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The most significant financial lesson I have ever learned came from the book, “The Richest Man in Babylon.”

This book is a fictional account of a man who became very wealthy in ancient Babylon.

The wealthy man’s childhood friends approach him to inquire how he became so wealthy while they still struggled. He decided to teach his friends several principles he had learned about wealth.

The first principle has to do with savings.

The wealthy man explains that his life changed when he decided that a portion of all he earned was his to keep. He taught them that if they were to save a part of their earnings, they must first set it aside.

His friends confusedly ask, “But isn’t all of what you earn yours to keep?”

He then explains that most of what we earn we pay to other people who provide services and that some of those purchases occur irresponsibly. The first step is to pay yourself first.

Treat your savings as your most harsh creditor. Many people would never dare miss a mortgage payment or a utility bill, but seem to not have enough to save.

Too often we tell ourselves that we will save at the end of the month. This line of thinking might be the most destructive financial habit known to man.

Very few people have money left at the end of the month. Most people see money in the bank account and spend it merely because it is there. Spending money is fun.

Tom and I have worked with hundreds of people who arrived at retirement with enough money to successfully meet their goals.

The main commonality among these retirees is that their savings was automated. Some had money withdrawn from a paycheck, others had their bank automatically transfer money to a retirement account.

Automation is the key. If you try to save manually, you will likely convince yourself there is a good reason why you can’t save at that moment.

The reason may even be a good one, but you probably arrived at that that predicament because you made other less important purchases during the month.

If you save first, you likely won’t be in this situation.

Once that money is out of your checking account, you will be surprised how the rest of your purchases will fit inside the budget.

Several years ago, I stopped getting paid twice a month and began getting paid once per quarter.

I was a pretty good saver, but this was a new test. The first quarter I failed. I wasn’t used to the new system. I still get paid quarterly; but now, the day my deposit hits the account my savings is transferred out.

I highly encourage you to read “The Richest Man in Babylon.” There are timeless principles in that book that will help you on your financial journey.

Tom and John Mills are registered investment advisers and certified financial planners. Reach them at 254-0155, Securities offered through LPL Financial, Member FINRA/SIPC. Investment advice offered through Strategic Wealth Advisors Group (SWAG), a registered investment adviser.