First, let’s acknowledge it’s not just young people who need help saving money.
The unfortunate truth is most people have little to no savings at all — and I don’t mean “savings for that vacation to Hawaii,” I mean retirement.
Ever since I was a kid, I’ve been fascinated by money.
Not necessarily for what it can buy in a materialistic sense (I rarely spend money on myself), but what it can be used to create. For me, money was the equivalent of gasoline in a car. Money meant I could spend more time doing this instead of that. I could build something on my own instead of working for someone else.
Money was the gateway to decision, and the decision was the habit with which I could steer the direction of my life.
As a result, I have spent the past five years studying finance as a hobby.
In college, I studied creative writing and math was never my strong suit, so I took it upon myself to seek out mentors who had learned how to master money: investors, bankers, successful serial entrepreneurs, etc. I wanted to learn how they had made money work for them, instead of getting caught in the cycle of always working for money.
One of the earliest (and most influential) lessons I learned about money was this:
If the government passed a bill tomorrow that said you had to pay 10% more in taxes, you would do it.
You might not like it, or you might have to work a little harder or spend a little less, but you would do it.
That’s how you should treat saving money.
I’ve heard it explained a handful of different ways, but the common thread is the importance of taxing yourself.
Most people, young people especially, live paycheck to paycheck. Especially when you’re right out of college and you’ve got bills to pay, it can be very easy to spend everything you make and say, “I can’t afford to save right now.”
But, again, if the government required you to pay 10% more each year, tomorrow, you would figure it out. You would.
That same level of discipline is how you should treat saving money.
Each paycheck, this is what I do:
I tax myself 10%.
Each month, I have an automatic withdrawal from my primary account to my savings account that transfers 10% of my primary paycheck.
I don’t see it. I don’t touch it. I don’t even give myself the option.
It’s an automatic transfer, and every single month money is added to my savings account.
I encourage every single young person (and anyone not doing this already) to do the same.
Even if you can only start with $50 a month. $25 a month. $10 a month. The point isn’t the amount of money. The point is to start instilling the habit, and training yourself to believe that you can start saving.
Then, as time goes on and you start to move up in your career, you can increase that amount. Which is why it’s best to operate on a percentage basis. 10% is the rule. So if you’re making $1,000 / mo, you should be saving $100. And if you’re making $1M / mo, you should be saving $100,000.
That’s how wealth is built. Not by betting it all on black and hoping for the best.
By implementing good habits, and following them month, after month, after month.