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Only 2 questions:

1) Since this isn't money that is retirement or emergency savings, would that S&P 500 index fund idea still have merit? I'm getting the feeling that if this isn't money that I'll need for a long time for something like retirement in a retirement account, yes, but otherwise, it's a bad idea because of market volatility. If this is correct, then you have little to no use for taxable brokerage accounts (I would think that's your perspective!?!).

2) Am I on the right track with my primitive analysis of bonds and bond funds above? I'm 30, so I agree that I don't need bonds in my portfolio for retirement yet, but I'd like to learn how they work.. anywhere else besides the FAQs that provides a good explanation? Thank you!

It sounds to me like you have money in a taxable account that you want to put away for the long term. Most of us old folks have much of our retirement savings in taxable accounts, because only recently were limits to contributions to employer sponsored plans raised substantially. Folks now in retirement who rely heavily on their own savings/investments (i.e., not just social security and pension plans) have most of their savings/investments in taxable accounts.

So basically, assuming you have a good enough emergency/contingency fund (most people underestimate what they will need if something happens, like losing your job or getting sick), then the best thing to do is find an investment for the extra savings that will optimize your long term returns after taxes (since this is taxable account money, this is important).

We've debated a lot on the index fund board, but my view is that using multiple stock index funds in a taxable account and trying to keep them in a balanced asset allocation is impossible after you accumulate enough money that the gains or losses each year outweigh new contributions. The problem is there is yet to be a single low-expense All Word including US index fund, so to take a pure indexing/single fund approach, you either have to go with the Total US Stock Market (and forget the rest of the world) or go with Total US plus Total Rest of World and get as close as you can to a market cap weighted asset allocation with how you allocate new money, but don't worry about staying exact by selling shares to rebalance, because the added taxes will hurt more than an imperfect balance.

You're on the right track with bonds, and understanding sooner rather than later is important. There are some useful links in the FAQs (not sure if they still work) to other sources of information, plus book references. I believe we are the only ones who talk about the entire bonds/fixed income perspective, which is important. Most other places are interested in bonds and ignore CDs, US Savings Bonds (which are not bonds), etc., because there is no money made trading these and they lack entertainment value (Boring!).
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