Like growing anything in life, you’ve got to nurture your financial portfolio from the beginning if you want it to yield profits. This process is not going to be the same for everyone, since everyone’s financial situation is a little different. Who you are, where you are, and what you want from life is going to impact your strategy.

Thankfully, there are a few overarching tips that can help anyone in any situation see the best possible returns on their investments. It’s all about being money smart.

Take a look.

Tip #1. Know where you stand, and where you want to go.

The investment strategy for a young single mother would be different than that of 62 year old married woman. You need to account for your age and the amount of fluid cash you have to invest before you make any decisions. This will determine how long you have to invest, as well as how much you can reasonably afford to put aside.

Tip #2. Determine your risk tolerance.

If you’re idea of playing risky poker is betting for dimes, then you’re probably fairly risk averse, and won’t want to risk money now for the possibility of a solid ROI down the road. Ultimately, you have to be able to live with the amount you’ve invested. If your investments are causing you to lose sleep, then you’ve gone too far. Carefully determine your risk tolerance, and invest within those parameters.

Tip #3: Conservative or aggressive?

Once you’ve determined your risk tolerance, you can determine what sort of asset allocation works for you. Conservative (risk adverse) people tend to put the bulk of their money in fixed income securities (like bonds), whereas more aggressive risk takers will often invest heavily in equities (like stocks).

Of course, the next question is what stocks and bonds should you invest in?

The answer to that is just this: it depends.

It depends on your personal preference, as well as the current market. If you don’t consider yourself versed in the current affairs of the economy, then this is when the best (and ultimately most profitable) move is to seek out help from professionals – and preferably professional whose portfolios reflect your own values and interests.

Shop around. Do your research. The time it takes you to find the perfect fit could be the difference between retiring early and being able to send your kids to college, or having to work an extra decade.