Poll: Half of Americans Don’t Save a Dime of Their First Paycheck

young woman takes a mobile deposit photo of a paycheck

A first paycheck can mean a lot for Americans as a milestone in independence and a jump into the working world. As the first opportunity for financial freedom, how to spend your first paycheck is the next biggest question. With popular celebrities spending their first paycheck on something lavish and financial planners suggesting to set up a proper savings regimen, we set out to see how Americans spent their first paycheck.

To find out Americans’ outlook on their first employment experience, we polled Americans asking them questions about their first paycheck. Surprisingly, most people reported that their first payday is not something they celebrate. Our poll of over 6,000 Americans revealed:

  • Only 25 percent of Americans use a portion of their first paycheck to celebrate their new position.
  • Half of Americans don’t save any amount of their first paycheck, but instead devote it to paying bills and debt.

Nearly half of Americans devote their first paycheck to bills and debt

A first paycheck, be it from your first job in high school or a new career, is traditionally a point of celebration However, to our surprise, Americans today are rather practical when it comes to how they spend their first earned wages.

graph of poll results showing how americans would celebrate their first paycheck

46 percent of Americans responded that they would spend their first paycheck by paying off bills and debt—a rather practical celebration. The second most common answer revealed that 24 percent of Americans would celebrate by purchasing necessities. For the remaining 30 percent of Americans who obtain their first paycheck, over half (18 percent) reported they would celebrate with dinner or drinks.

Women overall are shown to be more financially responsible with their first paycheck than men, with 73 percent responding they would celebrate by paying off bills and debt or buying necessities. Only 66 percent of male participants responded the same way.

The largest difference between men and women was among the Americans who went out to dinner or drinks. 22 percent of men responded that they would celebrate by going out to dinner or drinks whereas only 15 percent of women responded the same.

Since women earn an average of 78 cents for every dollar men earn and are statistically more likely to hold debt, their financial responsibility with their first paycheck is understandable.

50% of Amercians don’t put any percentage of their first paycheck into savings.

A first paycheck is a great opportunity for Americans to set up healthy financial habits. Popular financial advisors suggest that at least 10 percent of your first earned paycheck should be placed into a savings account. To discover if Americans are following the recommended financial advice when it comes to saving, we polled over 2,000 asking how much of their first paycheck they saved.

graph showing how much americans saved from their first paycheck

The majority of Americans contribute between 1 to 20 percent of a first paycheck to savings which accounts for 23 percent of respondents. Contributing over 20 percent of a paycheck can be difficult for most Americans living on their own, but 27 percent of Americans saved a large chunk of their first paycheck anyway.

chart showing the percent of americans who saved money from their first paycheck

America is split with 50 percent of participants contributing zero percent of their paycheck to savings and 50 percent stashing money away. With lower or potentially no bills to pay at a younger age, it seems half of Americans were able to practice the recommended saving habits of a first paycheck.

Our poll revealed that Americans aged 18–24 were the best savers with 61 percent contributing an amount of their first paycheck to savings. This is compared to Americans aged 25 and up whom only 48 percent contributed an amount to savings.

Although with fewer bills to pay it is easier to establish positive saving habits in a safe environment, it is also easier to be unwise with your finances. Despite the excitement and freedom that a first paycheck offers most Americans spend their money wisely. Contributing to a financial future, paying off debt and purchasing necessities are not a fun way to spend one’s first earnings, but it is the first step into adulthood.