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Two people shaking handsDave Ramsey is a well-known personal finance celebrity with a long-running radio show, multiple best-selling books, online tools, educational courses and a large following. Endorsed local provider (ELP) is a designation Ramsey’s organization offers to help financial professionals who have been vetted by his organization connect to people looking for personal financial services. Whether you’re facing investment or estate planning challenges, a financial advisor can provide critical insight and guidance.

Ramsey is best-known for recommending the “snowball plan” to get out of debt. This approach has a debt-burdened consumer pay off his or her smallest non-mortgage debt first, then add the amount that was going to that debt to the next-largest debt payment and so on until balances on all credit cards, auto loans and other debts are zero.

Ramsey also recommends a more comprehensive “baby steps” plan. It calls for creating an emergency fund, investing for retirement and college expenses, paying home mortgages off early and making charitable donations.

ELP Certification Requirements

The ELP program is overseen by Ramsey Solutions, the organization he founded in 1992. The company is based in Nashville and advocates a biblically-based, commonsense approach to debt reduction, saving money, insurance and other aspects of personal finance.

Ramsey created the ELP program early in his career dispensing personal financial advice. It is a paid referral program open to nearly any financial professional who wants to join and will pay its fees. In return, the financial professionals are regularly promoted via Ramsey’s media outlets and also get leads for new business through his website.

There are several types of ELPs. The difference depends on the financial products the ELP offers. Here are the types:

Insurance ELPs are subdivided based on the type of coverage they sell. ELPs may be specialists in property and casualty insurance, health insurance and long-term care insurance.

Ramsey doesn’t require ELPs to take any courses or pass any tests except to be in good standing with professional organizations. Financial professionals do have to provide some background information including the number of years in business, although there is no set requirement for experience.

ELP applicants also have to promise to provide good customer service and agree to follow the Ramsey personal finance plan and philosophy. The basics of the plan are outlined in his baby steps formula. Another key element of Ramsey’s approach is a strong preference for term life insurance over whole life insurance.

Ramsey identifies its real estate ELPs as top local agents who follow up quickly on leads. It targets the tax service ELP designation at certified public accountants and enrolled agents who focus on individuals and small businesses. Insurance ELPs are required to be independent agents able to help clients find affordable and appropriate coverage.

Beyond these standards, the only requirement of an ELP is to pay the fee to Ramsey’s organization. The company does not disclose the cost to become an ELP. Online reviews and user comments indicate that some ELPs pay upfront to get the exclusive rights to their local markets. Real estate agents, for example, pay $3,000 plus a monthly fee.

ELPs also pay Ramsey for leads and referrals. Insurance agents pay for leads at rates varying from $45 to $60. Real estate agents pay a 28% referral fee to Ramsey for any sales resulting from leads acquired through the ELP program.

ELP Certificate Holder Jobs

ELP working with two clientsELPs are insurance agents and brokers and tax and accounting professionals. The ELP designation primarily serves marketing purposes, as Ramsey guides his legion of fans to use the program to find financial service providers. ELP members get coaching from Ramsey’s staff about how to provide good customer service. And consumers who use the service are urged to provide feedback, including complaints.

If an ELP gets enough bad reviews, the Ramsey organization says it will stop giving them leads and evict them from the program.

Comparable Certifications

Many financial professionals use advertising and lead-generation programs that look less like certifications and more like pure marketing initiatives. They include these:

Zillow Premier Agent is a program that enables real estate agents to pay to advertise their brands on the Zillow and Trullia real estate sites. This can give them a marketing advantage over agents who rely only on the free profiles. There aren’t any requirements of Zillow Premier agents beyond ability to pay the fees, which vary by market.

QuoteWizard is for insurance agents. When consumers visit the site to get information about auto, home, health, life and other insurance, their contact and other information is passed on to agents who pay for the leads.

Ramsay has another designation, SmartVestor, for financial professionals who dispense investment advice. To get the SmartVestor tag, as with the ELP designation, advisors have to pass a vetting process and pay a fee. In return, Ramsey provides leads. One difference is that Ramsey doesn’t actually endorse SmartVestors, although he does urge listeners and visitors to his website to use the program to find investment advisors.

Bottom Line

Personal finance documentsELPs are providers of insurance, real estate and tax services who have been endorsed by financial celebrity Dave Ramsey. ELPs don’t have to do much to qualify for the designation and start receiving referrals other than agree to follow his financial planning principles and pay the fees. However, ELPs who don’t provide service and generate lots of complaints may be removed from the program. Keep in mind, too, that Ramsey’s organization does not endorse ELPs as investment advisors.

Personal Finance Tips

  • If you are looking for help with debts, saving, investing, retirement planning or other financial matters, consider working with an experienced financial advisor. Finding one doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with financial advisors in your area in five minutes. If you’re ready to be matched with local advisors who will help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.
  • It’s important to get a clear picture of what a particular debt will actually cost. A personal loan calculator can tell you how much total interest you will pay over the life of a loan.

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/andrei_r, ©iStock.com/FatCamera, ©iStock.com/flyingv43

Mark Henricks Mark Henricks has reported on personal finance, investing, retirement, entrepreneurship and other topics for more than 30 years. His freelance byline has appeared on CNBC.com and in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Kiplinger’s Personal Finance and other leading publications. Mark has written books including, “Not Just A Living: The Complete Guide to Creating a Business That Gives You A Life.” His favorite reporting is the kind that helps ordinary people increase their personal wealth and life satisfaction. A graduate of the University of Texas journalism program, he lives in Austin, Texas. In his spare time he enjoys reading, volunteering, performing in an acoustic music duo, whitewater kayaking, wilderness backpacking and competing in triathlons.
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