Financial Columnist Michelle Singletary Shares the Money-Saving Advice That Changed Her Life

©Michelle Singletary

Michelle Singletary writes “The Color of Money,” a finance column for The Washington Post that also appears in many other papers. Singletary is a contributor to NPR and can be seen on CNN. She has authored four books, including “What To Do With Your Money When Crisis Hits.”

Recognized by GOBankingRates as one of Money’s Most Influential, here she shares the importance of paying yourself first and why everyone should learn to hate debt.

What’s the one piece of money advice you wish everyone would follow and why?

The one piece of advice that has shaped my financial life came from my grandmother Big Mama. During my first week as a reporter for the Baltimore Evening Sun, I covered a major fire and ended up with a front-page byline. I called Big Mama to tell her about making the front page. The first thing she asked was, “Did you make sure that you have money from your paycheck set aside every time you get paid?”

“No,” I said.

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She hung up on me. I called back and before I could tell her about my day, she asked me again about making sure I saved a certain percentage of my pay. Finally, before calling Big Mama back for the third time, I went up to HR and made sure I did just what she said.

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That advice from my grandmother — to save something every time you get a paycheck — helped me become a great saver. I wish everyone understood the power of paying yourself first, then living on what’s left.

What’s the most important thing to do to build wealth?

The most important thing you can do to build wealth is to develop a healthy and life-long hatred of debt. If debt were a person, I’d slap it. Many people are living the “American dream” but on borrowed money. So when hard times come around, such as rising inflation, they are so burdened with debt that they can’t weather the financial storm.

Yes, for many things you have to borrow — to buy a home, for example. But if you hate debt, you might borrow less and that will help you build wealth because you can devote more of your earnings to saving for retirement.

Jaime Catmull contributed to the reporting for this article.

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About the Author

Gabrielle joined GOBankingRates in 2017 and brings with her a decade of experience in the journalism industry. Before joining the team, she was a staff writer-reporter for People Magazine and People.com. Her work has also appeared on E! Online, Us Weekly, Patch, Sweety High and Discover Los Angeles, and she has been featured on “Good Morning America” as a celebrity news expert. 

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