A recent NYT article asked financial writers to compress their long list of planning tips into a short list–one that would actually fit on an index card.

Before I list “Jerry’s Golden Rules,” it’s important to recognize that an individual should approach his or her financial life just like they would define a business plan. It needs to include all the usual elements:

  • Mission
  • Objectives
  • Strategies
  • Tactics
  • Actions

Like any business plan, your financial plan needs to be reviewed periodically, especially as you move from one stage of life to another. So when a publication asks for a financial pundit to collapse their financial tips into a short list, I interpret that request as asking what strategies the investor ought to follow once their mission and objectives are set.

My key strategies for creating a successful financial life follow.

  1. Think of your financial life in a series of stages, each one building on the other–but each one having its own distinct financial strategies. Here are the five stages (with illustrative age ranges):
    • Protect – ages 25 to 40
    • Build – 40 to 55
    • Transition – 55 to 70
    • Early retirement – 70 to 85
    • Late retirement – 85 on
  2. Use insurance-based solutions to complement your savings, including life insurance, long-term care, and income annuities.
  3. Take advantage of all tax-savings strategies. Also, minimize your fees wherever possible.
  4. Educate yourself. Very few, if any, advisors can address all of the above products or planning issues. Recognize that any plan you prepare will be outdated as soon as completed.
  5. Maintain the proper balance between your needs and desires, and what you may want to leave as a legacy.