Is it Selfish to Pay Yourself First?

Pay Yourself First Heading


When you hear “Pay Yourself First” what do you think of? It sounds like something a rich and greedy person would say…

Let’s break it down:


Pay = something money related.

Yourself First = something selfish. The complete opposite of what our parents taught us.


OK now let’s see what happens if we include the words in a full sentence:

  • Pay yourself first… so you can help more people later.
  • Pay yourself first… (a little bit) and then pay others (a lot).
  • Your family will never starve if you… pay yourself first.
  • Giving becomes easier when you… pay yourself first.

Hmm… Doesn’t sound so selfish anymore. Maybe the people preaching this are onto something?



You may be familiar with the Pay Yourself First rule for saving money and growing wealth. I first read it in the old book The Richest Man in Babylon. The book tells a story that makes you rethink your priorities when distributing your hard earned money.

Most people out there are living on a tight budget. They have their income, minus all their expenses, then afterwards they want to save every cent possible with what’s left over.


The problem is, “what’s left over”.


“What’s left over” might be a decent amount, it might be a little amount… But most of the time it’s not very much or nothing at all. Saving might be a priority for people, but for some reason it’s usually the very last category to get paid.

If saving money is a true priority, you need to treat it as such! I drew a quick illustration below showing the difference.


Pay Yourself First Money Whiteboard

*You may have noticed the Pay Yourself First method involves both pre-tax and post-tax savings. We can chat another time about avoiding Uncle Sam.


Paying yourself first ensures you never skip out on your savings. No matter your income, no matter your age, no matter your debts/loans in life.

Paying yourself first out of every paycheck means you are consistently growing wealth.



Pay Yourself First is not always a money related saying. Isn’t TIME supposed to be our most precious asset?

Just like money, most people have good intentions of saving their time. We constantly learn to be more efficient and create shortcuts wherever possible to gain more free time.

But again, most people have the “what’s leftover” mentality with their time. Although personal time might sit at Priority #1 in their brain, it’s the lowest paid category each day.


Pay Yourself First in TIME


Just by shifting the clock and moving priorities around, the person who follows Pay Yourself First method is never missing out on personal time. They ALWAYS have spare time.

Do you know anyone like this? I know, you’re probably sick of hearing my 5am stories. You might even argue that your most productive hours are between 9-11pm each night. (If that’s honestly true for you, I’m jealous of your gift.)



So far we’ve covered making sure that you’re always paying enough time and money to yourself. And it may still sound a bit too selfish. What about giving to others?

It’s a common belief that rich people are greedy. And that people with too much time are lazy.

But life has taught me the opposite. And so I’ve developed a theory…


When you’re in abundance, you usually share more.


When my wife and I first moved to Los Angeles, we lived on the outskirts of a very fancy suburb. Multi-million dollar houses, expensive cars, immaculate lawns and gardens, etc.. It was very intimidating being surrounded by such wealth and riches.

Who were these people? How did they get so much money? Is this true wealth, or is most of it fake like I read about in The Millionaire Next Door?

I remember being very guarded and reserved when meeting new people in the neighborhood. Up until that point in my life I didn’t know too many ultra rich people. And so I expected most of them to be greedy, power-hungry, and didn’t think they would warm to me.

As it turned out, truly wealthy people are the nicest people in the world. They are kind, giving, and very generous with their time and their money. They have no reason not to be. Think about it… If you had more time and money than most people in life, wouldn’t you want to share it also? You’d probably want to volunteer, give, donate, and help as many others as possible.

Time-rich and money-rich people understand and live the Pay Yourself First mentality. It provides them a foundation so they are in a better position to help more people in life.

So today, when I hear someone preaching Pay Yourself First, it makes me think of building a platform to help others. I don’t believe it’s a selfish saying at all.  What about you?



9 thoughts on “Is it Selfish to Pay Yourself First?

  • I don’t think it’s selfish, I think it’s healthy. It’s like an oxygen mask- you have to put yours on before helping others 🙂 But the phrase is built for bad PR, it sounds selfish. “Put money aside for savings first” is not a great catch phrase… but also sounds completely neutral.

    • Exactly! (I tried to write this entire post without using the oxygen mask reference :)) But it’s true. You can’t help others much if you’re dead, have no money, no time, or no skills.

  • I think it’s selfish not to pay yourself first. People that blow all of their money instead of prioritizing savings are the ones that have to go asking their family for loans and financial support when they have an emergency or reach a point in their lives when they can’t work.

    It’s responsible to pay yourself first.

    The idea that taking care of oneself is selfish is insidious, but it’s total junk. When we really examine it though, it’s a silly idea. Who else is supposed to be taking care of you after all? Your mom? Yep, taking care of yourself financially and otherwise is a good idea.

    • Thank you! Time is more important than money to some.

      Also, I truly have noticed that after my morning time, I’m more willing to giving the rest of the day to others. Sharing my time was hard before getting up early. Now it’s easier because I’ve already gotten my personal stuff in.

  • I’ve always paid myself first with time and money, but I’ve never actually thought about it as selfless. It’s so true, though. It’s securing your own oxygen mask first so you can freely help others later. Thanks for sharing!

  • I also agree that it’s selfish to NOT pay yourself first, securing my family’s future is the least selfish thing I can do.

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