As you enter the professional world, you’re focused on two things – finding something you love to, and making the most money possible. These are the two things you’ve been trained to worry about since you were in grade school, and it’s your job to maximize your potential in both of these areas. However, there’s a third area where you should also focus, and it may end up being more important than what you do or how much you make.
Saving Money, Not Making Money
There’s an old saying, “It’s not how much you make, but how much you save.” It might not mean much when you’re 22 years old and are happy to have a job, but it sure as hell means something when you’re 30 years old and trying to start a family. By that point, it’s tough to find the extra room necessary to plan for the future.
The reality of finance is, there’s always something that comes up. It’s rare that you’re in a position where all of your needs are met, you want for nothing, and you have extra cash with which you can splurge. If those moments do arise, they’re only temporary. Something will happen, whether it be your car breaking down or a necessary repair for your house, or even a health issue. It’s important to be ready for those challenges so that you don’t go into debt for something that could have been prevented with a little foresight.
“That won’t happen to me,” you figure. “I’ll get a raise and then I’ll be fine.” Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way. If you don’t get the raise you expected, you could be in a lot of trouble. However, if you’ve been saving and learning how to live below your means, you’ll likely land on your feet.
Save Early, Save Often
The best way to save money is to never give yourself an opportunity not to save. When you get your first job, set up your direct deposit to automatically move ten percent of your takehome pay into a savings account. You won’t miss that ten percent because you’ve never had access to it. That 90 percent of your paycheck is more than you’ve ever made, and you’ll find a way to make it work. Conversely, if you had the full 100 percent to start with, you’d have found a way to make that work too. But this way, instead of spending that ten percent on frivolities and useless junk, you’re building a nest egg for the future.
If you’ve been working for a while, you can still set aside ten percent of your paycheck. It might hurt a little more because you’re used to that money coming in, but if it’s out sight, it’s out of mind. If you’re really strapped for cash, move five percent into savings instead. Once you find a way to make it work and get that savings growing, you’ll likely be inspired to save even more.
As you go through your career, make saving money a top priority. If you get a three percent raise each year, do the right thing – put one percent into savings, one percent into retirement and keep one percent for yourself. This way, you increase your future wealth while still rewarding yourself for your achievements. And it keeps you from being accustomed to the extra money, which you’d surely find a way to spend if you kept it lying around.
These simple steps might not be such a big deal as you take them, but they’ll surely pay off in the long run. When life gets in the way, you’ll be able to pay for your challenges with cash, not debt. Better yet, when it comes time to buy a house or pay for a wedding or welcome a child, you’ll have the peace of mind that comes with knowing you’re financially stable enough to take the next step.