NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Let's face it, personal finance isn't nuclear physics.

The basics are so simple that anyone can get the concepts downin less than a day -- spend less than you earn, save and invest therest.

Knowing what should be done and actually doing it,however, are two different things.

Most people realize that spending more money than they have is a bad, bad thing. That still doesn't keep millions of people from racking up credit-card debt.

Here are 10 money lessons I wish I had known when I was 20 (I'm now 42 years old), which also have the power to change your life if you are able to embrace them.

10. Money Doesn't Buy Happiness

I knew this in my heart when I was younger. After all, who can't hum the tune of the Beatles song Can't Buy Me Love?

But my head often countered it in real life. It took meseveral years of working in a large corporation making good money, butnot enjoying my job, to finally get it through my head that money initself does not make you happy, and the accumulation of money will dovery little for your happiness unless you know how to use that moneyonce you have it.

The happiness comes from the opportunities moneymakes available so that you can do the things that you want to do. Ifyou have no idea what these things are, no amount of money will makeyou happy.

9. Goals Are the Key

I didn't begin to make specific financial goalsuntil my early30s, and it kills me that I lost 10 years in this department.

The old saying that if you don't know where you're going, it's difficultto get there is never more true with your financial goals. It wasn'tuntil I took the time to write down my financial goals in detail thatI began to find financial success.

Financial goals give you something to strive for and give you clear knowledge on how you want to spend the money that you earn. They also greatly help you avoid impulse purchases and spending money on things that aren'timportant.

8. Impulse Purchases Dash Dreams

I spent more money on more crap coming out of college than I would ever care to admit.

Impulse spending (or spending money on anything that isn't important to you and your goals)is the worst type of spending that you can do, yet this is how mostpeople spend their money when they don't have financial goals.

It's especially destructive if it also leads to credit-card debt. Impulsepurchases come about when you aren't really sure what you want in yourlife or what will make you happy.

This is why advertising is so effective. Advertisements make you believe that buying a product or service will give you the happiness that you are seeking, when this is rarely the case.

If you can learn to be patient with your money andavoid impulse purchases by knowing what your financial goals are, youwill have made major strides in getting your finances in order.

7. Buy Memories, Not Things

A big con our society plays on us is that stuff will make us happy.

I fell for it for far too long.

When it comes to spending the money that you do have, buyingexperiences and memories with those whom you care about is a muchbetter use of your money than purchasing material things. It's not thehouse that you buy, but the home that you make with your family insideit that matters.

When you look back on your life, you will rememberthe times, memories and experiences far above the things that you havepurchased.

Understanding this will ensure that you get much more value outof the money you spend.

6. TV Is a Dream Killer

I once believed that I didn't have the time to do allI wanted to do, but it was nothing more than having poor priorities inhow I spent my time, watching TV being one of those poor choices.

I hear time and again that people simply don't have the time to achievethe goals that they have. If you are the average person, that time youdon't have is being spent in front of your TV. If you want to achieveyour goals and dreams, the first thing to do is start to wean yourselfoff your TV.

You can't imagine the amount of extra timethat you have and all the extra things that you can accomplish whenyou take the time spent in front of the TV (orcomputer or whatever other form of procrastination you use) to work onthe financial and other goals that you have.

5. Money Seduces

It's a fact of life. At some point you will likely beoffered employment that pays you more than what your dream job willpay, or a good salary when you aren't yet sure what your dream job is.

You will likely justify taking the job because the extra money willoutweigh the compromise of putting off what you want to do and you mayassume it will even help you to pursue your dream job in your sparetime since it will mean you have more money.

This is a falsejustification that will only serve to make you lose sight of your truegoals in life. Be very careful of the seduction of a higher-paying job, because when you accept it, it will be difficult to leave.

I wish I had seen this seduction for what it was right out of college ratherthan four years into a career that wasn't what I wanted to be doing.

4. Financial Mistakes Aren't All Bad

I've made more than my fair share of financial mistakes, and you're going tomake financial mistakes, too. Everybody does and they can actually bea great benefit for you in the long run.

The key is learning fromthem instead of repeating them over and over again. Instead ofgetting down on yourself when you make a mistake, take the time tolearn from it and make sure that it never happens again.

If you learnfrom your mistakes, you will come out far ahead than if you'd nevermake any mistakes at all over never learn from them.

3. Do What You Love and the Money Follows

The money probably won't bethere at first, and it might seem impossible for you to figure out away to make money from it, but if you are truly passionate about it,there is a way to succeed and make a living doing what you love. Ittakes a lot of time, effort and persistence, and it won't be easy.

You will likely have to become quite creative to make it happen, but ifyou truly love what you're doing, that effort will be the reasonyou are willing to put in the extra hours it takes to succeed.

I wish I would have started looking for my dream job a lot sooner andthat I had the confidence to do so right out of college.

2. Money Is Emotional

You know yourself better than anyone else, and what motivates you. What motivates me and whatmotivates you may not be the same.

Take this knowledge and use it toyour advantage. While personal-finance books will tell you the bestway to handle your finances from an unemotional perspective, thisadvice is worthless if it doesn't work with your personality.

Adoptthe methods that will help you get to your financial goals thequickest, leveraging your personal habits to do so.

Doing something(even if it is a longer process) is almost always better than thechoice of doing nothing because the method advanced doesn'twork well for your personality.

1. Embrace Compound Interest

If you want to be wealthy, understandcompound interest and how it is your best financial friend from anearly age. To retire early you don't need to make a lot of money.

All you need to do is begin saving small amounts early. The earlier youbegin to put money into retirement savings, the more you'll have, and the sooner you will be able to retire.

Most people think that it is a matter of working hard and making a lot, but the true path to wealth is simply to start saving and investing from an early age.