Put yourself first.
This isn't selfish; it's essential. The best gift you can give your loved ones is to make sure that you're financially secure -- today, tomorrow, 20 years from now. If you are, they won't have to worry about you or take you on as a financial burden. You'll gain the freedom to help others, too.
Know where you stand.
Assess your current situation. Be brutally honest with yourself. Ignorance is not bliss! You can't hit your financial target if you don't know where you are today. This may be difficult, but you can deal with whatever issues your assessment reveals.
Start saving now.
If you don't have any savings, begin by paying yourself first. For every dollar that you earn, save a dime. Your goal is to have enough savings to survive six months without income. If that amount seems too daunting, attack it in one-month increments. In the current economic climate, this is a safety net we all need.
Keep your hands on the wheel! You need to pay attention to your finances. Consult the many books and software programs available to help you out if you're scared of numbers or just bad at math. Death or divorce are traumatic enough without the added burden of unfamiliar financial responsibility. Learning these lessons now is far better than when you're in the midst of an emotional crisis.
Nuture your finances as you do your family and friends. You always find time for them; do the same for your finances. Ask questions. Keep asking until you get the answers you need to make intelligent, informed decisions.
Money is an emotionally charged topic for many people. Education, planning and active participation in your daily finances will help you stay in control. Can you really afford that new car or the Manolo Blahniks you covet? Your job is to think -- not rationalize an expenditure you know isn't a good idea.
Learn from your money mistakes. We all make them, but we don't have to let them dictate the future.