September 13, 2012
By Andia Dinesen, AFC ®
Military Saves Coordinator

My friend’s son is just starting his first “real” job.  It got me thinking; if I could go back in time what would I tell myself if I was just starting my first job?  I can tell you with certainty, I would have told myself to start saving and never stop.

This is the exact advice I gave to my friend’s son, although I am not sure he was listening.  I am not sure I could say it in a way that would actually interest him.  I am pretty sure my 17 year-old self would have thought “Really?  Are you kidding me?” Things were a little easier (and cheaper) when I was 17.  Gas was less than a $1 a gallon, no one carried cell phones, especially not smart ones, and going out to the movies cost about $8! So I really had no excuse not to save money.  However, I am positive that I thought I couldn’t.  My mom did a great job beginning my savings habits at a young age, prior to the “real” job.  Remember the blog from a few months ago, Positive Peer Pressure and the Envelopes in the Cupboard?  Sadly, when I graduated from high school, moved out of the house, and went to college, the envelopes became a thing of the past.  Saving a portion of my paycheck in the savings envelope or savings account did not remain a priority.

So how do you make saving money a priority for a 17 year-old?

The answer is, make it automatic.

My advice to young people: Set a Goal, Make a Plan, Save Automatically- which is also our Military Saves Week 2013 theme.  The Goal: beginning your first job is a great time to put money into a savings account for an emergency fund, so if your car breaks down you can get it fixed.  As you get out on your own, more and more unexpected expenses will pop up that you will need to be prepared for.  The Plan: this should include an amount to be saved each paycheck until a certain amount it reached, maybe $250 or $500.  You can start small at first, even just $5 or $10, and then just keep going.  Save Automatically: this can be as easy as setting up an automatic deposit with your new employer into a separate account before you get paid or setting up an automatic transfer to a savings account each time you get paid (you can probably do this on your smart phone!)  Making the transfer automatic ensures that you are “paying yourself first.”  Ever heard that phrase? 

I also encourage you to take the Military Saves pledge if you are at least 14 years old.  You will receive monthly e-Newletters with great information on how to save successfully and gain knowledge from experts in personal finance.

Just so you know I am not completely ignorant of the fact that if you are a young person with a brand new job you probably have something besides an emergency fund you would like to save for.  All I am saying is that if you start these habits early and maintain them over time, you will be doing yourself a favor and setting yourself up for your future.  You can always have more than one savings goal and plan to achieve it.

It is impossible to go back in time and give yourself advice, so it would make me feel much better if just one young person took my advice to start saving now and never stopped.  Your older, wiser self would like to thank you one day if you do.

Have a great savings story to share?  Contact us today and let us share your story to encourage others!