Serious savers know that if they want to build wealth over the long haul, now is the time to get going. But how, exactly, does one get going?

Good question.

Why not start with an asset-allocation plan? Such a plan should take into account your investing timeline, your tolerance for the market's inevitable performance gyrations, and what we might call your investing style -- where your temperament falls on the growth/value spectrum.

Once you've filled in those all-important blanks, the serious fun can begin. You can start shopping for picks to fill your personalized pie chart.

Cheapskates of the world, unite!
Cheapskates have a much better shot at making it to a lavish retirement than spendthrifts do -- particularly if they follow these three steps:

  1. Take advantage of the tax-friendly savings your 401(k) plan provides -- not to mention any matching contribution your employer offers.
  2. Keep the taxman at bay via a Roth IRA. Yes, you'll have to contribute after-tax dollars, but your savings will grow tax-free. And when it comes time to draw down the account, you won't have to pay Uncle Sam for the privilege of doing so.
  3. Consider stuffing your taxable investment accounts with stocks plucked from the market's sales rack.

Take your temperature
No matter what your investing temperament happens to be, anchoring your portfolio to discounted overachievers is a smart way to proceed. You can do that through choice mutual funds, of course, but if you prefer to pick the stocks yourself, Mr. Market is currently selling quite a few stalwarts at a nice discount.

Yahoo! (NASDAQ:YHOO), for example, has cranked out an annualized, market-crushing return of more than 42.8% over the past 10 years and generated some $1.3 billion in free cash flow in 2005. Yet, thanks in part to a cyclical slack in ad sales, it currently trades some 43% below its five-year high.

Vodafone (NYSE:VOD) is another of the market's long-haul overachievers, yet its stock is more than 25% off its five-year high. UnitedHealth (NYSE:UNH), Medtronic (NYSE:MDT), and Dell (NYSE:DELL) all strike similar -- and attractive -- profiles. Each has delivered the goods for shareholders over a lengthy stretch of time, yet -- for the time being, anyway -- they all trade at steep discounts to their high-water marks. That's true of Countrywide Financial (NYSE:CFC) and SanDisk (NASDAQ:SNDK), too.

Hot topics
Make no mistake: There's more to smart stock selection than just spotting companies that seem to be trading on the cheap, just as there's more to smart retirement preparation than mere stock picking. Whether or not you're saving enough to meet your future needs is a huge consideration, as is the appropriate draw-down rate once you start using your investment portfolio for living expenses. (Fool retirement guru Robert Brokamp advises 4% as the retirement draw-down rate.) Getting the allocation levels right across the major asset classes (cash, cash equivalents, stocks, and bonds) is yet another hot retirement topic.

Not coincidentally, you can learn more about all of this at the Fool's Rule Your Retirement service. Led by Robert Brokamp, each monthly issue comes packed with news and information designed -- as the service's motto goes -- to help you plan well and retire wealthy. And here's something that really ought to appeal to your inner cheapskate: A 30-day guest pass is yours, free, for the taking.

A guest pass provides access to all Rule Your Retirement back issues, as well as its members-only discussion boards and retirement planning tools. You're under no obligation to subscribe. Click here for more information.

This article was originally published on April 17, 2006. It has been updated.

Shannon Zimmerman is the lead analyst for the Fool's Champion Funds newsletter service and doesn't own any of the companies mentioned. Yahoo!, Dell, and UnitedHealth are Stock Advisor picks. Vodafone, Dell, and UnitedHealth are Inside Value selections. The Fool has a strict disclosure policy.