Rule No. 1: Pay yourself first. Put the first 10 percent of your earnings into savings for the future. The most painless way to do this might be with a 401(k) plan at work. Since your paycheck will be a few percent less than you would have, otherwise, you will grow not to miss it at all. Put the maximum that the company will match. If you have more than that (say 4 percent of the 10), then put that 4 percent into the maximum you can invest in an IRA - regular or ROTH, you decide. If you still have some left, put that little bit extra back toward your 401(k) or put it toward your emergency fund.
Rule No. 2: You need an emergency fund of at least 6 to 12 months, depending on your situation. If your talents are in high demand, you might only need 6 months of savings. For anything less than that, shoot for 9 to 12 months. Build that emergency savings account.
Rule No. 3: Of your 401(k) or IRA accounts, invest in Exchange Traded Funds (ETF) in a place where you do not have to pay for such trades or at least not much. Even $5 per trade is too much.
Rule No. 4: Set your investments the way you feel comfortable. If you are a risk taker, buy stock-based ETFs. If you are shy when it comes to risk, buy bond-based ETFs or CDs or such. You are probably somewhere between, so decide on a reasonable mix and buy according to your comfortable mix.
Rule No. 5: Keep pouring the percentages you have chosen into the investments every month, but otherwise Leave it alone! Keep sending in the money to buy more, but don't just trade. Trading will eat you up! Invest for the long term. Keep buying the same shares. That will let you use dollar-cost-averaging. When prices are down, you will buy more shares. When prices are up, you will buy fewer shares. Over time, you will maximize your shares by paying the average price per share.
Rule No. 6: As your income increases, up your investments by at least half of the increases you receive through raises or changing jobs. If you change jobs, be sure to ROLL OVER your retirement accounts with the company directly into an IRA or the 401(k) plan at the new job and reinvest as appropriate for you.
Rule No. 7: When you are younger and your family is depending on you for support, get Term Life Insurance to give them a boost in case you don't make it. Granted, this is for your spouse's retirement, not yours. Remember, tomorrow is not promised to any of us. I suggest a 10-year level term. That means that you pay the same amount per month for 10 years and the insurance amount stays the same during that time. Be sure it is Term Life Insurance. Whole life, Universal Life, and other types of insurance cost you more for less coverage over the long haul.
Rule No. 8: If your term life expires, reconsider your situation. You might still have little ones at home, a hefty mortgage, car payments, and so on. A new policy will cost more than it did, but still get only Term Life, whether you renew with the current insurance company or shop around and find a better deal with someone else. As you reconsider, be sure to alter the coverage amount to meet your family's expenses for a few years in case you don't live until two days after you sign the policy.
Rule No. 9: If you exhaust all your maximums for tax-advantaged investments for your future, put any further surplus into other investments, from savings accounts (CDs?) on up to other ETFs of stocks, bonds, or whatever.
Rule No. 10: Pay your bills. If you have debts, pay extra on the highest interest first, minimums on all the rest. As you pay off the top one, put every dollar of that toward the next highest interest debt and each in its turn until you pay off all debts.
Rule No. 11: Buy food.
Rule No. 12: Hopefully, you can figure out the rest.