Millions of Americans may have New Year’s resolutions to be debt-free and financially secure in 2012. Taking control of money may seem like a daunting task at first, but there is a solution to that resolution. Nearly one and a half million families have been able to change their financial situation through Financial Peace University (FPU). Dave Ramsey, founder of PFU, has developed a 13-week program that teaches families and individuals a common-sense approach to making proper financial decisions, thus freeing themselves of debt while building their own personal wealth. The course is now available locally, as well as on DVD and online. Ramsey knows first-hand what it is like to be broke and hopeless. His experiences made him decide to help other people change the way they handle their finances. Ramsey said, “It’s a myth that only the rich can be debt-free. The truth is that anyone can become debt-free. True debt reduction is plain common sense and hard work.” He began sharing his FPU program to the public nearly 20 years ago. He has authored four New York Times best-selling books: “Financial Peace,” “More Than Enough,” “The Total Money Makeover” and “EntreLeadership.” “The Dave Ramsey Show” is heard by more than 5 million listeners each week on more than 500 radio stations. “The borrower is slave to the lender,” Ramsey expounded in his Christian based, matter-of-fact, dynamic, yet humorous presentation. He calls it ‘Gazelle Intensity’ wherein he likens a cheetah (debt) chasing a gazelle (a debtor) down for a kill. In order to stay alive, the gazelle must stay ahead of the cheetah. “The gazelle has gotta kick-it!” he declares.  “Seventy-five percent of the wealthiest people in America (as listed in ‘The Forbes 400’) agree that the number one way to be wealthy is to stay debt free,” Ramsey claims. He teaches that one can begin their journey to financial peace by taking ‘The Seven Baby Steps.’ These steps, and how to achieve them, are detailed fully in his course. Briefly, they include: procuring $1,000 in an emergency fund, paying off debt using his ‘Debt Snowball,’ setting aside three to six month’s expenses in savings, investing 15 percent of income into Roth IRAs and pre-tax retirement plans, funding college and paying off one’s home early. Ramsey advised,“A budget is way more than just a tool – it’s a plan, a road map to where you want to be. And it’s not as hard as you think to get started.” FPU starts with an income and gives recommended percentages of where money should be going—cars, groceries, insurance—all the basics. Participants are taught to figure in their own expenses and give every dollar a name. They will learn how to manage their money instead of their money managing them. After each lesson a small group discussion provides accountability and encouragement. Other course topics include saving for emergencies, budgeting, relationships and money and, perhaps most importantly, getting out of debt.” “These lessons are especially essential right now as people are trying to regain control of their finances,” he said. “The current economy has people feeling more hopeless than ever when it comes to their money,” he continued. Ramsey and FPU challenge individuals to take personal responsibility for their finances. Leaders are also encouraged to be responsible about educating others about finances through programs such as FPU. Locally, a class will begin Jan. 15 at 4 p.m. The program will be held at Atascocita United Methodist Church, located at 19325 Pinehurst Trail Drive in Humble. Each class participant needs a kit, which can be purchased through the church, by contacting Ramsey at daveramsey.com or by calling 888-227-3223. The course kit includes a lifetime family membership to FPU, a FPU workbook, an FPU envelope system, 13 audio lessons, a bonus CD, budgeting forms, debit card holders and Ramsey’s best-selling book, “Financial Peace.” For more information about attending this class or to register, contact Mark Urban, Atascocita United Methodist Church Facilitator, at 281-852-1000.

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