What financial advice would you give your younger self?

If you could go back in time and give yourself financial advice, what would it be? We were curious, so we asked U.S. Bank employees to share the advice they’d give their younger selves. 

Tags: Banking basics, Budgeting, Planning, Savings
Published: November 04, 2020

Most people look back and wish they had handled something in their financial past differently, and that includes those of us at U.S. Bank.

So we posed a question to our employees: If you could give your younger self financial advice, what would it be? After looking through the responses, three pieces of advice kept rising to the top: Try to save and budget your finances instead of spending unnecessarily (but still plan for fun!), invest in your 401(k) or other retirement account, and spend within your means. We’ve included some of the top responses1 below.


The advice most U.S. Bankers would give their younger self? Quite a few said they would have saved more and created a budget. Remember, while budgets should include need-to-haves (housing, loan payments, etc.) you can also work fun items like dining out, shopping, entertainment, etc. into your budget. Budgets don’t need to be boring!

Here’s what we had to say: 

“Pure and simple, saving will always keep you moving forward and before making any purchases decide if it is a WANT or a NEED. This has definitely helped my older self-prepare for the future.” Renee M. - Reporting - St. Louis, MO

“Open separate saving accounts; one for short-term/emergency needs, and another for long-term needs (like a home or vehicle down payment). When the time comes and you need that cash, you’ll be happy you saved in the past.” – Jess O. - Marketing - Minneapolis, MN

“Pay yourself weekly, bi-weekly or monthly! I started putting $10.00 in savings each week.” Mary W. - Customer Service - Knoxville, TX

“Budget Rainy day funds, vacation funds, emergency funds, charity funds are all good to set goals for/save for ...think ahead and budget for what you want Invest in retirement early - and leave that investment alone Be wary of credit - just because you CAN doesn't mean you SHOULD  Live below your means, again, just because you CAN doesn't mean you SHOULD.” – Amy J. - Technology Services - Minneapolis, MN

“One thing I'd tell my younger self is, when embarking on very large expenditures (things like college tuition, first apartment rent, trips, etc.), to actually sit down and make a budget. Calculate how long it'll take you to pay off the expense/debt you will accrue and how it would impact other expenses and savings goals, and what even one unexpected expense could do to your monthly or even yearly forecast. I probably would have needed help from a parent or family member to help me put it together, but I think performing such an exercise at key moments in my formative years would have been instructive.” -   Theresa M. - Support Services - Milwaukee, WI 

“Set up a budget that also focuses on paying down debt so that’s not forgotten. And, pay more, or more often, so you’re chipping away at debt faster than just paying the minimum.” – Jon G. - Marketing - San Fransicso, CA

Invest in your 401(k)

Many U.S. Bankers said they should have paid closer attention to their retirement savings, and the details of their employer programs.

Here’s what we had to say:

“Don't underestimate the power of compound interest! Put money in that 401(k) and leave it there.  Write a budget every paycheck and be a good steward of what you're given. Also, don't sell that truck you had in 2006.” - Caleb S. - Branch Manager - St. Clair, MO

“If you can, max out your 401(k) contributions. Also look into an IRA as another long-term saving option and see if you can contribute there as well.” – Jon G. - Marketing - San Fransicso, CA  

“My biggest advice would have been DON'T WAIT and find someone to answer all my questions about 401(k)! I waited several years after starting a job to setup and fully contribute to my 401(k) and I wish I would have done it right away. Hard to explain to my 16-year-old self that sacrificing the limited income I had at the time would pay off in 30, 40, 50 years!” – Gina R. - Wealth Management - Milwaukee, WI

“Start saving for retirement as early as possible. Be willing to sacrifice on discretionary spending now so that your financial future is secure. If your employer offers a retirement plan, take advantage of it, especially matching. Whether or not your employer offers a retirement plan, do your own saving in the form of an IRA. Especially if you're self-employed!” – Robert L. - Business Technology - St. Paul, MN

“Put $25 a month in an IRA or some retirement product.” – Anne F. - Risk Management - South Dakota

“If you change jobs, remember your 401(k) with your previous employer and transfer it over so it stays with you. Don’t lose sight of all your hard-earned savings.” – Jayn F. - Human Resources - Minneapolis, MN

Only spend what you have

It’s not always possible to spend within your means. Emergencies come up, life happens! But when possible, our advice to our younger selves is simple – spend within your means and be mindful of your dollars.

Here’s what we had to say:

“Understand the difference between wants and needs. Satisfy your needs, drop a bit in savings, and limit your splurging. When you work hard, it's important to feel rewarded for your efforts to keep yourself pushing for more, but you must keep a balance. Overspending in my 20's meant focusing on paying off debts in my 30's. So, give yourself an allowance for fun money, save for big purchases, and keep that savings separate from your rainy-day fund and your retirement fund. 

Which leads to the other bit - credit cards are not free money! Don't see a want and whip out the credit card. Use them wisely to build your credit (example: only use it for filling up your gas tank and pay it off before the billing cycle closes each month) but temper yourself. Keeping up with the Jones' isn't worth the debt.” – Rachel H. - Payment Services - Knoxville, TN

“When using your credit card, make sure to pay off whatever you put on within the billing cycle so you don’t end up paying more due to interest. That’s something I learned the hard way, now I keep an eye on those spends I make with my credit cards a little closer.” – John O. - Retail Payments - Horsham, PA


“I wish I knew more about store credit cards. They’re offered everywhere and seem to be a great deal and savings when purchasing items. Now, if I open a card, I make sure to pay it off right away, so my interest doesn’t rack up.” – Angela S. - Business Banking - Cincinnati, OH


“Don’t buy things to keep up with your friends and what they have. Instead, take time to think your purchases over don’t impulse buy!” – Sarah M. - Application Development - Earth City, MO


“Buy fewer things and live more simply. A closet full of cheap cute clothing adds up and becomes wasteful..” – Jess O. - Marketing - Minneapolis, MN

It’s never too late to start practicing mindful spending. Learn more about how you can start paying close attention to your dollars.  


1The information provided here is not investment, tax or financial advice. You should consult with a licensed professional for advice concerning your specific situation.