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If you always live below your means, you will always have extra money to save and invest. Over the years, your money will grow and you will find yourself with significant financial security. Keep in mind that living below your means doesn’t mean living badly. It means you prioritize your spending and focus on what is most important to you. It means “living smartly.”

• Develop a written budget and evaluate it every single month. People think this is painful but it’s actually quite simple. And it must be done. You can’t manage something you’re not tracking. And the concept is clear – more money must come in every month than goes out! I have a simple budgeting process that takes a half-hour every month and allows for the three most important parts to be completed: developing, tracking and analyzing. The analysis part is so important. Where did you spend too much? Where didn’t you spend as much? What else do you need to include next month? What is in your emergency fund? What are your financial goals for the next 12 months? And remember, you will always have tradeoffs!

• Save and invest 50 percent of every salary increase. This is an easy principle that requires a little discipline. Think about it; you were living on your old salary before you got a raise. You can have the best of both worlds. You’re still going to live better, but why not invest some for your future? Most people don’t do this because they get behind in the first place. They start by spending more money than they make in the first place. You just can’t do that. If you employ this principle, you will be shocked at how well you do financially over time.

Ninety-five percent of adults don’t follow these principles because they’ve been told that debt is OK and they’re trying to keep up with the Joneses (who, by the way, are bankrupt)! I’ve told my teenagers (and my nephews who are in their 20s), if they always follow these three basic principles, they will become extremely adept at personal money management.

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