Ken Coleman, Mark Aspelin, and Dave Ramsey at Ramsey Solutions, March 7, 2022
Whenever I’m faced with use it or lose it frequent flier miles that are soon to expire and I have don’t have much vacation time, I wrack my brain for experiences I would like to have or people I would like to meet. This can take the form of concerts, unusual experiences, catching up with friends, or meeting people who have been influential in my life. Past examples include attending a workshop with the Dalai Lama in Boston, meeting E.O. Wilson (biologist) at Biodiversity Days in North Carolina, and flying to San Francisco to catch Paul McCartney’s “Last Pick at the Stick” … the last concert at Candlestick Park in August 2014 before plans to tear it down and convert it into office space.
E.O. Wilson and Mark Aspelin, Biodiversity Days, Duke University, March 2, 2017
With some of my Southwest Airline miles facing imminent extinction, I recently faced that decision again. What did I come up with this time? I decided to try to get a photo with Dave Ramsey at his Ramsey Solutions studio in Franklin, Tennessee.
In case you’ve been living under a rock for the past 30 years, Dave Ramsey is a personal finance guru who hosts “The Ramsey Show”. According to his website, The Ramsey Show is the third largest talk radio show in America, reaching over 18 million “combined weekly listeners”. I don’t know what that means either, but let’s just say that he’s popular. On his show, Dave takes phone calls from people of all walks of life. In response to their questions, Dave dishes out tough, Tennessee-accented love in the form of “sell the car” and “act your wage” advice that aligns with his 7 Baby Steps for financial peace. Some of the show’s callers make you think, “wow, that person is an idiot … I can’t believe they made such dumb financial decisions.” Other callers will make you think, “wow, I’m an idiot … I can’t believe I’ve made such dumb financial decisions.” For me, it’s usually the latter.
My financial idiocy brought me face-to-face with a 7-year slog to get through Baby Steps 1-3. This translates to being debt free other than my mortgage and building up a 3-6 month emergency fund. Unfortunately, I had to do the emergency fund step twice. Dave’s advice played a major role in getting me to take the plunge to get started and then stick with it year after year. The end result is that I’m on MUCH firmer financial ground compared to where I was 10 years ago. Not that you care. So let’s get back to the subject at hand.
How exactly does one go about meeting Dave Ramsey? Glad you asked. Here’s everything you need to know about meeting Dave in person … as of March 2022 when I visited the studio.
Why do people want to visit Dave in the first place?
Dave has literally inspired millions of people to “live like no one else so, later, you can live and give like no one else.” After completing a significant milestone in their financial journey such as getting out of debt, paying off the house, or crossing the “millionaire” net worth threshold, many people decide to make the pilgrimage to Ramsey Studios to meet Dave in person. For some, it's to say thank you in person to Dave. For others, it's a “job well done” validation of sorts – a celebration after completing a difficult step of the journey. Or it can simply be something different to do for an afternoon while visiting Nashville.
Some famous "Dave-isms" showcased on a wall at Ramsey Solutions
Where is the studio located and what’s the parking situation?
Ramsey Solutions is located at 1011 Reams Fleming Boulevard in Franklin, Tennessee. Franklin is about a 30-minute drive from Nashville. Parking is abundant and free of charge. There are a few visitor parking spots just outside of the front entrance and plenty of other spots nearby if those are taken.
Front entrance to Ramsey Solutions
When can I meet Dave – any particular day or time?
The first thing you’ll want to know is that you can’t just waltz in the front door any day of the week and meet Dave. In fact, chances are very high that Dave WON’T be at the studio to meet you if you just randomly show up. The first step is to fill out this form to let them know when you would like to visit. Within a day or two, you’ll receive a response confirming when Dave is scheduled to be in the studio.
When I submitted the form to let them know I planned to visit in early March, they provided me with two potential dates: Monday, February 28 or Monday, March 7th between 1:00pm – 4:00pm CT. Those were the only two options. Needless to say, that narrowed it down fairly quickly for me. March 7th it is. So if you really want to meet Dave, you’ll want to confirm his availability before you start booking flights and hotels. Even if they do confirm a date for you, they’ll add the following disclaimer: “Dave and the Ramsey Personalities schedule is not guaranteed and is subject to change at the last minute. Please feel free to call ahead a day or two before you come.” That last sentence is highly recommended. You’ll want to call or email a day or two ahead of time to confirm that everything is still on track.
There are no tickets or reservations. Ramsey Solutions likes to know how many visitors are arriving on a particular day so they have enough baked treats (cookies on the day I was there) on hand. But you’re welcome to show up unannounced if that’s how you roll.
I had no concept of how many people typically show up and I’m sure it varies quite a bit. Given that Dave Ramsey has millions of listeners, I was picturing long lines. Plus I had a flight to catch later that afternoon. To play it safe, I decided to show up around noon – well in advance of the 1pm CT start time for The Ramsey Show. When I walked through the front entrance doors at 12:10pm, I was the only visitor there! Around 1:30pm, there were around 20 or 30 visitors before I left to catch my flight.
What can I expect to find inside Ramsey Solutions?
When I stepped through the front door, I was immediately greeted by a person at the front desk. She asked my name, where I’m from, and offered to answer any questions that I had. She also invited me to visit the café to get a free drink and snack (cookie), walk through the bookstore, and do a self-guided “Our Story” tour about the history and progressions of The Ramsey Show over the years. All visitors are entitled to one free drink and snack. After the first round, you’ll need to pay for it. As a bonus, all visitors also received a free Ramsey Solutions coffee mug.
The bookstore has all of the books published by the various Ramsey personalities, as well as courses, games, wallets, and purses. Surprisingly, they didn’t have any T-shirts. If you decide to buy something at the bookstore or café, keep in mind that Dave Ramsey doesn’t do credit cards. You’ll need to pay cash or use a debit card.
The self-guided “Our Story” tour was a good way to kill some time. At the end of the tour, you'll find a recording booth where you can record your own story and send it to yourself. I didn’t bother with that as I wasn’t interested in having an awkward recording of my story as a memento.
Once people finish with the café, bookstore, and self-guided tour, people start to congregate in the seats in front of the two recording studios. When I was there, the Ken Coleman Show was live from 12:00pm – 1:00PM CT so I could see Ken and his guest, John Delony, talking live. Around 12:45pm, Dave walked into the other studio. He was all business as he prepared for the upcoming show.
Two recording studios
John Delony and Ken Coleman recording the Ken Coleman Show
Baker Street Coffee Shop ...
... and Bookstore
More seating areas between the recording studios and coffee shop / bookstore
Event Stage on the lower level below the recording studios
Self-Guided Tour starts here
Booth where you can record your own story as a memento
Dave prepares for the start of the show
How do I get a book signed and how do I get a photo with Dave?
I lumped these two questions together as you’ll do these at the same time during your visit. If you want to get a book signed, then you’ll need to either bring a book with you from home or buy one from the bookstore. But you’ll need the book in your hand when you meet Dave. Don’t bother bringing a pen. Dave will have his own pen.
Once Dave’s show starts, people start to gather in the chairs in front of that recording studio. Dave and his co-host only come out to meet guests during the commercial breaks. Before the first commercial break, a staff member comes out to explain how it all works. There is a place to line up next to the Debt Free Stage. Once a commercial break starts, Dave and his guest will take off their headphones and walk out to meet the first person in line. While they embark on their journey through a back door of the studio to walk around to the Debt Free Stage, a staff member will direct you to stand on the stage and, if you want a photo, you’ll hand them your phone or camera.
I gave the staff member my phone, stepped up on the stage, and the next think I knew, Dave was walking towards me with a big grin and an extended hand. Before we even shook hands, he was already asking my name and where I’m from. We shook hands and he offered to sign the book that I was holding. As he signed, he asked what I was doing in Nashville. I told him that I was there to meet him, but he seemed to think that I MUST be in Nashville for some other reason too. So I muttered something about being in Nashville for fun but was really there to celebrate that I had completed Baby Steps 1-3. Upon hearing this, they congratulated me … and that’s when it hit me. “They”! I had completed neglected the co-host Ken Coleman. I had not looked at him, shook his hand, or acknowledged that he existed prior to that point. In hindsight, I should have prepared for that – perhaps buying his book at the bookstore when I saw that he was the co-host and then having him sign his book at the same time. But it was too late to recover from that mistake. The three of us were already lined up on the stage, with me in the middle. The photo was taken, and then it was time for the next visitor. It probably took a total of about one minute. It’s a well-oiled machine.
It all happened so quickly that I never got to implement my original plan, which was to deliver some kind of quip like “I took out a payday loan in order to visit today”. I figured he has heard “thank you” stories so many times that it would be more fun to say something different.
After the meet and greet, I looked at the “photo” on my phone. I quickly learned that multiple photos had been taken - one of the initial handshake, one of the book signing, and two on the stage. Had I known, I would have made a better effort to look at something other than the ground in front of me. The joys of being Finnish. I’m half Irish too, but unfortunately my Finnish social skills won out today. So beware that multiple photos will be taken.
One other helpful tidbit … as I watched Dave meet other visitors, I noticed that he never puts his arm around anyone and nobody puts their arm around him for the photo. He quickly puts his hands in his pockets to remove that option. So, don’t go up there thinking that you’ll be taking a photo with him with your arm around him and vice versa. He’ll have his hands in his pockets.
Greeting Dave from the Debt Free Stage
My Finnish heritage on full display while regretting that I did not have a book for Ken to sign
Ken, Mark and Dave on the Debt Free Stage
What about the Debt Free Scream?
Just to clarify, what I did was NOT the Debt Free Scream that is featured on his show. That is something that you need to apply for on the Ramsey Solutions website and you may or may not get selected. However, I did get to see an official debt free scream while I was there. This is where a person is interviewed during the live show – telling their story to Dave, answering questions, and then doing a 3, 2, 1 countdown before screaming, “I’m debt free!!”. Raising my voice is not my specialty and the idea of screaming on air for millions of people didn’t appeal to me. But who knows, maybe I’ll feel differently when I eventually pay off my house!
Seating area in front of the recording studio with a person getting ready to tell their story and deliver a "Debt Free Scream"
What the debt free scream looked like during the recorded show on YouTube
Anything else that I should know?
That should cover it! Just in case, here's the information you’ll receive after filling out the online form and confirming your visit:
YOUR REQUESTED DATE
ABOUT YOUR VISIT
WHEN YOU ARRIVE, PLEASE CHECK IN AT THE FRONT DESK SO I CAN WELCOME YOU.
Email if you have any additional questions. We look forward to meeting you!
PLEASE NOTE: Dave and the Ramsey Personalities schedules is not guaranteed and is subject to change at the last minute. Please feel free to call ahead a day or two before you come.
Was it worth the visit?
Absolutely! It was a fun experience. I’m definitely glad that I did it … and I just may be back when I eventually complete Baby Step 6.
Mark Aspelin is a travel writer and author of two books who has enjoyed a wide variety of adventures in his travels to over 100 countries and all 50 U.S. States. Mark lives in the mountains outside of Albuquerque, New Mexico, which serves as a great home base for his blog, New Mexico & Beyond (www.nmbeyond.com or www.markstravelblog.com).