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I addition to all the sensible responses to your post- you could go with a Roth IRA in an S&P 500 mutual fund, like Vanguard's or Scudder's (the latter doesn't have an annual maint. fee), and not have to pay ANY brokerage fees. Also, a number of companies that have direct purchase programs ALSO offer IRA options. If you know which companies you want to DRIP into, you may want to contact their shareholder relations and ask if they offer IRA option.
Suretrade discount brokerage charges $7.95/trade and has no annual maint. fee either. I hope this helps.
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