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Greetings, Hank, and welcome to Fooldom.

<<My employer does not match my 401k contributions, so there's no free money to be passing up. The only advantage to maintaining a 401k then would seem to be for the immediate tax savings -- in addition to the potential that exits to borrow from this fund for a mortagage (is this type of borrowing also possible with a self-directed IRA?). >>

No, you may not borrow from an IRA. Effective in 1998, though, you may take up to $10K from an IRA to pay for first-time home purchase expenses. While you'll pay ordinary taxes on that sum, you will not be assessed any 10% excise tax for being younger than age 59 1½ If this is not the first purchase of a home, though, you can't use that option.

<<Is it advisable to abandon the 401k for a self directed IRA, where I could implement 2,2,3,4,5? If so, this raises other questions, like isn't there a rather low ceiling on annual contributions to an IRA, which would limit the growth I might expect from the Foolish 4?>>

Only you can answer that one based on your personal circumstances. I know that in the absence of an employer match, though, my first $2K would definitely go into a self-directed Roth IRA at a discounter. At $8 per trade such as that charged by Ameritrade, I could easily begin a Foolish Four portfolio that will pay off handsomely years later. Beyond that amount, I would weigh the advantages of 401k returns and current tax deferrals against taxable alternatives and favorable capital gains rates. I would probably use some combination there, but not necessarily. My bent is to use the taxable alternative given the better returns and capital gains treatment in that option.

<<If I should not abandon the 401k, and just accept the Vanguard Index growth of 10.5%, and whatever growth comes from the Crabbe Huson small cap fund, what advice would you have about starting a Foolish 4 portfolio? Inside an IRA? Not inside?>>

The nice thing about the 401k is it's automatic because of the payroll deduction. Although I might and probably would fare better in a taxable FF portfolio, if I fail to invest that money through a lack of discipline, then I would be better off in the 401k.

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