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Most people dream of being rich. Some people make a token effort, perhaps buying the occasional lottery ticket and imagining spending the winnings. But others study what works and put it into practice. This is the best path to a secure and comfortable financial future.

1. Set Goals

Studies show that those who set financial goals dramatically outperform those who do not. Setting a goal makes it more than wishful thinking. It involves doing the research, making a commitment, and following through.

Although you may be tempted to pay off all debt before you begin investing, this is not the best approach. If you are like most Americans, yes, you need to get your debts paid down. But, you should also be working on creating financial stability, such as establishing an emergency fund so that putting it on the credit card is not the only solution you have for an emergency.

Paying down debt is a good goal to have, but stronger goals revolve around the creation of specific assets, such as owning a home and having a fully-funded retirement account. Try to work on both paying down debt and beginning to invest today.

2. Get Financially Literate

You can expect reading up on financial information and financial news to be your new hobby, in essence. The exact form this will take can vary from one person to the next. Whether you are checking out the Wall Street Journal or forex news, your new avocation will be understanding money well enough to be able to someday comfortably walk away from your current vocation.

3. Stay the Course

You need to become financially literate enough to have a solid investment plan. Then you need to stay the course.

Investing is like walking up a mountain with a yo-yo. The day-to-day market fluctuations can be crazy-making, but timing the market never works. Instead, you need a solid plan to keep putting money into the market through both the highs and lows.

Savvy investors know that when the market is dropping, their regular monthly investment is buying more shares. This is not the time to pull all your money out to calm your nerves. That’s a guaranteed way to hurt your bottom line.

4. Live Well Below Your Means

Earning compound interest is great. So is investing in growth vehicles, such as stocks and real estate. But, a much more important factor is simply setting aside enough money regularly to save and invest.

The key to growing a large net worth is living well below your means. No matter how high your income, it’s possible to spend it all and then some. Plenty of people rocket to fame and fortune only to wind up bankrupt in short order. A large income is not enough. It is much more important to have the self-discipline to say “no” to some of the extras and value security over bling.

5. Don’t Put All Your Eggs in One Basket

The fancy word for this is diversification. In a nutshell, some things will go up when other things are going down. So the right mix of investments will be less volatile.

This can be important for making sure you have access to assets at any given time. But for many people, the primary value is that it helps them sleep at night.

Most people don’t have nerves of steel. If a portfolio is not diversified and the market begins to go south, it gets really nerve-wracking and becomes hard to stay the course. It is much easier to stick it out if some things are going up while others are going down and this is the routine norm.

6. Focus on Net Gains, Not Gross

You know the saying: It’s not how much you make; it’s how much you keep.

There are lots of variables involved here. Some include reading the fine print to find hidden fees, shopping for services with reasonable rates, and making sure you are focused on after-tax gains.

Once you get in the groove, it becomes a bit of a game, but finding your groove will take time.Opinions expressed here are the opinions of the author. Influencive does not endrose or review brands mentioned.