Exclusive Q&A With Michelle Singletary:
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.
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.
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.
Singletary won the Gerald Loeb award for commentary in 2021.
Where She Got Her Master’s Degree:
Johns Hopkins University