Financial advice may come from well-meaning friends, boastful social media, anxious parents, or wise co-workers. Sensible advice stays with us and lends insights that add value to your financial well-being in the long run. In celebration of Financial Literacy Month in April, hear from people in various stages of life, from high school to semiretired, who share the best financial advice they’ve ever been given.

Kane Borja, 18, high school senior

Kane Borja’s Saipan-based grandmother offered just one word of financial advice to her grandson but repeated it often: Save, save, save. Borja is applying that advice as he works up to 20 hours per week at a local bubble-tea shop. He’s saving for his first car, likely a dependable used vehicle to travel from point A to point B. Borja is also planning to save and work his way through higher education without relying on loans — he hopes to go to a trade school and become an electrician.

When he does spend, he focuses on the necessities, affordable shoes or a notebook for class, without borrowing money. “I buy something outright if I need to, and if I don’t have money, I wait or reconsider.”

A high school financial literacy class also helped Borja understand how to ace an interview and how interest works. Borja learned why he needs to save not just for milestones and goals like a car or college, but also for an emergency fund. In fact, a recent Bankrate survey found that about four in 10 Americans don’t have enough savings to cover an unplanned expense of $1,000. “I didn’t know anything I know now and wasn’t financially responsible until I took that class,” he says, which means Borja appreciates his grandma’s advice all the more.

Isha Patel, 26, registered nurse, and Vishal Patel, 28, software engineer

Several years ago, Vishal Patel was thinking about buying his first home with his new wife, Isha, when a friend gave them advice: Think of a house as a place to live, not just as an investment. They didn’t listen at first. They’d been saving and scrimping for years and craved their piece of the real estate pie.

“There’s an allure to owning a home, and we rushed into it,” Isha Patel says. “The house was really small for our future needs.” After further consideration, the couple realized they wanted a home with plenty of room for children and for their parents to move in as they aged.

As a result, they rented out their first house, gathered funds with Isha’s parents and bought a second home in Sammamish, Washington at the age of 26. It’s a rambling five-bedroom abode, with space for Isha’s parents and Vishal’s parents in several years.

“Ensure your values and actions align before buying a home, and plan ahead,” Vishal says. “There’s no need to rush into it. We learned that a home isn’t just about an investment, but more of an emotional attachment that you have to want to live in.”

Becky Buford, 61, small business owner

When Becky Buford was getting her first boutique off the ground 26 years ago, a fellow entrepreneur and mentor gave her great financial advice: Surround yourself with a team you trust. So, Buford gathered her dream team: a great accountant and bookkeeper, a good landlord, encouraging fellow small business owners and a wise lawyer.

She consulted her team on when to pay off a loan, how to find great rates and lower fees, and how to avoid fraud. “Little things have a huge financial impact,” Buford says, “Every piece is part of the larger successful-business puzzle.” A supportive financial institution helps too, one that will grow with your business. It seems the advice she gathered worked. Buford started small but now turns to international designers and manufacturers she trusts to fill her two Seattle-based boutiques, Les Amis and Essenza. Loyal customers visit to explore Buford’s curated jewelry, perfume, clothing, gifts and candles worldwide, ranging from Japanese poplin to French fragrance.

In turn, she has supported and mentored four employees who’ve also started their own businesses. “A lot of business owners get competitive, but you can work together,” she says. “There’s room for everyone. Go with your vision.”

Kerry Thompson, 61, semiretired certified public accountant

When Kerry Thompson’s former business partner suggested maximizing their firm’s 401(k) for future retirement, Thompson couldn’t help but see the wisdom and agree, particularly when remembering his father’s story. Despite earning solid wages through the 1960s and 1970s, shortly after retirement his father realized he hadn’t saved enough money for the long haul. He passed away early, but the long-term lesson gnawed at Thompson.


Thanks to his former partner’s advice, Thompson devoted around 25% of his gross income to his 401(k) account, investing in low-cost funds with good earnings histories going back to at least the 1987 Black Monday event. “I switched funds very rarely and had a hands-off policy once the funds were chosen,” he says.

His remaining income went to bills, home upgrades and experiences, such as travel. Thompson saved on everything else, paying cash for used cars and rarely shopping for new clothes.

At age 58, Seattle-based Thompson and his wife received good news from his portfolio adviser — they had more than enough money to retire. “I felt happier and much less anxious about finances,” Thompson says. “It was as if a worrisome burden had been lifted.” Today, he advises his stepdaughter to save more than the employer match, as much as possible to ease into retirement faster and stress-free.

Stacey Black, 50, BECU lead financial educator

A co-worker’s computer screensaver caught then-23-year-old Stacey Black’s eye. “I will be a millionaire within 10 years,” the screensaver said. At the time, Black was facing serious debt, with multiple department-store credit cards at their maximum limit. Becoming a millionaire seemed out of reach, but she knew she needed to start somewhere.

The money-smart co-worker advised Black on budgeting and saving, and critically, the importance of keeping credit card balances below 30% and making on-time payments. According to the NFCC’s Annual Financial Literacy Survey, roughly 62% of U.S. adults have carried debt in the last 12 months and more than one in four (27%) admit they do not pay all of their bills on time. “I was constantly late and didn’t realize how important on-time payments were,” Black says. “I learned the negative impact the hard way.” By focusing on paying down debt, Black came out of the experience with newfound knowledge, and a great credit score.

As a result of her experiences and her co-worker’s advice, Black became increasingly intrigued by financial education and now shares professional advice on interest, credit cards and other money matters as BECU’s Lead Financial Educator. One tip from Black: Parents who lend their children money can use it as a teaching moment, with a simple contract for repayment with interest. “Teach them how lending works in the real world, but in a safe environment,” she says.

As a member-owned credit union, BECU is focused on helping increase the financial well-being of its over 1.28 million members and their communities. BECU is federally insured by NCUA and is an Equal Housing Opportunity Lender.