Dave Ramsey Was Wrong!

826496404_f043f5b5d9…But My Refrigerator Works!

Spend more than a few minutes in the personal finance blogs and you will find many who worship Dave Ramsey’s financial advice. Dave also has his share of critics that will debate his key concepts.

However, I can personally tell you that in one respect Dave is absolutely, positively wrong.

If you are a follower of Dave, read any of his books or even if you just see him occasionally you have probably heard him preach of the need for an emergency fund.

He promotes the use of an emergency fund for a number of reasons. I think most of all; Dave wants his followers to learn the habit of saving and focusing on savings. There are other benefits as well. But if you know Dave, you also know that he often refers to “Mr. Murphy.” Dave tells his listeners that when we have an emergency fund “a funny thing happens… Murphy stays away.”


I’ve been a good boy. I continue my education with all things financial. Our spending has been reigned in, we live on less than we earn. We have paid off all debt with the exception of the house and we have set up college funds for the kids and contribute to a variety of retirement and investment funds. Most of all, we have an emergency fund!

But Murphy is kicking my tail!

Not long I wrote about my ordeal with the A/C. Now it is the refrigerator. Here is the series of events.

  • Two weeks ago – The wife thinks we left the freezer door ajar. Everything is melted.
  • One week ago – The refrigerator is not cooling but the freezer is working fine. The evaporator is a frozen block. I defrost it overnight and plug it back in.
  • Four days ago – The fridge is not cooling again, the evaporator is frozen again.

It would appear Murphy does not shy away from emergency funds, he want shis share!

With an overwhelming schedule at the moment and being a little gun shy of appliance repair companies, I seized on another opportunity to address this problem. Actually my son seized on the opportunity to make a little extra cash!

My fourteen year old son has his eye on a new laptop. I have a refrigerator that needs to be repaired….

No, he will not get a laptop for fixing the fridge! However, assuming he could save me the repair bill, we did agree to compensate him at a rate relative (but discounted) to the retail cost.

It is important to understand that our son, for all his wonderful qualities, intelligence and strong character traits, has virtually zero mechanical experience and not much more skill. He has never been one to take toys apart and could not care less how things work, so fixing a refrigerator would be a stretch to say the least.

Admittedly, I ended up helping a little. He needed silly things like to learning basic tools and how to use extensions. I also helped him to identify the major components and lastly I removed the ice-maker. Beyond this, he Googled, researched and directed the diagnostic and repair process. He removed parts and pieces, learned how to test electrical components with an ohm meter and fixed our refrigerator. Total cost: $35 in parts. We needed a new defrost timer. The final repair took two screws and a plug to replace the part.

What did I learn through this experience? Surprisingly, it wasn’t about money.

Don’t Underestimate –

You will be surprised what people are capable of if only you believe they are capable. Encourage your kids, your friends and your employees try new things whatever they may be. If they have an interest, they likely have the ability.

The same applies to us. We don’t believe we are capable of repairing an appliance, starting a business or completing a challenging task so we never try. Instead we pay someone else to do things we can do for ourselves.

Murphy will follow us regardless of our path. With or without an emergency fund, unexpected expenses will crop up. We can blindly pay to make Murphy go away or we can fight back. Only your willingness to take on these challenges yourself will save you in the end.

btw… Thank you son!

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photo by G&A Sattler

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19 comments to Dave Ramsey Was Wrong…

  • That was an awesome post! Sometimes the best laid plans get ruined when Murphy comes crashing through doors..or refrigerators as it happens. This article did more than just disprove Ramsey and show that it’s often more than being about money. You gave an incentive for positive action to be taken and now the need for the technology is satisfied and you both learned from the experience! That is such a great story to share and I hope that your soon sees it for what it is too 🙂 Nice work!
    .-= Nunzio Bruno´s last blog ..New Years Resolutions in June?! =-.

  • I agree with you that most items that you talk about can be fixed/addressed by the owner without much knowledge. The internet has made it simple to figure these things out. When Ramsey wrote most of his material the resources weren’t as robust as they are now.

    I just don’t see many people putting forth the effort to fix their own stuff. They would rather watch TV or play video games. W.O.R.K. is not something people like.

    I’m with you though, since I’m a Maintenance Engineer/Supervisor I would never pay someone to fix something unless I can’t fix it myself.

    Hat tips to you and your son.
    .-= Jeff Kosola´s last blog ..Net Worth – May 2010 =-.

  • Great post! The time you spent with your son working through fixing the refrigerator was invaluable to both of you. Hopefully it helps give him the confidence to tackle these types of problems when he is out on his own in his own house. Plus, earned some money and got some great time with you. A win – win – win – win situation!

    Good job!
    .-= Everyday Tips´s last blog ..Opportunity Cost – Trading Financial Gain for Security =-.

  • Kudos to you and your son!!! Great job on letting him stretch his wings and show you he can fly, and to him for finding out how to fix the problem and then actually doing it!

    $35 is way cheaper than a new appliance. What did you kick in to his laptop fund?
    .-= Mysti´s last blog ..A Light Bulb Moment =-.

  • I loved this article.

    First of all, I love that you used a clever tactic with naming it to goad readers into reading, because your article is about a lot more than Dave and Murphy.

    For our Christian family, I agree that stuff happens, but God delivers us out of it all — He promised to. Us keeping our emergency fund replenished helps to give us some input/control in the restoration process, though we can’t solely depend on it ’cause it is not our source. Only He is.

    Second: you are very wise and clever in your parenting skills, as well.

    We’re a homeschool family, so I can certainly appreciate your approach and totally agree on the importance of letting our kids expand their minds and their horizons way beyond average.

    Mediocrity is what will constrain our kids, if we don’t purposefully train them to push past average.

    Thanks for sharing and God bless you and yours!

  • This is a great post. First, congrats to your son. Even without the prior knowledge, he said he’d do it. Is this because he’s not that old, has not gotten into the habit of calling a repair man, and just thinks, well, heck, if they can do it, why cant I? Who knows.
    But now with the internet and youtube, there are so many helpful tips, tricks, “dont make this mistake” and others that if you’re willing to invest some time and a little physical labor, you can fix most of anything yourself.
    I think Jeff K is right. Many people just shy away from it because paying someone to take care of the problem is easier. It does not teach you anything except that when you’ve got a problem you don’t want to take care of, call someone else, pay them what they want, and they will take care of it. Not a good lesson to learn.

  • It is awesome that your son got the experience of fixing the frig, and the corresponding compensation goes towards the laptop. I get what you are saying with the emergency fund and Murphy, but can you imagine going from the A/C to the frig to what ever is next (not trying to jinx you) with no emergency fund and a ton of debt? No thank you! The good thing about Dave’s advice is even when he is wrong, you are typically better off than not listening to him IMHO. Regards!
    .-= Roshawn @ Watson Inc´s last blog ..Yakezie Round Up and Uncommon Money News (Vol. 96) =-.

  • While I’m not completely sure that Dave Ramsey is “wrong” since the whole “murphy stops calling” thing is a bit tongue in cheek, it is apparent that at your house the benefits of having an emergency fund are pretty apparent. Good luck with the fridge!
    .-= Money Smarts´s last blog ..Roth IRA Eligibility Guidelines =-.

  • I imagine your son learned much, much more than how to fix a refrigerator. He learned how to take on a challenge. What a great lesson; one that will serve him well throughout his life and one that I need to pay attention to myself!
    BTW: great hook with the title. It works!

  • That is awesome! Sometimes the solution to any problem is under our noses!

  • Do you have a new appreciation for your son now? I’ve been impressed with my son as he learns how to do all kinds of house repairs to the 60 y/o house he and my DIL own.

    What a nice story.

  • Lots of good lessons in a very entertaining story. I have an aunt, one of those super people, who can do and fix practically everything. If she can’t do it she grabs a book. The Readers Digest Home Repair was one of her primary reference tools. Someone in the family gave me a copy for my coming of age and I have taken some steps but am still at the intermediate level. Congratulations on fixing your frig, I think they have a timed break mechanism so that you will have to buy another. Out of curiosity, do you have a budget line item for “maintainence and repair” for your home and related things?
    .-= Carol@inthetrenches´s last blog ..Moving forward =-.

  • You brought a big smile to my face as I read this post.

    Yes – it’s great that your son fixed the fridge.

    Yes – it’s great that you spent some time with your son to get him going on his way

    But what I just can’t stop chortling about is the powerful and long lasting lesson that your son will carry with him all his life … that he CAN. He will face many fridges in his life but he now has it in his blueprint that there are resources that he can turn to for just about anything that he needs to overcome.

    I like the way you are bringing up your son. Kudos to you.
    .-= Valentina´s last blog ..Sunday Morn Musings: Parting of Ways =-.

  • I must be in a minority because I’ve never read one of Dave Ramsey’s books. My “emergency” fund is $10,000 and it’s more psychological than actually thinking I’ll ever need that much. If push came to shove, I’d just sell some stocks.

    Stuff still happens though. My furnace went out this last Christmas and it didn’t phase me a bit but years ago when I was broke, I had a furnace go out and it was devastating. I don’t think it’s that stuff won’t happen, more that it doesn’t really matter and is looked on as part of life.

    Kudos to your son for figuring it out!
    .-= Single Mom Rich Mom´s last blog ..PF catfight update! – 1 week down 3 to go (and 3 competitors to beat too!) =-.

  • Fantastic post. You brought a smile to my face and I even giggled a little. Although I will apologize that the giggle came at your misfortune. You’re right though… Good Ol Murphy shows his ugly head anytime he pleases. No emergency fund keeps him away. It just makes the sting last not quite as long.

  • I think Eric Bolling will be a great replacement for Dave Ramsey on Fox Business News. When does he start?
    .-= CoolSprings´s last blog ..Fox News Axes Dave Ramsey =-.

  • I agree Murphy is a little b**stard that can pop up at any time!!! No matter who you are!

    That is awesome that the situation gave him the drive to do something he had never done before…. He will be successful in life 🙂
    .-= Forest´s last blog ..Is Minimalism a worthwhile form of activism? =-.

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