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Well, you've made the most important step - starting early. I'm 30 years older than you and didn't start serious investment (aside from employer plans) until I was in mid- to late 40's. My spouse and I retired 2 years ago. The rest of this is what I tell my children - the youngest is about your age. It is just one person's opinion and I have one basic caveat: Free advice is often worth every cent you pay for it.

First, fund your 401(k)/403(b) to the extent required to get any matching funds from your employer.

Second, if your income level qualifies you for one, fund a Roth IRA to the maximum allowed.

Third, fund that 401(k)/403(b) to the maximum (I think that is $10,500 this year).

Time out! You didn't indicate whether your $200 per month is outside these type of plans; so I have made some assumptions here.

Fourth, invest in growth stocks and mutual funds. If you are a newbie to investing, I recommend starting with mutual funds. With due deference to TMF, I think the best way to understand mutual funds is to read the Consumer Reports review of same - March 2000 issue in any decent public library.

TMF has a lot of different investment strategies for individual stocks. Be sure you understand them thoroughly before embarking on one. I would recommend starting a shadow portfolio first - that is, select stocks, pretend you are investing in them, and follow the progress of the shadow porfolio first. Be sure to account for any broker commissions in your figures.

I have used the NAIC methodology and philosophy for the last 10 years and have found it to be sound. My portfolio of stocks has an annualized return over that period well in excess of 25%. I think there is a pointer to them somewhere on TMF; but their website is

Invest early, invest regularly, invest in growth, reinvest all dividends, diversify. Buy and hold; the only one that gets rich on frequent trading is your broker.

Free advice is often worth every cent you pay for it.

Good luck!
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