ProBlogger is having another group writing project centered around the "top 5" theme and I'm playing along with my top five steps that will grow your net worth. They are:
1. Spend less than you earn. Without this tip, nothing else matters. Why? Because you'll always be going backwards financially if you spend more than you earn. You'll go deeper in debt, won't have any money to save or invest, and certainly won't be growing your net worth. But if you spend less than you earn, you'll be laying down a firm foundation for all your other financial efforts. That's why spending less than you earn is my best piece of financial advice.
2. Increase your income. The best way to do this is to make the most of your career by going to college and then managing your career to get the maximum pay increases possible each year (By the way, this also helps with item #1 -- it's easier to spend less than you earn the more that you earn.) Or if it's "too late" for you to make a lot of extra money this way, join those of us who are trying to earn an additional $10k this year by taking some creative steps to earn extra money.
3. Save and invest to get up to a 100% return. Save the surplus you've created from points #1 and #2, and invest it wisely in an employer-sponsored 401k. Put in enough to get the full employer match. It's a no-brainer investment where you earn 50-100% return automatically (depending on your employer's plan/match). Where else can you get such a great return?
5. Invest your savings regularly. Once you've got the full 401k match from your employer and paid off all your credit cards, it's time to crank up your net worth to new heights with additional saving and investing. Personally, I prefer index funds. Save and invest as much as you can for as long as you can -- letting the power of time and compounding work for you. Simply doing this can make you rich all by itself. ;-)
Of course there are other solid financial tips such a buying a house, paying off the rest of your debt, and the like, but if you concentrate on the top five listed here, you'll make the most progress possible towards growing your net worth.