If you could turn back time, what would you do with your first paycheck?

Hello and happy Friday! This week, I’d love to get everyone’s thoughts for a letter I’m trying to answer.

A high school student who just got a job is wondering how she should use her paycheck. She has lots of goals: saving for college, buying a car, investing, moving out, etc. I love that she has so many goals! (Also, I wish I’d been this responsible when I got my first job as a teenager.) But it can also get a bit overwhelming when you’re trying to accomplish so much on what’s probably a pretty small paycheck.

If you could travel back in time, how would you use your paycheck from your first job? What would be your No. 1 priority?

Given how high car prices are right now, I think holding off on buying one makes sense unless it’s an absolute necessity. The idea of investing a bit of each paycheck into a low-cost index fund seems like a great idea since that money could have 50+ years to compound. But I’m inclined to tell her to put the money into savings so she can take on as little debt as possible to go to college.

What advice would you give to your teenage self here? Or if you’re a parent, how would you suggest your child use their first paycheck to build a better future for themselves?


Tough question! Honestly, I probably spent it on clothes or fun, and I don’t regret that for a second. However, going forward, I would advise her to save at least 1/2 for something needed in the future- a vehicle, insurance, towards college. That’s what I have my son do- 1/2 to his checking account and 1/2 to savings.


I’d advise opening checking and savings accounts and putting at least a $100 into each. Then, if there’s any money from that first paycheck left, buy a video game or something, lol. But I think just having those accounts set up and have the routine experience of depositing a paycheck and swapping money between accounts would help a teenager starting thinking about building wealth, even if it takes a few years to really stick.


i would say spend half and put the other half in a savings


I’d open an IRA for my teenage self!


Those sound like good goals to have. As long as she can budget for it, I’d say to set aside a little bit each paycheck for those goals. I came to that approach later in life and it’s something I would like to have kept in mind with my early paychecks. It wasn’t really an option unfortunately, but things have worked out well when I’ve been able to do it since. At one point, I even set up separate (free) bank accounts for different savings goals and and them debited from my account each month.


She should first learn to budget every expense, bills, car payment, rent, electric bills, cell bills, cable bills, gas for the car she wants. repairs to the said car, car insurance, college tuition, food, health insurance, etc.

Open a savings/checking account(s). Open a regular stock brokerage account, followed by a ROTH I.R.A. account, and use the D.R.I.P., $25.00 into each account weekly is not hard to do if one wishes to accomplish their goals. Buy dividend-paying stocks. Make sure she understands the rules of brokerage firms, ROTH I.R.A.s, etc.

About the small pay you mentioned, here in Texas starting pay at the grocery store chain HEB, starts off at $15 an hour, (according to the Banner out front) kids work only 4 hours a day, Monday through Thursday, eight hours a day Friday through Sunday, as long as it’s during the hours of 6 am to 9 pm.

As for myself, everything I mentioned for the teenager above, minus the cell phones, internet as they did not exist when I was growing up and working nor ROTH I.R.A.s. Hmmm, extra money !!! I won’t mention fashion here. lol.

I hope this helps.

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Just as the others said - save half and invest! I like the idea of $100 in savings/sinking funds/emergency every month. I would invest in stocks and Roth IRA back then. If I knew then what I know now!


Good budgeting or spending plan. Always save something, no matter how small. Don’t try to keep up with your friends. Think for yourself.

As far as turning back time, I wouldn’t even turn back time to yesterday?.


If I could give my younger self advice on how to manage money, I would definitely echo what everyone here has already said: save some & budget the rest! I remember the first chunk of money I got from a ‘job’ was like $50 & I absolutely spent it on video games & candy. My first real job I was a little better with saving-- until winter ended & all my friends wanted to hang out. Once I had a dream that I got to talk to my high school self & the first thing I did was make myself open a high interest savings account, lol!

Save the money. I used to be so good about saving money. Now I am playing catch up and wish that I had saved money I had gotten over the past few years. My best advice to new workers is to save your money. Things come and go.