Ron Price
Ron Price

Here's a news flash for you: married couples at times argue over money and finances. OK, maybe not so much a news flash, but I think you will agree it is a far too common occurrence. And the good news is this does not have to be the case in your marriage.

I want to bring to your attention a course that has literally helped millions of folks to get a handle on their finances and to enjoy more peace in their home. The course to which I refer is titled Financial Peace University. It features Dave Ramsey, who is a hoot. He is about as knowledgeable as anyone on the planet in matters financial, and he presents his wisdom and knowledge in an upbeat, easy to grasp manner.

The Financial Peace University course is offered frequently in our area by various churches. Keep reading for a listing of courses that have recently begun or are scheduled in the coming weeks. While this course is typically offered in a church, it is in no way intended solely for Christians. All are welcome and all who do the work are just about guaranteed to gain better control of their finances.

As taken from the website daveramsey.com, it is possible to "get out of debt the same way you learned to walk -- one step at a time. Dave has taught these principles to millions via radio, books, Financial Peace University, live events and online." The website contains several tips on handling finances, along with links to other valuable resources. I found information that intrigued me titled "The Seven Baby Steps" that are intended to help folks begin to get to a better financial state.

Baby Step 1

$1,000 Emergency Fund

An emergency fund is for those unexpected events in life that you can't plan for: the loss of a job, an unexpected pregnancy, a faulty car transmission, and the list goes on and on. It's not a matter of if these events will happen; it's simply a matter of when they will happen.

This beginning emergency fund will keep life's little Murphies from turning into new debt while you work off the old debt. If a real emergency happens, you can handle it with your emergency fund. No more borrowing. It's time to break the cycle of debt.

Dave Ramsey
Dave Ramsey

Baby Step 2

Pay off all debt using the debt snowball

List your debts, excluding the house, in order. The smallest balance should be your No. 1 priority. Don't worry about interest rates unless two debts have similar payoffs. If that's the case, then list the higher interest rate debt first.

The point of the debt snowball is simply this: You need some quick wins to stay pumped up about getting out of debt. Paying off debt is not always about math. It's about motivation. Personal finance is 20 percent head knowledge and 80 percent behavior. When you start knocking off the easier debts, you will see results and you will stay motivated to dump your debt.

Baby Step 3

3 to 6 months of expenses in savings

Once you complete the first two baby steps, you will have built serious momentum. But don't start throwing all your "extra" money into investments quite yet. It's time to build your full emergency fund. Ask yourself, "What would it take for me to live for three to six months if I lost my income?" Your answer to that question is how much you should save.

Use this money for emergencies only: incidents that would have a major impact on you and your family. Keep these savings in a money market account. Remember, this stash of money is not an investment; it is insurance you're paying to yourself, a buffer between you and life.

Baby Step 4

Invest 15 percent of household income into Roth IRAs and pre-tax retirement

When you reach this step, you'll have no payments -- except the house -- and a fully funded emergency fund. Now it's time to get serious about building wealth.

Dave suggests investing 15 percent of your household income into Roth IRAs and pre-tax retirement plans. Don't invest more than that because the extra money will help you complete the next two steps: college savings and paying off your home early.

Why shouldn't you invest less than 15 percent? Some people choose to invest a small amount, if anything, because they want to get a child through school or pay off the home in a hurry. But the kids' degrees won't feed you at retirement, and if you throw all your money into your mortgage at this point, you'll end up having to sell the house and buy the book "72 Ways to Prepare Alpo and Love It." Bad plan.

Baby Step 5

College funding for children

By this point, you should have already started Baby Step 4 -- investing 15 percent of your income -- before saving for college. Whether you are saving for you or your child to go to college, you need to start now.

In order to have enough money saved for college, you need to have a goal. Determine how much per month you should be saving at 12 percent interest in order to have enough for college. If you save at 12 percent and inflation is at 4 percent, then you are moving ahead of inflation at a net of 8 percent per year!

Never save for college using:

• Insurance

• Savings bonds (only 5-6 percent growth)

• Zero-coupon bonds (only 6-8 percent growth)

• Pre-paid college tuition (only 7 percent inflation rate)

The best way to save for college is with Education Savings Accounts and 529 plans. Remember, college is possible without loans.

Well, it looks like I'm running out of space, so I'm going to challenge you to go to DaveRamsey.com to learn about steps 6 and 7. I'm also going to challenge you to consider enrolling in an upcoming Financial Peace University course. There are four in our area that have either recently begun or are scheduled to begin soon. Desert Heights Community Church began the nine-week course this Wednesday, but I bet you could still get in. Piñon Hills Community Church, First Baptist Church of Farmington and First Baptist Church of Kirtland plan to hold the FPU course beginning Jan. 16, 19 and 25 respectively. First Baptist Farmington is also offering the Legacy Journey course, which is intended to help folks learn how best to leave an inheritance to their heirs.

And, lastly, I invite you to tune in to TWOgether as ONE tomorrow at 6 p.m. on KLJH 107.1FM. I'll be interviewing Keith Corley, of Piñon Hills Community Church. Keith is familiar with Financial Peace University and has a powerful story of the effect it can have on a marriage. Please don't let finances be the death knell of your marriage or your happiness. Help, meaningful help, really is available.

Ron Price is the co-founder and Executive Director of the Four Corners Coalition for Marriage & Family, a 501-C-3 organization dedicated to strengthening and equipping marriages and families in the Four Corners Area. He can be reached at ronp@fccmf.org or 505 327-7870.