Financial Literacy - How to Prosper
Get rich without marrying a millionaire

3. Tackle debt

Trying to save money while paying down debt is like carrying water in a bucket that has a hole in it. You may end up with some water, but not very much.

Credit card debt is among the most expensive kind to carry from month to month, second to payday loans. To dig yourself out of debt, investigate options for getting your interest rates reduced, whether through negotiation with your current company or with a new card and an inexpensive balance transfer.

Though consumers aren't bombarded by balance transfer offers as often as they once were, they haven't ceased to exist. Do the math to see if paying a 3 percent balance transfer fee -- likely with no cap -- will save you money in the long run.

"Once you get rates negotiated as low as you can, really concentrate your payments on the highest interest debt you have first," says Bombeck. "Pay minimums on everything else and (throw) every last cent at the biggest one or the highest interest rate one first."

4. Save your money

You'll never be rich if you spend all your money. Even if you don't spend more than you make, if you don't save a penny you'll always be treading water.

"If a 20-year-old can just save $20 a week, they'll end up with $1,000 a year from doing that. Invest in a mutual fund. If stocks continue to get what they have made historically, then by the time they hit 60, they're a millionaire," says J. Steve Miller, author of "Enjoy Your Money! How to Make It, Save It, Invest It and Give It."

To have money to save means living beneath your means or increasing your income. You can find innumerable ways to shave a few dollars off of expenses, such as buying generic, going with conventionally grown produce rather than organic or even eating a few vegetarian meals every week to save the extra dollars.

5. Know when to cut your losses

Once savings turn into investments, people become subject to all kinds of irrational investing psychology. One of those is throwing good money after bad.

"Everyone makes bad business decisions, but the wealthier people are able to admit their mistakes much earlier on rather than throwing up Hail Marys on a get-rich-quick scheme," says Mike Gordon, co-founder of the pizzeria Pizza Fusion and SageIvy, a company that helps small businesses find investors.

Outside the realm of investing in the market, it's possible to make mistakes just by following the crowd. For instance, tapping equity from your home became the thing to do during the refinancing boom of a few years ago. It's a mistake that's better recognized sooner than later.

Try to avoid mistakes in the first place by thoroughly investigating any investments, big financial transactions or advisers before jumping in.

Stick to your financial plan and you'll achieve your goals in the long run.

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