If you're a shareholder of Star Gas (NYSE:SGU), you know it's been a rough year. After trading north of $20 per share for most of 2004, the stock is down to less than $3 today.

But I'm here to tell you that one stock market loser isn't the end of your financial future -- so long as you have a plan and stick to it. Without a plan, stock market losers can wreak financial havoc on your savings and retirement.

Get one step ahead
The stock market is full of disasters. From the Great Depression to the tech bubble, investors in every era have experienced the pain of financial loss. But even those who have been most hurt can get started on a plan to rebuild their savings and investments and achieve their retirement dreams.

Despite any experiences with the likes of Tengasco (AMEX:TGC) -- down more than 80% since January 2003 -- and Penn Octane (NASDAQ:POCC) -- down 70% -- you are the best person to manage your money. By identifying an investment timeline, determining ideal asset allocation, and preventing fees, commissions, and taxes from undermining your future, you can get closer to achieving financial security.

Be one with the masters
Even the world's greatest investors are unable to predict the future. Jack Bogle, founder of the hugely successful Vanguard Group, told Fool co-founder David Gardner, "I am a nervous investor. Nobody knows what will happen tomorrow or next year. ... But [with] four things -- diversification, tax efficiency, lower costs, a long time horizon -- you will capture the returns that this uncertain stock market is kind enough to deliver."

Those are sage words, and they are also the driving force behind my Motley Fool Rule Your Retirement newsletter service. Star Gas' losses may have put you behind the retirement pack, but by perfecting your portfolio and balancing your investments to meet your needs, you can recover and regain the financial freedom you deserve.

To get started building a financial plan, kick the tires on a 30-day free trial of Rule Your Retirement. There's no obligation to subscribe, and a trial includes access to all back issues, interviews with other expert money managers, retirement calculators and how-to guides, and the Fool's dedicated discussion boards, where you'll find hordes of like-minded investors sharing wisdom, ideas, and analysis. Click here to learn more.

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Robert Brokamp, a former Wall Street financial planner, is the editor of Motley Fool Rule Your Retirement. He does not own shares of any stock mentioned in this article. The Motley Fool is investors writing for investors.