OK, I'm late reading some responses. Thanks for this nice explanation. Could you go give this talk to every grade school child in America? : )I only say that because I had NO CLUE about any of this until a few years ago. I am a college educated professional who just didn't think the future was going to creep up so fast. I do know a lot now and someone talked me into starting a 401K in my 20's (I'm mid 40's) and it was a good start but then I used some to buy a house, then I started taking it out when I was unemployed and now I only have 3500 left. It's an IRA Annuity and I don't like the financial planner it's with so I'll most likely just leave it alone for now and start something new.I am now armed with a ton of knowledge about saving, a little about investing and no money! I am trying to find permanent work and have turned down several jobs because they are not paying what I know I can make. I am contracting now so I'm bringing in money but it's hard to plan for long until I'm permanently in a position. If I get the salary I'm aiming for (btw, each job offer I got went up so I'm thinking I'll eventually hit the mark, I know I'm in the right area it's just that the more you make, the fewer jobs there are. I'm a Sr. IT professional and you can hire younger IT people for less than me so I have to work hard to find the right fit).Anyway, I can pay off this debt in one and a half years or a little over 2 years. The one and a half year plan doesn't allow any savings but I have to say, it just would feel better to me if I were saving. I can't get these years back. I'm really going to have to work hard and save and invest well the next 20+ years.I recently read a book by David Bach called "Start Late, Finish Rich" which gave me hope that it's not too late for me. Yes, I have to scrimp a little more but it's still do-able. I have a very good IT background and I can make a really good living if I just find the right place. I'm close, I've been looking now almost 6 months and have a few irons in the fire. My contract firm has a 401K but it's not matching. If I save $1000 in the next few months, I'll open a Roth. I have heard good things about Vanguard and Fidelity.
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