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If you’ve reading this review, chances are that you are in one of two boats:
1) A “Life Leadership” salesperson approached you with the Financial Fitness Green Box and / or the Life phone app. You’re wary of MLM tactics and so you’re hesitant about the whole thing. (author’s note: I’m right there with you.)
2) Someone mentioned this book / package as an alternative to Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University material (or his Total Money Makeover book) and you’re curious.
Similar to the aforementioned Ramsey “University” product, the Financial Fitness Green Box is a rigorous financial “class” that expects you to take a hard look at your financial goals and consider the principles that it teaches. Both classes would agree that it won’t do anything for you if you don’t do anything for you.
Now, I’ve already mentioned Ramsey twice in two paragraphs, and that is because Ramsey is arguably the biggest name in personal finance today, and his material really is the easiest comparison. Both are faith-based at their foundation. Both focus on giving as a key part throughout the process of building wealth. Both talk about the importance of getting out of debt as fast as possible, and avoiding consumer debt (basically, anything other than a house) at all costs. Both talk about purchasing a house well below what the market says you can afford. Both focus on delayed gratification.
The Similarities End Here
Now, even though Ramsey’s material is the easiest comparison, it’s not really a good comparison. Why not?
Because, along with the strong financial advice in this package, Brady/Woodward’s aim is to make everyone an entrepreneur. The first sentence of Principle 15 of their 47 Principles of Financial Fitness states this bluntly: “Own a business.” Indeed, Ramsey’s advice and Brady/Woodward’s advice diverge as such:
Ramsey’s Financial Peace University method: (By no means does Ramsey discourage starting a business–nor real estate investments–but that isn’t the focus of this class). Ramsey says: get rid of debt and be wise with your expenses. Continue working your job to the best of your ability, steadily seeking advancement to improve your earnings while pouring 15% of your gross income into a diversified mix of mutual funds in your retirement accounts and paying off your home early. As long as this is done steadily over a long period of time, you will become a mutual fund millionaire before you know it. You “live like no one else” (delayed gratification) now so that later you can “live and give like no one else.”
Brady/Woodward’s Financial Fitness method: Get rid of debt and be wise with your expenses. You should master a skill and invest in yourself as an entrepreneur who is developing a business of your own (preferably one which earns passive income). You can be intelligent with investing your money in mutual funds in the market, but that shouldn’t be your first priority. Developing yourself and your business should be first. You need to be cognizant of what governments or world events might do to impact you and your family, and you need to be prepared for the worst in case it happens. The goal is to achieve financial freedom in order to do what you are called to do without worrying about a 9 to 5 job. Then you can give and serve people as you take advantage of all the time that financial freedom gives you.
There’s also several other ways that they differ. Here’s just a few:
The Market. Ramsey has a more optimistic view on domestic and world markets. He expects solid market returns, on average, roughly in line with how the past eighty years have gone. Brady/Woodward take the market’s past performance with a grain of salt and, while not as doom-and-gloom as a Peter Schiff might be, has an entire chapter on preparing for the worst in case this nation’s massive debt problem causes a collapse.
Investment Advice. Ramsey’s investment advice is to buy mutual funds: 25% growth, 25% growth/income, 25% aggressive growth, and 25% international growth. Ramsey doesn’t have a problem with buying front-cost-loaded, actively-managed mutual funds, talking about those investments on his radio show much more often than low-cost, low-fee index funds. Brady/Woodward tend to go along with John Bogle in suggesting low or no-fee index funds as solid investment strategies, but they also don’t make as big a deal about the importance of investments as Ramsey does. Indeed, in Chapter 19 of their book, they make this startling statement: “About 95% of North Americans should not be in Kiyosaki’s “I” quadrant, which is investors only. Most should be in the “B” (business owner) quadrant.
Gold. Ramsey never suggests gold or silver as a legitimate safe haven in a market collapse. Brady/Woodward do.
Mr. Ramsey’s material is very popular because it is very simple. It’s clear that Ramsey’s personal financial dealings are sophisticated, but his material for the general public is kept easy to understand. (And that’s not necessarily a bad thing!) His rants against horrible consumer and student loan debt are legendary. His plan for Financial Peace is neatly summarized in what he calls his seven baby steps. Ramsey does have some material more in line with this Financial Fitness course, what is branded as Entreleadership. However, that is not his main focus for the general population.
Brady/Woodward’s Financial Fitness material has many more details that it aims to teach, with a broader economic perspective, and is geared toward the entrepreneurial spirit. And if you don’t have an entrepreneurial spirit, it aims to develop one in you. They focus intently on the importance and strength of passive income, pulling from ideas popularized by Robert Kiyosaki and others. They highlight the importance of understanding what is actually happening on a national and global scale and taking steps to protect your family. All the same type of stuff from Ramsey about getting out of debt is here too. There are forty-seven principles discussed throughout its pages, as compared to Ramsey’s seven steps.
The “business” of financial literacy is inevitably going to have its cynics: The cynic hears, “Here, do this (and pay me this while you’re at it), and you’ll become financially fit.” For some reason, we don’t like the idea of someone “becoming rich” in the business of teaching others financial literacy–even if it helps the person and turns their life around! Just ask Ramsey, who is a common target on blogs and subreddits constantly.
This Life Leadership produced Financial Fitness program is no exception. The cynic here would say: “Of course the Financial Fitness book would push me to become an entrepreneur! And not just any entrepreneur: a Life Leadership entrepreneur!”
And the cynic would be kind of right. Because all the other Life Leadership material is so closely intertwined with this Financial Fitness package, it feels like buying into this “Green Box” requires a step into the Life Leadership ecosystem–monthly personal development subscriptions, rah-rah MLM hype, and all that. And that’s unfortunate. Because the Green Box Financial Fitness package (and its next step up, the Beyond Financial Fitness one), are fantastic on their own in a vacuum, without any MLM needed to hype them up.
I went through the Ramsey Financial Peace course about ten years ago and I’m glad I did. I wish that would have known about this Financial Fitness course too at that time. I would have gone straight from Ramsey to this. Both are great programs that have different, helpful perspectives. At the time of this writing, either program can be had for less than $150, five times less than a new iphone.
I have a natural bent toward entrepreneurial projects, and I found a lot in here that got me fired up to keep pushing on. There’s some really good, big picture, macro-economic stuff that they think through (without getting too bogged down in the weeds). They have a more reasonable and forward-looking view on some topics that Ramsey takes hard, unyielding stances on or ignores (i.e. credit cards, cryptocurrency). Their Investment Hierarchy pyramid which moves stock market investing further down the line than I’m used to seeing was a helpful thought process for me–even if I’m not fully on board with that. The small more philosophical sections looking at societies past and how they handled money–inflation, gold, fiat, etc–were interesting things to read.
(I had to remove a paragraph here because when writing this review I noticed that the current product has been slightly updated from the Green Box that I have. In my version, there is a “lesson” on one of the CD sets that is decidedly average compared to the rest and the rah-rah talk feels quite contrived. I’m happy to see that that one was swapped out. It was a glaring blip on an otherwise solid set of material.)
There’s a digital and physical version. The main stuff that you get in the physical box are the book, a workbook, and an aforementioned CD set of nine discs that are great complements to the material presented in the book and perfect for the car ride to work. It takes intentional decision-making to improve your financial situation for good and this is a kit that will do that.
I’d never recommend reading just one book or listening to only one person’s point of view before making a decision. But if you’ve never gone through a financial class or read a personal finance book before and your financial life has no organization whatsoever, this program is a great start. If your only experience with personal finance is Dave Ramsey, this takes all the good stuff from Ramsey (and there is a lot of good stuff in Ramsey!) and adds several layers. And if you’ve read many personal finance books before and you dream of ways to create passive income in your sleep, Financial Fitness does a wonderful job distilling important concepts into one package. Recommended.
A Few Final Thoughts
- (If you’re interested–and I hope you are–don’t be put off by the “account setup” in the link. Life Leadership’s products are first and foremost available through their own site. You won’t find them through online vendors like Amazon.
- Especially of note to accountants, the course is registered with CPEthink.com, and can be taken for 22 self-study CPE credits. Details here.
- The company offers a 30 day full money back guarantee if you are unsatisfied with the quality of the product.