Nationally-syndicated radio host Dave Ramsey's financial management program “Financial Peace University” (FPU) has undergone a makeover. The new course materials launched August 1 this year and, as a facilitator for a class beginning in September, I had the opportunity to compare the new program to the last version, which I experienced as a student.
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For a glimpse of the new program and a preview lesson, see here - and read on for more about the substantive changes to the program as well as changes to the member materials.
The course has been shortened from thirteen weeks to nine weeks and from two hours per session to ninety-minutes per session. This makes for a much easier commitment for both facilitators and class attendees.
In terms of content, the basics haven't changed wildly. The “baby steps” remain the same, and the program essentially walks the student through them. Lessons now include some guest speakers. The new faces in the program are a refreshing change.
The content of the class has been simplified. Some of the more in-depth lessons such as “Credit Sharks in Suits” (what to do when you're behind on your bills, and how to settle debts) and “That's Not Good Enough” (on bargaining) have been omitted, but are linked in the materials via QR code or URL, so the students can view them on their own over the Internet.
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Two more lessons, “Of Mice and Mutual Funds” (the details of investing) and “Working in your Strengths” (on extra jobs and “gazelle intensity”) have both been omitted entirely.
I'm a little bit concerned about the missing lessons. I think they provided an extra level of intensity, and a more complete education. I followed up with Lampo (Dave Ramsey's company) and asked about the omitted lessons, and I was told that there is a follow-up class in the works, but the launch date has not yet been determined.
The membership materials have also received a substantial renovation. Again, in classic Ramsey/Lampo style, the kit is beautiful and heavily produced. It arrives in a big glossy box, and includes a planning folder, the course book (now “Dave Ramsey's Complete Guide to Money” instead of “Financial Peace”), a workbook, a leather-look CD folder for the audio lesson CDs, and a very nicely-upgraded envelope system.
The “Welcome Box” includes a pencil marked “The Nerd's Budget Maker” and a big eraser labeled “Free Spirit's Budget Adjuster” as well as a bookmark, stickers, and class guest-passes. There's a week-by-week progress poster for tracking savings and debt-payoff though the nine weeks of class. QR codes are used heavily throughout the materials, but always with a URL for those who don't have a smartphone.
Aside from the four missing lessons, the only item that I was sad to see omitted was the resource disk. My last membership kit came with a CD that allowed me to print copies of the budgeting forms whenever I needed them. Yes, I can download the new versions of the forms from the website, but they are harder to find, and I think I'll still be returning to my disk each month when I do my new paper budget.
While I miss the omitted lessons and the focus on getting out of debt, there are some great benefits to the new program.
- The new program has much better production quality, HD video, and consistent audio.
- Variety in voice/presentation. Adding Jon Acuff, Chris Hogan, and Dave's daughter Rachel Cruze is refreshing and energizing.
- Accelerated program: shorter course hours, and nine weeks rather than 13 weeks, is much easier on attendees.
- Very interactive materials: This program includes many online bonus features and additional resources, as well as online classroom “wall” (similar to a Facebook wall) for each individual class, so class members can cheer one another on, announce progress and milestones, or ask for feedback on questions.
- New price: Prices vary from $95-$199, depending on the current sales promotion and if you order the kit online or through a church (if you order through a church that is offering the class, it will never cost more than $95).
The final word
If you liked the old FPU, you'll like the new one. It's sleeker, more interactive, and certainly more time-efficient. You can take the online preview lesson, or attend a class in your area for one session as a guest to get the feel for the program. Plan to attend every session and do the homework and to attend with your spouse if you have one.
This is a comprehensive, polished and proven program that thousands of people have used (myself included) with great success. It's also taught at a level that many teens/pre-teens could understand and enjoy. The class membership is a lifetime membership, and you can re-enroll for no additional charge at any time if you would like.
If you have attended FPU before, and want to update to the new materials before re-enrolling for a refresher, contact Lampo and order an update - the book-only option is $18.09, and the entire membership kit is $52.30 for returning students.