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But, believe it or not, I read everything I could find at this site about IRAs before posting to this board and still don't feel like I could come up with a clear definition of IRA beyond the fact that it stands for "Individual Retirement Account"
It appears that you haven't found the series of articles "All About IRAs" at the Fool. That's where you'll find far more thorough and accurate answers than we could give you.
Here's the link:
It contains a link to a good retirement planning article:

As for the question about what to do with the pension money, try reposting to this board in a new thread, since nobody but us three are reading this one anymore. Believe it or not there are many knowledgable people frequenting this board who will be delighted to give you the benefit of their experience. Most of them probably just hit the 'next' button when you asked "What exactly is an IRA anyway?" and the rest bailed out with the "don't bother" comment. BTW, I'm not offended by that. I understand your frustration because I feel it often enough, myself.

Don't be too surprised or irritated if most of the responses you get are advice on where to go for the answers (hopefully they will include links). The Fool is a huge site with tons of information on all kinds of financial questions. The answers are out there, it's just a matter of finding them.

Best of luck,

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