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At the tender age of 11, I made a solemn vow that when I grew up I was going to be rich. My plan was simple: Marry well. 

I bless the day I married my husband, a man who is rich in character and unfailing love. I assumed his money would follow.

money flying around out of thin air

While waiting for wealth to descend upon me, I made the tragic error of spending as though I were already rich. That 12-year descent into the pit of financial despair landed us in so much trouble, it took 13 years to repair.

The experience taught me a very important principle: How much you spend matters much more than how much you earn. It’s the money you don’t spend that gives you the freedom to build wealth and live the life you love.

But let’s get real. If it were that easy, wouldn’t everyone be fabulously wealthy? There has to be more to it, so I asked financial experts for their best tried-and-true rules for building wealth.

No matter where you are in your financial journey, start following this advice right now so you can keep more of what you earn. That’s the way to grow rich.

Rule #1: Live Smarter 

Enough is enough. ”Living below your means is the secret to prosperity,” says Michelle Singletary, nationally syndicated personal finance columnist for The Washington Post. “In this country, we define rich as having a lot of material things. Look at what you have already and say with confidence, ‘I have enough.’ You don’t need to borrow more money to get more stuff, because all that means is you’ll have to work more to pay for it.” 

Stop trading up. Jonathan Pond, in his book, You Can Do It! The Boomer’s Guide to a Great Retirement, he says, “Over 40 years of car ownership, someone who trades in a car every 10 years will have almost $500,000 more in the kitty than someone who trades in their car every three years.” 

Related: Rules for Buying a Car for All Cash

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