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Because IRAs require mandatory distributions beginning at age 70-1/2--not that far away, you might want to consider carefully whether an IRA offers you enough advantages. You need earned income to qualify. If you have it and you are below the income limits, a Roth IRA might be preferable. With it after 5 years you avoid any further income tax requirements.

The other alternative is Long Term Buy and Hold investing. LTBH in the Foolish lingo. By selecting the right investments, you avoid income taxes while you hold the investment. You pay income taxes only when you sell (or on small dividends etc) and then only at capital gains rates.

Most IRAs these days are indeed self directed. An IRA at a discount broker gives you freedom to choose your own investments and buy and sell as you see fit. A taxable account in the LTBH style would be similar, though the LTBH aspect would limit your sales to minimize taxes. Mutual fund accounts similarly would allow you to make your own choices.

Best of luck to you.
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