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I'd appreciate any suggestions. I'm really happy to have finally found this place.

Well, welcome. You asked for it, so ... "Incoming! Everybody hit the deck!"

Here's some quick advice, which is worth exactly what you pay for it (although, if you pay me $500, I'll improve my advice a bit. :)

• DO NOT get in a hurry to get invested. Take your time. Quick action can cause quick losses.
• The market is rather expensive now on most scales of measure.
• If you ever do want to invest a wad quickly, do so in one or more index funds.
• Many here scour the markets constantly for good bargains, since that's where we seem to make the best money. There are very view, IMO, to be had. The low-hanging fruit is gone.

If I were new to directing my own funds, here's what I would do (and I wish someone would have told me before I learned lessons the hard way!):

• Pick 5-30 companies (number really doesn't matter) that you like--either from experience or from working in the industry, etc.
• Watch those companies for 30 days minimum.
• Read all news you can find. Look at magazine articles on them. Google them.
• When you find companies that you like not only as a customer, etc., but also as an investment, then begin to read, calculate and learn about valuation. It should be illegal to invest before this stage.

If you can do these few simple things, I can not guarantee you success. But I can guarantee that any losses will be much less than if you invest in some stock rockets on Monday. Eventually, I'll bet you will even win. I did tell you what winning means, right?

Patience, GrassHopper! Good luck. Oops, I forgot. For the first 5-10 years, luck is very important. After that, it's the Yogi saying, "The harder I work, the luckier I get." And if you find a home run like a new DDD, consider yourself very lucky indeed. They don't come down the pike very often. And if you hit that homer, I'm sorry, but it was pure luck. (Well, good luck and my advice.) :)

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