I was not. He was talking personal finance in his capacity as a Dave Ramsey certified financial counselor.

Is this a great country or what? You can make money by obtaining-or hell-giving yourself semi-fake credentials. Dave Ramsey, as you may know, has made quite a name for himself as a TV and radio financial advisor. From what I can tell, his advice tends to be sound but not terribly nuanced. Debt bad. Savings good. Hard to argue with that.

And, unlike the crooks who try to sell "one size fits all" investment products to the elderly at luncheons, Ramsey's not peddling snake oil. In any event, if you have a mind to, you can pay to attend a seminar put on by his organization and become a "certified" financial counselor. Not exactly snake oil. Not exactly an MBA or a Certified Life Underwriter either.

Anyway, I got to the broadcast just as the Dave Ramsey certified life coach was winding down his segment. And he told the listening audience that the wise guru actually said that a Depression would not be such a bad thing because it would build character for modern folks just like it did for those folks back in the Twenties.

In my history book, the Great Depression was a calamity of the highest magnatude. Banks failed. People lost businesses and farms. Soup kitchens and bread lines provided subsistence to countless families. Stockbrokers jumped out of windows. There was no more romantic witness to this time than Studs Terkel. Studs Terkel did not look back on the Depression with wistfulness. Anybody that doesn't realize that needs to spend some time with the works of John Dos Passos, Steinbeck, Nelson Algren and the aforementioned Mr. Terkel.

But Ramsey can say with presumably a straight face that a Depression wouldn't be such a bad thing because a) we're not in a Depression b) we're not going to be in a Depression and c) he's got a product to sell. Which makes such a statement merely irresponsible and cynical. And that's where the financial planning aspect of the Dave Ramsey phenomenon becomes like unto the revival tent where the faith healer is working the crowd. The history of American junk culture is replete with cultural icons who spew such unadulterated nonsense without fear of contradiction from the acolytes in their listening audience. Twas ever thus. They just get better market share in the age of cable and the Internet than Oral Roberts ever did.
In this great land of ours, you can call yourself anything you want. Indeed, I have long referred to myself as a "life coach" but only because it amuses me and my little friends. I may start referring to my self as an aromatherapist for the same reason.

But if I am going to seek financial advice I will go to somebody who is bonded and holds a certification that is actually subject to a regulatory body which I strongly suspect none of Ramsey's "certified" disciples are.

And I will also retain one who doesn't think a global financial disaster builds character.

No comments: