Growing up, we never had much - on my block we were one of the least well-off. Even so, my folks always made it a priority to put something away when they could in a passbook savings account. Back then the interest rate paid was a standard 5.25%. That always stuck in my head - to put something away whenever you could.
There was a public library not too far from my home, in the summers when off from school, I would pass my days in the library because my home didn't have an air-conditioner, but the library was ice-cold on those muggy humid hot days! I read Money Magazine back when Lilli was the editor in chief, in that magazine was articles on mutual funds and advertisements from fund companies like Twentieth Century, Invesco and Franklin with their toll free numbers. I would take the numbers down and have my folks call for the "free" prospectus and annual reports. I would read them from cover to cover. My first mutual fund purchase was from Twentieth Century which had a lenient minimum investment of a $1. That's right, Stowers who ran the firm believed there should be no obstacle in being able to invest and besides, it made for good business in the form of loyal investors. After that, I moved on to TRowe Price when I could afford the $50 minimum investment.
Another thing, in college I worked in a bank as a window teller. If you want to see how the rest of society lives this is a fine window (no pun intended) into it. After seeing how many folks were struggling with zero retirement savings, poor jobs/poor income, those with obscene amounts of money - some well deserved and earned, others who were spoiled heirs - I used that experience to formulate a savings/investment plan on my own - not to depend on others, especially employers - that was probably the best advice I gave myself seeing how every employer I've been to has done a fine hatchet job of gutting benefits, if it wasn't for my savings plans I'd be up the creek with no paddle like many of my old customers. And I picked up some advice from some of those customers including the fellow who told me about the Wellington fund. I used to prepare my own tax returns by hand, boy that was a tedious exercise, but I also learned alot about deductions like the IRA deduction and taxes - and then came Senator Roth of Delaware's invention - the Roth. I took advantage of that the first time it was offered.
The most important thing though is to have a curiousity about it and to read voraciously - I read all the personal finance books out there - even if it was repetitive information and the Wall Street Journal when it was a real paper, Barrons occassionally and I would talk "stock" with other investors. Today, I talk stock and theory with the Bogleheads and try to impart the knowledge gained from here and everywhere else to those who ask for help or "not".