Pay Yourself First: A Simple Guide to Building Financial Security

Picture of David Fei, CFP®, ChFEBC℠, AIF®

David Fei, CFP®, ChFEBC℠, AIF®


Paying yourself first is a fundamental financial habit that can have a significant impact on your long-term financial security. Essentially, it means setting aside a portion of your income for savings or investments before you pay your bills or cover your expenses. By making yourself a priority in this way, you establish a solid foundation for financial stability and future growth.


Here are some key points to understand and implement the “pay yourself first” principle:

  1. Establish a Budget:
    • Start by creating a budget to track your income and expenses.
    • Identify areas where you can cut back on unnecessary spending.
    • Allocate a specific amount to be paid to yourself each month.
  2. Determine Your Savings Goal:
    • Set clear financial goals, such as saving for emergencies, retirement, or a major purchase.
    • Calculate the amount you need to save each month to reach your goals within your desired timeframe.
    • Break down your goals into manageable milestones to stay motivated.
  3. Automate Savings:
    • Take advantage of automation tools provided by your bank or financial institution.
    • Set up automatic transfers that move money from your checking account to your savings or investment accounts.
    • By automating your savings, you remove the temptation to spend the money before saving it.
  4. Prioritize Debt Repayment:
    • While saving is important, it’s also crucial to address any outstanding debts.
    • Prioritize high-interest debts and create a plan to pay them off systematically.
    • Allocate a portion of your monthly budget to debt repayment while ensuring you pay yourself first.
  5. Start Small, Increase Over Time:
    • If you’re new to saving, begin with a manageable amount that won’t strain your budget.
    • As your income grows or your expenses decrease, gradually increase the amount you pay yourself.
    • The key is consistency and making incremental progress towards your savings goals.
  6. Protect Your Savings:
    • Safeguard your savings by establishing an emergency fund for unexpected expenses.
    • Consider insurance policies to protect against unforeseen events like medical emergencies, accidents, or property damage.
    • Insulating your savings from unexpected setbacks helps you maintain financial stability.
  7. Review and Adjust Regularly:
    • Regularly review your budget and savings plan to ensure they align with your current financial situation.
    • Adjust your savings goals if necessary due to changes in income, expenses, or financial priorities.
    • Seek professional financial advice to optimize your strategy and make informed decisions.

By implementing the “pay yourself first” principle, you take control of your financial future. Prioritizing savings allows you to build a safety net, achieve your goals, and enjoy greater peace of mind. Remember, every small step you take today brings you closer to a more secure and prosperous future.

Reach Out to Us!

If you have additional federal benefit questions, contact our team of CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ (CFP®) and Chartered Federal Employee Benefits Consultants (ChFEBC℠). At PlanWell, we focus on retirement planning for federal employees. Learn more about our process designed for the career federal employee.

Preparing for federal retirement? Check out our scheduled federal retirement workshops. Sign up for our no-cost federal retirement webinars here! Make sure to plan ahead and reserve your seat for our FERS webinar, held every three weeks. Want to have PlanWell host a federal retirement seminar for your agency? Reach out, and we’ll collaborate with HR to arrange an on-site FERS seminar.

Want to fast-track your federal retirement plan? Skip the FERS webinar and start a one-on-one conversation with a ChFEBC today. You can schedule a one-on-one meeting here.