How young grads can get a leg up on savings

It’s that time of year when everyone is giving recent graduates advice on how to launch their futures. So it’s as good a time as any for me to throw in my two cents. OK, make that two $5’s.

Recent graduates (high school and college), listen up: Save Your Five Dollar Bills. That’s right. Save your five dollar bills. Promise yourself today that you will never again spend a five dollar bill, that you will save every five dollar bill ever returned to you as change in a cash transaction, that you will start saving for your futures right now by doing this one simple thing, save your five dollar bills.

It will be the easiest thing you’ve done since flipping the tassel on your graduation cap from one side to the other. Take every five dollar bill that passes through your hands and put them away somewhere and don’t spend them. It’s the best and easiest advice I can give you for how to start your financial future now.

And oh, yes, use cash more often, for everyday purchases, like lunches and coffees, and small items bought on the run. You won’t get a five back if you pay with plastic, but use a $10 or a $20 to pay for a small purchase and the chances of getting a $5 back go up quite a bit!

I started saving my fives when my two daughters were in college some 14 years ago and simply by saving my fives since then, I’ve accumulated around $43,000, all in $5 dollar bills. Imagine if I’d started that practice when I was in college, not when my kids were?

I once calculated that if a person saved one five dollar bill a day from the time they were 25 years old until they reached 75, so 50 years of saving their five dollar bills, they would have saved $91,250, just in $5s.

Calling all recent graduates. Congratulations. You’ve worked hard to get to this day when you receive your diploma. Good luck as you face the challenges of your future, whether that be finding a good job, paying off school loans or working to pay tuition while you’re going to school. And if you want to get a leg up on your financial future while you’re getting started, add one simple habit to your list of must dos and start saving your $5s. You’ll be surprised how fast they will add up.

Yours in Fives,




Do you want the good or bad news first?

Let’s start with the good. The unemployment rate is at an all time low. Fewer people are looking for jobs than at any time in history. The stock market has been rising and people’s retirement plans have been climbing.

But with all the good economic news, there’s one piece of information that rattles me and frankly that I can’t understand. 23 percent of working Americans save nothing from their monthly income for their future retirement, according to the First National Bank of Omaha. Nothing. Nada. Zero.

It’s time for me to admit that I don’t post on my blog often enough, especially during the school year when the college where I teach is in session. But post or not, I continue to save, my $5s, in my 401K Plan, and whatever else I can at the end of a month. It’s not that I’m obsessed. It’s just part of who I am, a saver. And when it comes to saving my $5s, I just do it—that is, save every five dollar bill that comes back to me as change.

One reason it’s such a successful savings habit for me is that there is no exception to the rule. If I get a $5 back, I tuck it away. The pile of tucked away $5s reaches a bulky amount, and I deposit them in the bank. They add up, year after year, to now, when after around 14 years of saving $5s, I’ve accumulated more than $43,000, just in $5s.

The summer is always a good time for me to save more money because between May and August, I have more free time and am out and about spending more money than during the academic year. Family gatherings are more frequent. My grandson visits at the beach house more often. I throw more dinner parties, buy more home furnishings and clothes. My days are more carefree, all adding up to more time to be in and out of stores stocking up on food, supplies, books to read, and saving my $5s.

In Boston, where I live, it’s been a long winter and a wet and rainy spring. But the sun is out today, and I’m hopeful it will shine again tomorrow. With this optimism, my joy returns and the playfulness and carefree lifestyle of a child on summer vacation. Just like the child who opened up a savings account the summer I turned seven years old, I will return to the abundance of an earlier time in my life, when having just one $5 dollar bill make me feel prosperous.

Ice cream, anyone? One scoop or two?


Yours in Fives,