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hi everybody! This is my first post! Yay!

I just finished paying off my credit card debt forever, and would like to get started investing for my eventual retirement, though I am a complete novice. I was wondering if some of the more experienced people here could give me a "sanity check":

1) I'm wondering about how to invest my Roth IRA contributions. Right now I have an underperforming mutual fund in a Roth IRA at a brokerage house, worth about $1500, plus $500 or so in two other taxable and underperforming mutual funds. I'd like to dump the mutual funds and contribute them all to a self-directed Roth IRA making direct investments, to keep costs low.

Since I'm just starting out (23 years old) I don't have a lot of money to invest initially, but I definitely can make the $2000/year contribution to an IRA. I'd really like to contribute to it regularly, once or twice a month, like I've been doing with my underperforming mutual fund (before I stopped to pay off my credit cards!).

I just finished reading "Investing Without a Silver Spoon", and I thought I would try direct investing through an I've read on these bulletin boards and confirmed with my own research, this is difficult. Several people have said try First Trust. They charge $48 annually, plus 1% of the account value up to $10,000 (beyond that, the fees drop to .4%, then .3% when you're above $75,000). On my first $2000, I'll be paying $68 to the bank (3.4%)...adding another $2000, I'll be paying $88 (2.2% of a $4000 account). Does that seem reasonable to more experienced people?

I've also looked at, which has "no-fee" IRAs, but charge $2 per monthly recurring transaction. So if I invested my $166 monthly in two stocks, I'd be paying 2.4% to then I'd be investing my retirement savings in only two stocks. That seems like a bad idea.

2) I'll be getting a raise soon, and would like to invest more than $2000 per year. So assuming that #1 works out, is there any effective way to purchase smaller stocks on a monthly basis? In other words, if I have $340 extra to invest after my Roth IRA contributions, what do you all recommend I do with it?

My idea is, I would like to include some growth stocks in my investments, such as "Rule Breakers" and small cap companies, because it seems like there's a lot of potential to make my money grow over the long term, if I choose well. I would like to directly invest in 4-5 "blue chip" stocks through my direct-investment IRA, and 3-4 growth stocks through something like I invest $340 monthly in 4 carefully-chosen stocks through, I will pay $8 in fees (or 2.3%). Does that seem like a good strategy?

The other option would be to transfer the $340 per month to a money market account and then when I've got some predetermined amount of money, add it to my portfolio, either to the currently held stocks or by purchasing additional stocks.

thanks for all of your help...this is truly a great place, and has opened my eyes to all kinds of possibilities!

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