I have business degrees from Wharton (BS) and Stanford (MBA), but like most Americans from middle class backgrounds, I never got much training in personal finance and always felt bewildered by it. I recently listed to The Total Money Makeover for the third time and it clicked. The first two times, I was still in school and had no income, so felt powerless to act on its lessons. Now, with a steady income (and some monstrous student loans) the lessons are relevant, actionable, and empowering.
Before, I always felt at a loss when it came to budgeting. After re-listening to The Total Money Makeover, I got a second savings account to hold my emergency fund and long-term savings, making it easier to separate between current accounts and short-term savings. Now, I have an Excel spreadsheet with a separate column for each upcoming pay check. I know how much of each paycheck will get immediately transferred into long-term savings (e.g. for a wedding in the fall), how much will go to short-term savings (e.g. for next month's rent), and how much disposable income I have in my current checking account.
Furthermore, I have a better plan for paying down my debts. If I were to approach this according to the pure net present value financial principles taught in school, I would start with my big student loan (highest interest rate), then my smaller student loan, then my car loan (lowest interest rate). After listening to Ramsey, I'm going to do it in the opposite order. Although that will cost me some in NPV, it means I can pay off my car loan in a few months (freeing up $250 per month in cash flow), and can pay off my smaller student loan in a few years. My larger student loan is the size and duration of a mortgage, and I'll treat it like it's one. If I tried to pay it off first, I wouldn't see any impact on my cash flow for probably 14 years, making it discouraging to try to find extra dollars to put towards paying down debt. Trying this the Ramsey way, I already feel like I'm making progress and am motivated to do more.
Dave Ramsey is an inspiring speaker. Although his message may come across as simple, in my opinion it does a far better job taking into account human nature than any of the sophisticated financial and economic models I spent so much money learning. I can't recommend this book enough.
I don't know if I've ever done anything differently based on Secrets of the Millionaire Mind, but I listen to it every six months or so just because it's fun. Eker is just plain entertaining to listen to, and it's clear how he's gotten rich(er) as a motivational speaker. He has some very memorable concepts. For example, I grew up in a military family where dinner five nights out of seven was some kind of chicken, and Eker's rant against ordering the chicken really resonated with me. It's also a bit different from your typical financial self-help book in the emphasis it places on the mental game; kind of like The Best Life Diet for money. The book is to some extent an advertisement for the seminar, which to be fair it offers free tickets for. After the fifth time I listened to the book, I signed up just because I think it'll be fun. I don't see myself spending $1,000's on any of his advanced seminars, but I'm pretty sure it'll be an enjoyable weekend.
One star off on performance for the Canadian accent. Sorry, Harv, but "sorry" and "borrow" just distracted me every time you said them, because I am a xenophobic American.