Live below your means
I believe this is one of the most important steps to a strong financial foundation and, for me, one of the hardest. If you try to keep up with your rich looking friends and associates, you may end up like most of them: lots of nice stuff, but a low net worth. Every dollar that you save is worth more than an extra dollar earned because the extra dollar earned is taxed.
Start an emergency fund
Job loss, health issues, and expenisve repairs are financial blows that can affect us all. Open a high yeild savings account (Emigrant Direct, ING, etc.) and start saving for the unexpected.
Aviod credit card debt
Credit card debt is the path to financial ruin. Been there, done that. Believe me when I tell you that digging the hole is very, very easy and climbing out is often a long, hard fought battle. The only thing we use credit cards for now are monthly bills because we get cash back from our Citi credit card. Don’t do this if can’t pay off the balance in full each month.
Track spending / create a budget
It’s easy to overspend if you don’t know what you’re spending. Track spending for a few months and use this information to create a budget. The budget will help keep you on track and hopefully help you find areas where you can reduce spending.
Learn all you can about investing
Most financial planners are more interested in their commission, rather than what is in your best interest. If you educate yourself, you can save A LOT of money and probably do just as good a job, if not better.
Invest at least 10% of your gross income
The future is coming whether you want it to our not. The magic of compound interest can make your consistent contributions grow into a large nest egg. Take advantage of tax sheltered retirement account such as a 401(k) and/or Roth IRA. If your employer offers a 401(k) with a company match, take advantage of the free money.