Larry,You're asking questions I asked two years ago, at 25, when I was starting...here's what I see looking back two years.Mutuals are OK as a start, but you can build a decent portfolio of stocks at a steady rate over time. After only two years I'm up to nine. The Fool lists all the advantages, so no new information here, but I'll list a few things they Fool cites that I've seen myself.1. No junk in the basket. By choosing your own stocks, you eliminate any poor performers that you might question in a fund's holdings. Look at the prospectus of your "relatively conservative" funds. There are probably a few ticker symbols in there you wouldn't be at all interested in buying...so why does the fund have them? 2. Risk tolerance at our age is HIGH. There is no period over eight years (I think...fellow Fools?) where the market is down. Over the lifespan of your investments (I'm assuming 20+ years in the work force for you) you're assured a smoothing of the jaggedness of a chart. Here is an example I like:GE's 6 month chart (spiky, eh, even for an "unsexy" company like GE)http://quote.fool.com/chart/chart.asp?time=7&uf=0&compidx=aaaaa%3A0&comptick=&freq=1dy&maval=0&type=128&symbols=GE&currticker=GE&submit1=Draw+ChartGE's 10 year chart (oh so smooth...looking a lot sexier here, esp. as a logarithmic chart)http://quote.fool.com/chart/chart.asp?time=13&uf=0&compidx=aaaaa%3A0&comptick=&freq=1dy&maval=0&type=128&symbols=GE&currticker=GE&submit1=Draw+Chart3. You set your own management fee. Personally, I hate paying more than 0.5% in expenses, so with my $10 limit orders at my discount broker I never make a buy under $2000. Your mutual funds are probably not doing this well. Index funds can run down as low as 0.25%, but this is a YEARLY charge. Your management fee that you set is payable ONCE. If I buy $2000 of GE, my management fee is halved after the second year...and it just keeps going down if I'm not actively trading.Hope that helps, and may da Fools be wit'cha,Mark
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