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Welcome hep1974, and congratulations on both your new marriage and taking control of your finances!

1) which company is the best to open an IRA account with? i'm leaning towards e-trade but will take any suggestions. i like the lack of fees and lack of minimum options to start an account.

In addition to e-trade, check out Ameritrade and Scottrade. I personally use Scottrade for the following reasons: $500 minimum for IRAs, no maintenance fees, free mutual fund trades, $7 equity trades, and, to a lesser extent, a local branch office.

2) after opening an IRA, it seems index funds seem to be the best thing to start with. i'm considered to be a low-risk taker. i want to invest in something that will bring solid long-term growth over the 30+ yrs. i do know eventually i will have to invest in some risky stocks. what's the general recommendation? which index funds have good returns? i kind of want to put my money in and don't worry about it for many years.

Indexing is a solid, proven method to invest. A couple of books you might want to check out are:

The Coffeehouse Investor by Bill Schultis (sp?)
Four Pillars of Investing by Wm. Bernstein
The Lazy Person's Guide to Investing by Paul Farrell

All 3 deal with the merits of index investing, and the last one is the most recently released book which compares the two aforementioned methods with a couple of other methods out there.

Good luck!

-Agg97
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