What Does It Mean to Pay Yourself First?

Learn the key concept of paying yourself first in personal finance. Discover why it’s important, how to implement it, and real-life examples of its benefits.


When it comes to personal finance, one of the most important concepts to understand is ‘paying yourself first.’ This simple idea can have a significant impact on your financial well-being and long-term success. In this article, we will explore what it means to pay yourself first, why it is important, and how you can implement this practice in your own life.

What Does It Mean to Pay Yourself First?

At its core, paying yourself first means setting aside a portion of your income for savings or investments before paying any other bills or expenses. This ensures that you prioritize your own financial goals and future security before anything else.

Why Is It Important?

Paying yourself first is important for several reasons. First and foremost, it helps you build a solid financial foundation and establish healthy money habits. By consistently saving or investing a portion of your income, you can grow your wealth over time and achieve your long-term financial goals.

Additionally, paying yourself first can provide a sense of financial security and peace of mind. Knowing that you have money set aside for emergencies or future expenses can help reduce stress and anxiety about money.

How to Pay Yourself First

There are several strategies you can use to pay yourself first. One common method is to set up automatic transfers from your checking account to a savings or investment account on payday. This ensures that a portion of your income is saved or invested before you have a chance to spend it on other expenses.

Another approach is to create a budget that includes a savings or investment category as a priority. By allocating a specific percentage of your income to savings or investments each month, you can ensure that you are paying yourself first.

Examples of Paying Yourself First

  • Setting up a retirement account and contributing a portion of your income to it each month
  • Automating transfers from your checking account to a high-yield savings account
  • Investing in a diversified portfolio of stocks and bonds

Case Studies

Let’s look at a couple of case studies to illustrate the benefits of paying yourself first:

Case Study 1: Sarah is a 30-year-old professional who decides to start paying herself first by setting up automatic transfers to a retirement account. Over the next 10 years, she consistently saves 10% of her income and earns an average annual return of 7%. By the time she’s ready to retire at age 65, Sarah has accumulated a substantial nest egg that allows her to live comfortably in retirement.

Case Study 2: John is a 25-year-old recent graduate who is just starting his career. He decides to pay himself first by opening a high-yield savings account and setting up automatic transfers from his checking account. Over the next few years, John saves up enough money for a down payment on a house, allowing him to achieve his goal of homeownership at a young age.


According to a recent survey, only 39% of Americans have enough savings to cover a $1,000 emergency. This highlights the importance of paying yourself first and building a financial safety net for unexpected expenses.

In conclusion, paying yourself first is a powerful financial strategy that can help you achieve your financial goals and secure your future. By prioritizing savings and investments, you can build wealth over time and create a strong financial foundation for yourself and your loved ones.

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