Here are six lessons not only for new grads, but for everyone.

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This is graduation time for colleges and high schools, and that means it’s time for commencement speeches. This year, several have gone viral. For example, Will Ferrell’s USC speech has more than 1.8 million views on YouTube.

The one that most impressed me, however, happened at Broward College in South Florida. It was delivered by Keith Koenig, the founder of the City Furniture chain and a philanthropist I know of from his work with Junior Achievement, one of my favorite causes.

Koenig offered “six things” for a “successful and happy life.” As a personal finance author and counselor, I liked his fifth thing the most – which he called “the hardest”…

Save your money! Everybody in the world, including City Furniture, is trying to get you to spend your money. I’m your dad today. Right now, I’m your dad. I’m telling you, ya gotta save your money. Become master of your finances. Become master of your finances, or you will become a slave to your finances.

A new car is overrated. Don’t be worried about what your friends have, or what they’re driving, what they’re wearing, what their shoes are like, what their bag is like. That’s overrated. When you’re young, you’ve got to become disciplined, you have to become careful, you have to learn those habits now.

I also liked Koenig’s first thing: “Work hard. You want to get ahead? Work harder. Think I’m kidding?” He’s not: “Don’t ever be afraid to work more than what you’re paid for. A lot of people say, ‘Well, I’m not paid for doing that.’ Work harder, and you’ll eventually get the success that you deserve.”

Just because I gravitated to those two “things” doesn’t mean the others aren’t as important. Allow me to hit the highlights for you…

Number 2: “Keep a good attitude. Whatever happens, stay upbeat, positive. Why? People want to be around people that have a good attitude. Don’t talk bad about other people, speak positively about everybody.”

Number 3: “Keep learning. You got a great deal today. You’re a graduate. That’s great! That’s the great news. Bad news is, you’re just starting. You gotta keep learning your whole life. Read more, watch TV less. You want to get ahead, keep learning.”

Number 4: “Volunteer. Make your community better. Don’t sit on your butt. I don’t care what the organization is, give them yourself, give them your time, and don’t be afraid to take on leadership opportunities. They’re always looking for leaders that are willing to work for no pay. But you know what? You’ll make the best friends, and you’ll get the best leadership development.”

And finally….

Number 6: Not the hardest, but the most important. Find balance in your life. Make time for your family. Learn to say no to the bad habits. Learn to say no to the bad friends or the people that don’t have integrity. Become master of your habits, or you become a slave to them.

Tucked in the middle of his commencement speech, Koenig talked a little about his own humble beginnings, which culminated in a furniture chain that’s spread throughout Florida. He started the business with his brother Kevin in 1971.

Sadly, his brother is no longer with us, but Koenig says…

He saved money, working his way through college as a bellman, saving $5,000. He took that money, and he opened a little waterbed store, and he named it Waterbed City. What do you think that the family said when he did that? ‘Are you crazy?’ He wasn’t crazy. He understood capital, he understood savings, he was an entrepreneur. Now, we learned early on, most people think you start a business, and BINGO, it’s successful, money starts rolling in, you live a good life. WRONG! Totally wrong. When you start a small business, you gotta reinvest every penny, because businesses suck cash, they don’t give it. To grow a business, you have to save. You have to learn how to master your finances.

If Broward College’s graduating class of 2017 heeds just half of what Keith Koenig said the other day, they can’t help but be successful. Here’s to hoping this season’s other commencement speeches are as insightful and inspiring.

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About the Author

Howard Dvorkin, CPA

Howard Dvorkin, CPA

I’m a certified public accountant who has authored two books on getting out of debt, Credit Hell and Power Up, and I am one of the personal finance experts for I have focused my professional endeavors in the consumer finance, technology, media and real estate industries creating not only, but also Financial Apps and Start Fresh Today, among others. My personal finance advice has been included in countless articles, and has appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, Forbes and Entrepreneur as well as virtually every national and local newspaper in the country. Everyone should have a reason for living that’s bigger than themselves, and besides my family, mine is this: Teaching Americans how to live happily within their means. To me, money is not the root of all evil. Poor money management is. Money cannot buy happiness, but going into debt always buys misery. That’s why I launched I’m glad you’re here.

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