Wealth building is a two part process: 1) Making money, and 2) Keeping money.

The desire to make more money is universal, regardless of how much one already makes. More of humanity’s collective time has been spent pursuing this intoxicating craving than any other pursuit, with the possible exception of one, and I’m confident you can figure that one out on your own!

But how much energy is spent on keeping money?

Money “keeping” strategies are bread and butter.

There are countless money-making strategies, but money-keeping strategies are often seen as an afterthought, something that just takes care of itself. The truth is, the job is only half done unless there is a vigorous “keeping strategy” in place. Not having a robust strategy to keep more of your money is the most dangerous of disaster recipes.

Once you make it, money has a very nasty habit of evaporating right before your eyes, due to the destructive forces that desperately try to steal it from you, even before it gets into your hands. Your money has enemies, and you need to know them intimately if you are to defeat them and keep more of what you make.

Bad money habits are generally the reason that most people will have trouble building wealth, and not having a budget is bad habit numero uno. Not having a budget is the root cause to almost every other money mistake you will make, such as unchecked spending, credit card abuse, failing to lower the taxes you pay, spiraling debt, not participating in the company 401(k), not knowing how to set up the most effective types of retirement and brokerage accounts, spending too much for insurance…the money enemy list is long, but you have to defeat every one of them, and it all starts with the budget habit.

Wealth building is a two part process

As you carefully invest your time to learn the many ways to make more money–nine-to-fiving it, side hustling it, flipping it or investing it–you will do well to spend your time just as judiciously to craft your own keeping strategy, by first identifying and understanding what the predicate categories are. That is, the strategic categories under which you will craft your own tactical plan. 

To help you get started, here are the “four Fs,” that form your Money Keeping Strategies and Tactics Template:

  1. First Expenses
  2. Forced Expenses
  3. Fixed Expenses
  4. Floating Expenses

Under each of the four strategic categories, there are further suggested sub-categories where you can be tactical in fine tuning your plan. We can categorize them as necessary and unnecessary items, but we’re not the judge and jury here. It’s up to you to decide which is which, and to choose wisely.

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Money Keeping Strategies and Tactics Template

First expenses

As in “Pay Yourself First.” This must be job number one on everybody’s list.

While technically a savings or investing strategy, PYF is your first line of defense at keeping more of what you earn.

If you’re a millennial, now is the time to think about retirement. Say what? Sure, buying cool stuff makes you happy today, and maybe for only the day, but making a consistent habit of tending to “tomorrow money” by paying yourself first is what will keep you much happier later in life.


  • 401k (pretax) or ROTH 401k (after tax) plans are the mothers of all pay yourself first plans. Its an automatic payroll deduction before you ever see the money, and there is NO OTHER WAY you can save money where somebody else may match your match-eligible contribution, up to dollar-for-dollar. Skipping this one powerful wealth-building tool is like committing slow motion suicide, a term you will understand forty years from now if you don’t do this. Today!

Manual (all after tax)

  • After-tax Investing
  • Cash Savings (emergency or opportunity fund)

After tax money needs a home, too. If you are able to arrange your day-to-day finances, after automatically paying yourself first, in such a way that there is money leftover to do more savings and investing, then hats off to you. You are Ninja class at this point. Achieving Ninja status takes discipline and desire.

Before we get to the money eaters below, after paying yourself first in a regular 401k or ROTH 401k through payroll deduction, thoughtfully and deliberately make room in your monthly budget by slashing unnecessary expenses. The money you have  so that you have is for saving and investing in after tax vehicles, like cash accounts for emergencies or other growth investing opportunities.

Also, take the time to understand your pay stub. Deductions are a mystery to most people. As a society, we have been conditioned to look at our “take home pay.” Well, before you took it home, what did they take out? The array of taxes, pre-tax deductions, after-tax deductions are dizzying. You need to know what was taken out before you take it home.

There is often a blurred line between fixed and floating expenses, and if you are like most homo sapiens, you’ve crafted elaborate and intricate rationalizations to transform the silliest wants into life-changing needs…

Forced expenses

Technically, some entries on the list below are unforced, but for your own health and well-being, you should treat them as forced expenses, which is great for both habit building and character building.

Taxes suck. (If you are an IRS agent, I really think taxes are a wonderful thing! If you are not an IRS agent, taxes suck.) Theoretically, you should pay yourself first, yet in our confiscatory tax arrangement with our federal and state governments, THEY get paid first! Your pay stub, or online advice, can be a pretty scary place, considering that deduction after deduction reduces your pay to smithereens. Where does it all go?

  • Federal Income Tax
  • Social Security Tax
  • State Income Tax
  • FICA
  • Local Income Tax

And while they are not taxes, the various insurance policies in which you are able to participate are typically very inexpensive ways to cover the main risks to your life and health, because the premiums are established based on group demographics, not just one individual.

  • Medical Insurance
  • Dental Insurance
  • Disability Income Insurance
  • Group Life Insurance
  • Accidental Death and Dismemberment

If you shop around, these insurance coverages may be obtainable at lower premium costs, but even if the employer plan costs are higher, I recommend you do the payroll deduction plan for one reason: Until you are a dedicated and disciplined steward of your money, you run the risk of spending that money on other things before you pay the premiums. Missed premiums mean cancelled coverage. Keep the payroll deductions going until you have enough trust in yourself to put these insurance obligation near the front of the monthly payment list.

Your company’s annual benefits enrollment period typically runs for about a month, generally near the end of the year, and there are reams of explanatory materials, worksheets and one-on-one meetings offered with company and vendor representatives. If you routinely delete or throw the announcements in the round file, then you must attend the next one. Your health and financial security depends on it!

Fixed expenses

These are your monthly bills, food, shelter, and other necessities of life. The stuff that keeps you alive, but the price tag for every one of life’s necessities has fat in it just waiting to be trimmed.

Do you really need a house that big? Do you need a car that expensive? Do you need every service the cable company offers? All good stuff, right, but do you NEED the biggest and best versions to survive?

Think about, no matter what the category, you will survive just fine with the next smaller version. Smaller house, cheaper car, less channels, Aldi instead of Whole Foods. You get the picture.

Be ruthless here. Scrutinize every penny you spend. What are you including in this fixed expense category that does not keep you alive and well, and can be downsized or even eliminated?

  • Housing-Own or Rent
  • Homeowners Insurance
  • Household Maintenance
  • Utilities
  • Car
  • Car Insurance
  • Public Transportation
  • Child Care
  • Groceries
  • Clothing
  • Debt Payment
  • Communications/Cell
  • Broadband

Floating expenses

In other words, the things that are not necessary to keep you alive and well, but are really nice to have. Floating, or fluctuating expenses, often called the fun expenses, are all about your wants and wishes, not your needs. 

Be rigorous about your spending habits. Know what you are buying and where your money is going. Do you need it or want it?  There is often a blurred line between fixed and floating expenses, and if you are like most homo sapiens, you’ve crafted elaborate and intricate rationalizations to transform the silliest wants into life-changing needs. 

I really, really need a car to get to work, SO I really, really need a $52,000 Range Rover! 

Get it? Good. here is a very incomplete list of floaters. Its a starter list, and there are as many combinations of included items as there are people.

  • Dining Out
  • Movies and Concerts
  • Date Night
  • Fitness
  • Gifts
  • Hobbies and Sports
  • Vacations
  • Charitable Donations
  • Entertainment
  • Miscellaneous
  • Subscriptions: Prime, Netflix, Hulu, et al.
  • Shopping (Retail Therapy)
  • ,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,fill in the blank…………………..

Regarding that last point, retail therapy, do you buy your caramel macchiatos with a credit card? Movie popcorn and car washes on revolving credit? Then you may be guilty of a financial misdemeanor called Plastic Abuse. If its a rewards card and you pay the balance off every month with the determination of a samurai, you get an A. But if not, cut the cards and use debit or cash.

It is critical to establish hard rules about your current finances and your future financial goals as early in life as possible, and commit to creating a plan to achieve them. You’ve heard it often said that “it’s never too late.” But it is absolutely never too early. If you are 55, start today. If you are 25, start today.

This article may be a first step for you, but it’s an important step to understand the basics before creating a comprehensive budget that you will follow. While the actual list can only be as comprehensive as your individual needs dictate, this simple template can be used to start your personal plan to keep more money in your retirement account, your bank and your pocket.

As the backbone of a successful financial future, including both money-making and money-keeping strategies, living with a budget is a critical element in your clients’ overall future fix.

Go here to read Me? On a Budget?

Never. Lose. Money.