Step 82: Pay Yourself First

Step 82 of the 100 Steps Mission to Financial Independence: Pay yourself first
Step 82: Pay yourself first

“Pay Yourself First”, one of the biggest motto’s in the personal finance world, is a hugely empowering and motivating concept that stimulates you to keep your savings goals at the top of your list. It’s origins are attributed to George Clason’s famous book The Richest Man in Babylon and although the book is nearly a century old, many of its lessons are still extremely valuable today.

I can hear objections already “But I am not a business owner, I can’t pay myself”, or maybe you do own your own company and think: “I need to pay my people first before I can pay myself”. Then yes you are totally right in both cases. But that is not what this concept is about.

Pay yourself first has nothing to do with your salary. It has all to do with priorities. You can be on a regular pay roll and get paid by your boss but still pay yourself first. Or you can be a business owner and pay your employees before anybody else, then pay all your creditors but still pay yourself first.

Pay yourself first has everything to do with setting priorities for your finances. Let’s complete a mental exercise about the road that your money takes every month. It of course starts with pay-day: you receive your paycheck. The first thing that happens even before you receive that money are the taxes taken out of it. Then you receive whatever is left over and probably one of the first things you need to pay are the rent or the mortgage. Then there’s the car your paying off, insurance to pay, utility and food bills and you’re in desperate need for a new coat and of course you’re joining your co-workers for a Friday afternoon drink after work. You likely have some more to add. So the list continues until there’s hardly anything left at the end, right?

So let’s see who’s being paid here then, as it certainly wasn’t you!

  • taxes of course are payments to the state;
  • rent – there’s your landlord getting paid;
  • mortgage – that will be your bank manager getting paid;
  • car payments – another one for your bank manager or car dealer;
  • insurance – the insurance company will have that, thank you very much!
  • water and electricity bills – your utilities companies cashing in
  • a new coat – that’s your shop assistant and retailer getting paid.
  • Friday afternoon drink – the bar owner will happily hold out his hand.

And the list of course goes on and on. So where’s your payment? How do you benefit from the money that you earned? Of course you’re able to buy yourself a shelter over your head with that income by paying off you mortgage or paying rent, but that money is being paid to somebody else. With your pay you are also able to buy food and clothes and security in the form of insurance, but whilst you are purchasing these items, somebody else is also benefiting from you buying these products: they are getting paid by you. The one person who doesn’t seem to be being paid is YOU.

Now it would be ridiculous to say that you shouldn’t buy these items and stop paying other people, as you probably wouldn’t survive very long or have a miserable life living at the margins. That’s why this step isn’t called “Stop paying others”. Our society and economy are based on exchanging goods and services for money and it is a key part to survival, happiness and life. Instead “Pay yourself First” encourages you to – before anything else – pay yourself first before you start giving away your money to others.

Although you might not be able to change so much about the fact that taxes are taken out of your pay first (although of course there are some pension funds that will let you invest tax-free and then you could always consider moving to a lower tax state or country), you can pretty much make sure that as soon as you receive your net pay, that you pay yourself first.

How to pay yourself first? By setting aside money for you – to build a secure financial future, to grow your capital and net worth, to reduce debt and to improve your general financial situation, so that you and your family little by little gain more financial security and freedom. By assigning an amount of money to go to you, you give your future self an income, instead of spending it all and giving it away to others, you make sure that some of it comes back to you later.

This means that instead of having to work indefinitely in order to keep up with all of your creditors every single month, you can at some point stop working and enjoy the money you have set aside for your future self. It means that you have paid yourself forward and secured yourself a future income.

Whenever you get paid, think about how to pay yourself first. Set aside money in a savings account, invest the money in a pension fund, or pay down your debt so that you free yourself of those monthly creditor payments. Don’t allow yourself to come up with excuses like: “I don’t make enough” or “my bills are too high”. Find ways to reduce your expenses, to increase your income and remember that starting small is always better than not starting at all. Even small contributions add up over time, and by starting small you build a habit that when you finally reduce those expenses or increase your income, you can instantly increase contributions.

Step 82 – Pay Yourself First – in detail:

  • Brainstorm a list of how you already pay yourself first. How do you use your money to improve your finances?
    • Pension contributions
    • Savings accounts
    • Investments
    • Debt reduction
    • Saving money for a specific goal to avoid future debt.
  • Look at your overview of your fixed, variable and discretionary expenses, go through the list and identify one by one who you are paying every time you make any of these payments. Go through the full exercise and write down the beneficiary for every single expense. See how many people are being paid over you!
  • Give yourself a score of how well you are doing on a monthly basis out of 10, with 10 being “excellent” and 1 “poor”.
  • Set yourself a target monthly contribution or grading on how much to pay yourself each month.
  • Refer to Step 12 which gives a further breakdown on how to set yourself specific savings goals on a practical level.

Once you become familiar with the “Pay yourself first” concept and start internalizing this more, you’ll discover the true power of this wisdom that will keep you focussed on your mission to financial independence.

Read more about my 100 steps mission to financial independence or simply decide to take control today and join us on our step-by-step quest on how to make your finances work for you, starting with step 1.

 

Step 55: Discuss Finances with your Partner

Step 55 of the 100 steps to financial independence: Discuss Finances with your Partner
Step 55: Discuss Finances with your Partner

I admit that this step should have probably been way earlier on in the list, since if you share your household and finances with your partner, then discussing money matters and making sure you have the same short-term and long-term goals in mind is essential to not only achieving your financial goals but also keeping your relationship healthy and happy. At the end of the day if you are trying to save, invest or grow your capital whilst your partner is more of the “let’s spend it all now” school, you likely both wind up frustrated with each other, meaning both your financial goals and your relationship happiness will take a hit and suffer at some point.

Sad but true: finances and a lack of shared financial goals or financial compatibility are not uncommon reasons for people to end a relationship, so let’s get this sorted once and for all and make sure that you and your partner discuss your individual and joint financial beliefs and goals. You might not have exactly the same ideas about how to spend or save your money, but discussing will at least create more understanding and hopefully pave the way to an agreement that satisfies both and leaves some (financial) room for both to do your own thing.

Of course it might be that your partner is not into finances at all and is happy for you to take control of the (majority) of the money decisions and responsibilities. If that is the case, it might sound easier in the short-term to simply assume that role not inform or even consult your partner, but remember that long-term this might not be in the interest of neither your relationship nor of your finances. Continue reading

Step 44: Personal pensions

Step 44 of the 100 steps to financial independence: Personal Pensions
Step 44: Personal Pensions

If you aren’t enrolled in a workplace pension and don’t have the option to join one, it is worth considering setting up your own personal pension. And even if you have an occupational pension, you might still want to look into personal pensions either as an alternative, or in addition to your workplace pension. Of course, you don’t have to if your workplace pension offers you exactly what you need and how much you need anyway., but as with anything it is worth considering the different options, to know for sure you have chosen the option(s) that are most relevant to you.

A personal pension works in very much the same way as a workplace pension, with the exception that your employer usually won’t be required to make a contribution. Another difference is that you need to make more decisions. Not only do you have to choose a pension provider (whereas in the case of occupational pensions your employer would have already done this for you), you often also need to choose from different packages, conditions and investment options.  Continue reading

Step 43: Workplace Pensions

Step 43 of the 100 steps mission to financial independence: Workplace pensions
Step 43: Workplace pensions

As we saw before, a workplace pension is often offered by your employer or work sector and contributions are usually made monthly directly from your paycheck. Although many of the characteristics discussed in step 42 on state pensions are also applicable to workplace pensions, the latter often have many additional advantages or characteristics, including some of the following:

Automatic

It is often (though not always!) automatic, meaning in many workplace pensions employees are automatically enrolled. If you don’t take action to opt-out you are systematically making monthly payments into your pension scheme.

Monthly contribution

You can determine your monthly contribution. There is usually both a minimum and maximum contribution you are allowed to make, and although many people might just pay the bare minimum, if you budget well and set aside enough money, you can obviously pay in more. The more you contribute (i.e. save) now, the more you’ll again have by the time you retire, not just from your monthly paymentsbut also from the compounded interest.  Continue reading

Step 42: State Pensions

Step 42 of the 100 steps mission to financial independence: State Pensions
Step 42 of the 100 steps mission: State Pensions

In the previous step we looked at the different types of pensions that exist. In this step we look at state pensions in detail, although many of the characteristics of state pensions also apply to other types of pensions. Pensions vary greatly from one country to the next, if they even exist at all, as not all countries offer state pensions, so make sure to do your homework well and read up on the details of the state pension for your country.

If you are entitled to a state pension this is normally regardless of the height of your salary and of any workplace or private pensions you might or might not have. Bear in mind that most state pensions tend to be far from generous and designed mainly to just provide for your basic needs.  Continue reading

Step 41: An Introduction to Pensions

Step 41 of the 100 steps mission to financial independence: An introduction to pensions
Step 41: An introduction to pensions

Pension… a word dreaded by many, not just because they might not like the idea of being old, or – on the contrary – are worried it’ll be way too long before they can finally retire. Many simply don’t have a clue what their pension might look like and fear that they might never be able to retire properly, due to a (nearly) empty pension pot or the absence of a decent pension plan altogether.

Or maybe you just hate the idea of talking about pensions as it sounds like the most BORING topic in the world to you.

Be that as it is, ignoring your pension is not going to do you any good and considering the many changes that pensions are going through at the moment in many countries, it is wise to learn more about them and especially to understand your own pension projection better and to put together your own pension plan. So you are going to take the bull by the horns here and set up or review your current pension scheme. It might be tough, unpleasant or tedious at first, but once the bulk of the work has been done, you can sit back with a comfortable feeling, knowing you might still be a long way away from where you want to be, or from your retirement in general, but that you’ve put in a plan to get you back on track or closer to your end goal. Continue reading