04/20/2012 04:11 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Jean Chatzky's Three Favorite "Money Rules"

In response to my last post about Jean Chatzky's delightful new book, Money Rules: The Simple Path to Lifelong Security, many of you wrote to me to share the money rules that had made the biggest difference in your life.

That got me thinking, "What are Jean Chatzky's favorite money rules?" After all, as the financial editor for The Today Showand author of numerous best-selling personal finance books, Jean has had a birds-eye view of our nation's personal finances over the past few decades.

And what a journey it's been. As Professor Joseph Stiglitz noted in a (must-read) article in Vanity Fair, according to research by his Columbia University colleague Bruce Greenwald, in the years leading up to the recession, 80 percent of the American population had been spending around 110 percent of its income. Yikes. That's certainly a recipe for financial angst, and a good reason for us all to celebrate National Financial Literacy Month with a serving of Money Rules.

Lucky for us, Jean was kind enough to share her three favorites. (Although she did note that like a proud parent, it was tough to choose -- and that in addition to the 94 gems that are in the book, there were a good 40 more tips that didn't make the final edit due to space constraints). Here are Jean's top three picks:

Jean Chatzky's Money Rule #11: If you can't see it and you can't touch it, you won't spend it.

Jean says: "The Money Rules all work. I love this one because it works so well -- and because there is a bounty of research on how effective automatic enrollment and auto-escalation in 401(k) plans has proven to be, to back that statement up. The trick is to replicate the 401(k) mechanism in other areas of your life. This is how I funded college for my kids. The money was swiped automatically into a 529 where I couldn't touch it without penalty. I didn't miss it as it moved. But today when I visit my 529s, it always puts a smile on my face."

Jean Chatzky's Money Rule #26: Just because someone will lend it to you, doesn't mean you should borrow it.

Jean says: "This is one of my favorites because I think it's the defining lesson of the last few years. As we move forward and credit loosens up again and those solicitations start to flood our mailboxes, I hope we'll remember it!"

Jean Chatzky's Money Rule #49: Don't budget while you're dieting. Don't diet while you're budgeting.

Jean says: "This one speaks to me because it reminds me that we're all human. We can't, research tells us, do it all at once. We can workon our willpower, work on building good habits that will take us where we want to go. But in the end, we have to remember that we're not going to be perfect. If we fall back, we need to give ourselves a break, take a deep breath, and try once again."

For more Money Rules, be sure to check out Jean's latest book. It's a great way to kick off spring-cleaning your finances.

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