Pay Yourself

“Don’t bother working if you cannot pay 
yourself!” he said to me…


Between 1964 and 67, Max Krause was one of the waiters who trained me. Max was then in his early sixties and had waited on many world leaders in Petersburg, Vienna and Berlin. Max also had been a waiter for the German Rail Road company and he had sailed around the world as a steward on German Cruise Liners.
I liked him and his stories about the world outside my own world. I listened to him with envy for I hadn’t been any place then but to Munich, Berlin and Hamburg. I mentioned to Max that I planned to make lots of money so I could travel the world.

He answered, “To travel the world is easy. To keep money together takes discipline, which you don’t have.”

I didn’t care to be told that I am lacking discipline. I listened to his words but I didn’t really listen. Twenty years later in my mid-thirties when I started to work at the Old House Restaurant in Old Monterey, then a four star restaurant, something changed. I had just gone through seven years of dealing with the wreckage of my past. I was broke, but debt free at last.
All my high hopes, speculations, and my liquid assets had turned into nothing but problems. Starting over I remembered what Max used to say. “Don’t bother working if you cannot afford to pay yourself!” Finally I started a savings account at the local Credit Union with twenty-five dollars. Shift after shift I dropped one-tenth of my nightly tips into the bank’s night-deposit-slot. It wasn’t much money at any given time, but as much as I could afford to save. I left this account alone, and it was purely to save up some money. For check writing and all my other banking needs I used a different bank. After the initial couple of weeks it became a habit and still today I drop a tenth of my money into savings. Naturally I was often, at least once a week, tempted to use part or all of my savings to buy things, I thought I needed. I did not and I am glad I didn’t. Looking back today more than ten years later, the daily ten percent have been growing fast.

It took me twenty years of earning money, and spending it as fast as it came in, until I was ready to try the simple conservative approach which Max had recommended, “Whenever you work put ten percent away into savings.” He also said, “Savings means you save it and you don’t spend it. As your savings grow, the same become a tool and help you to earn more money but only if you never spend it.”
It didn’t make sense back then neither did his, “Helmut you will get up there to my age and one day you will be sixty, seventy years old, if you don’t die before! Put money aside now while you are young, plan for your retirement!”

Naturally I didn’t do such while I was young. Today looking back and knowing how savings can add up I wonder why I didn’t care to listen when I was younger. I thought I was smart, but I wasn’t. To built up savings over time is simple, it takes little a day to add up to a very impressive figure over forty years. Maybe the concept of paying myself for my work did not appeal to me then, for it wasn’t risky? There was no gamble, no big deal involved with saving money and most of all, I guess Max was right, as a young man I was lacking the needed discipline.

by helmut schonwalder