Pay your savings before you pay your bills

By Kevin Theissen
Skygate Financial Group LLC

Wise Money with Kevin Theissen - lower caseEach month you settle down to pay bills.

You pay your mortgage lender. You pay the electric company. You pay the trash collector.

But do you pay yourself?

One of the most basic tenets of sound investing involves the simple habit of “paying yourself first,” in other words, making the first payment of each month into your savings account.

Americans’ saving patterns vary widely. And too often, short-term economic trends can interrupt long-term savings plans. For example, the U.S. Personal Savings Rate jumped from 3.5 percent to nearly 8 percent in May 2008, during the housing and banking crisis. It then rose and fell sporadically as the economic environment appeared to stabilize.¹

The genius of pay yourself first

Anyone who’s ever managed their own finances knows that saving can be a challenge. There seems to be an endless stream of expenses that demand a piece of each month’s paycheck. Herein lies the genius of paying yourself first: You get the cream at the top of the bucket, and not the leftovers at the bottom.

The trick is to prioritize. Make it a point to put your future first. Initially, saving may mean a small lifestyle change. But most individuals want to see their net worth increase steadily. For them, finding ways to save becomes more of a long-term commitment than a short-term challenge.

Put your money to work

What will you do with the money you save?

If retirement is your priority, consider taking advantage of tax-advantaged investments. Employer-sponsored retirement plans, such as 401(k)s and 403(b)s, can be a great way to save because the money comes out of your paycheck before you even see it.

Self-employed people can also take advantage of retirement accounts that you can open for your employees and yourself. Examples include SEP-IRA, SIMPLE and Individual 401k plans.

For money you may want to access before retirement, consider placing the funds in a separate account. When the balance hits your target, you may want to move the money into investments that offer the potential for higher returns. Of course, this may mean exposing your money to more volatility, so you’ll want to choose vehicles that fit your risk tolerance, time horizon and long-term goals.

In the pursuit of growing wealth, sound habits can be your most valuable asset. Develop the habit of paying yourself first today. The sooner you begin, the more potential your savings may have to grow.

1: Bureau of Economic Analysis, 2014, for the period July 1, 2005 through July 1, 2014. National Bureau of Economic Research, 2014

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Filed Under: Business & Personal FinanceWise Money

About the Author: Kevin M. Theissen, principal and financial advisor at Skygate Financial Group LLC, has more than 20 years of experience as an investment advisor, wealth manager and tax professional.

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