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Before you begin your stock and bond market investing, you need to achieve a certain level of financial fitness. SMI believes in doing "first things first." The Four Levels are the heart of that philosophy. Their primary benefit is that they offer a framework for setting financial priorities.

Level One: Strengthening Your Foundation
"By wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established." — Proverbs 24:3

The journey of wise money management requires a strong financial foundation. In this column, we cover topics such as how to manage cash flow, apply strategies for getting debt-free, make wise purchasing decisions, build savings, choose appropriate insurance protection, navigate marital financial issues, and more.

Level Two: Developing Your Investing Plan
"The plans of the diligent lead to profit as surely as haste leads to poverty." — Matthew 21:5

Investing decisions are best made as part of a comprehensive personalized plan. In this column, we focus on topics that will help you implement an investment strategy that takes into account your personal goals, attitude toward risk-taking, and current season of life. We explain investing essentials, discuss SMIís core investing strategies, and help you decide which is best for your situation.

Level Three: Broadening Your Portfolio
"Divide your portion to seven, or even to eight, for you do not know what misfortune may occur on the earth." — Ecclesiastes 11:2

This column goes beyond the investing essentials taught in Level 2, introducing you to a wider range of investment securities and markets. By further diversifying your holdings, you can create a more efficient, less volatile portfolio. We also comment quarterly on the performance of the various markets, and on how SMIís fund recommendations and strategies have fared.

Level Four: Looking Toward Retirement
"There is precious treasure and oil in the dwelling of the wise." — Proverbs 21:20a

As you move through your 50s, 60s, and beyond, you face a new set of financial decisions related to reducing your investment risk and generating income from your portfolio. In this column, we address such topics, as well as those pertaining to Social Security, long-term health care, advanced giving strategies, estate planning, and other matters of importance to those nearing and in retirement.