Monoclonal gammopathy of unknown significance (MGUS) and smoldering multiple myeloma (SMM) are asymptomatic plasma cell dyscrasias, with a propensity to progress to symptomatic MM. In recent years there have been improvements in risk stratification models (involving molecular markers) of both disorders, which have led to better understanding of the biology and probability of progression of MGUS and SMM. In the context of numerous molecular events and heterogeneous risk of progression, developing individualized risk profiles for patients with MGUS and SMM represents an ongoing challenge that has to be addressed by prospective clinical monitoring and extensive correlative science. In this review we discuss the current standard of care of patients with MGUS and SMM, the use of risk models, including flow cytometry and free-light chain analyses, for predicting risk of progression. Emerging evidence from molecular studies on MGUS and SMM, involving cytogenetics, gene-expression profiling, and microRNA as well as molecular imaging is described. Finally, future directions for improving individualized management of MGUS and SMM patients, as well as the potential for developing early treatment strategies designed to delay and prevent development of MM are discussed.