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Can I still contribute a similar amount if I open an independent retirement account?

No. The maximum to an IRA in 2008 is $5000, a bit more if you are over 50.

Are you going to be on the payroll at your new job, or working as a contractor? If you are on the payroll, an IRA is pretty much your only option. If you are a contractor (self employed) there are self employment retirement options that allow more to be contributed. I'll leave those to others, as I have never dealt with them.

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