Dave Ramsey’s 7 Baby Steps is a great and practical guide toward better personal finance that has helped millions of people around the world attain better financial habits.
It teaches you to save for your emergency fund, pay off debt, and build wealth while sharing it with others.
Here are Dave Ramsey’s 7 Baby Steps:
- Save $1,000 for your starter emergency fund.
- Pay off all debt (except the house) using the debt snowball.
- Save 3–6 months of expenses in a fully funded emergency fund.
- Invest 15% of your household income in retirement.
- Save for your children’s college fund.
- Pay off your home early.
- Build wealth and give.
However, since this guide is written by an American for Americans, then it is only natural to write it in the American setting, and it can’t directly be applied in the Filipino setting.
I believe these baby steps are an excellent guide for everyone, no matter where you live, because everyone has to deal with personal finance.
It just needs to be tweaked a little to fit the Filipino context that I hope can be useful to fellow Filipinos without changing the message of the baby steps.
If properly implemented, this guide can save you time and money.
Table of Contents
1. Save P10,000 for your starter emergency fund.
We can’t use the $1,000 starter emergency fund of Dave Ramsey because that will be converted to P58,000 with the current conversion rate ($1 = 57.21 as of November 21, 2022).
For many Filipinos earning a minimum wage, P50,000 is already large enough to be their 3-month emergency fund, making it incredibly difficult for them to attain. It can also be intimidating to think you need that amount as your starting point.
I chose the P10,000 figure since it is close to the Philippine minimum wage of P12,000. It is also the price of entry-level Android phones. Plus, having a five-digit saving as an emergency fund can boost your confidence that you can save.
Related Reading: Digging Deeper in Building an Emergency Fund
2. Pay off all debt (except the house) using the debt snowball.
If you don’t have any debt, you may skip this step and start building your full emergency fund.
Generally, it is best to avoid consumer debt hindering your financial growth. Debt can also be challenging mentally because of the anxiety it can cause and can even be physically stressful.
So for those who accumulated different debts, like credit cards, car loans, and personal loans from friends, families, or loan sharks, it can be overwhelming which debt should be eliminated first. Ramsey suggested using the Debt Snowball Method.
The Debt Snowball Method is a strategy of paying off debt by listing all your debts from the smallest to the largest balance. There is also no need to consider the interest rate of your loan.
The idea is to knock off the smallest loan balance first while only paying the minimum required payment for the rest of your loans.
Remember that this is not a Math problem, where it is ideal to pay off the highest interest loan first to avoid paying more interest. This is more related to the psychology of money.
By paying off your smallest debt first, you can build the confidence that you can pay all your debt. After paying off the first one, you can use that freed money to add to the next smallest debt. Then the next and next until you paid all your loans except for your house.
This is called the Debt Snowball Method because it allows you to start small to knock down your other bigger debts.
3. Save 3–6 months of expenses in a fully funded emergency fund.
The 3 to 6 months’ worth of expenses is the standard amount of a fully funded emergency fund. However, the pandemic and the current state of the healthcare system have shown that it may not be enough.
Instead of three to six months’ expenses, it would be better to increase your emergency fund to six to twelve months of your salary and place it in liquid assets, like in a traditional or digital bank, which you can access during an emergency.
Take your time building your emergency fund, and don’t hesitate to use it when you experience an emergency. Some people save for an emergency fund but don’t use it even during an emergency, defeating its purpose in the first place.
4. Invest 20% of your household income in retirement.
The original Baby Steps suggested investing 15% of your household income for retirement, but I like to increase it to 20%. When compound interest kicks in, the 5% difference will be a big deal.
Investing for your retirement while you’re young is also important because it helps you build your portfolio early and trains your mind about the volatility of different investing products.
It is also important to note that you should only invest in something you understand, not something popular on your friends and social media.
The best long-term investments are in equity, real estate, and other high-return investments.
5. Save for your children’s college fund.
There is a growing trend of couples deciding not to have children even in the Philippines, called the DINK or Double Income, No Kids.
However, if you decide to have a kid, it is crucial to start saving for your child’s college fund early, but only after you have completed the initial steps.
Though the future of formal college education is changing and may not be the same 15 years in the future, it is still important to prepare for this expense if your child decides to pursue an expensive college degree, like medicine.
For example, you can start investing in long-term investments through dividend stock investing and continuously add to it until they reach college.
The good thing about this investment is that it will continuously grow after your child finishes college.
Stock Market Dividend Investing Absolute Beginner’s Guide
6. Pay off your home early.
Though the price of houses is ever-increasing and may seem like an improbable goal for many millennials and Gen Zs, it will not stop young Filipinos from buying a home through long-term, sometimes high-interest housing loans.
Remember that in Step 2, we didn’t include your mortgage in the debt snowball. So, the money you initially allotted to your other consumer debt can be used to pay your home loan earlier.
Paying for your house early opens up more financial opportunities for you and your family to build wealth and extend that blessing to others.
Related Reading: Big-Ticket Items: What should you consider?
7. Build wealth and give.
Once you get rid of all your debts and your money starts working for you, you can allocate more to building your wealth and hopefully give it back to the community.
Aside from tithing, you can also be generous, give more to the less fortunate, and be a blessing to others.
I believe wealth building should be a way to help others more, not just for self-preservation and inheritance to your descendants.
The 7 Baby Steps is a great financial guide that has helped millions of families worldwide. However, it is also crucial to contextualize it when using it in other locations because there can be cultural differences.
It is essential to know that these steps are still subject to your personal financial journey, but following these steps is a good starting point.
Finally, always remember to trust in God’s plans for your life.
A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.Proverbs 16:9 NKJV
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