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I had to move out from my husband of 15 years for the safety of one of my children. I then got cancer and lost my job which I had only had since I moved out because I was a stay at home mom and took care of our farm busines while my husband worked his job with the forest service and a range conservationist. I never finished my last year of college because of our three children and started back to school a month before I found out I had cancer. Before we were married I worked as a waitress to put myself through school, but the problem is, back then, they didn't require you to claim your tips, only your paycheck amount. So I wasn't getting any social security taken out of my tip amount which was much more than a paycheck, because base pay for waitresses was only $1.25 an hour back then. Our business was also under my husbands name, so social security was being taken out for him but I was basically nonexistent. So, needless to say, I have no retirement and only $5,000.00 in my social security fund and I had to quit work because of the cancer. I am now cancer free and starting my own internet business but I don't know what to do about retirement. I never imagined my marriage would fail and I would be in this situation. How do I start putting money away for retirment and what is the fastes way to make it grow?
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To the extent that you have earned income from your own business, there are several plans for the self employed. Look into an SEP IRA and Keogh plans. There may be others.

Beyond that you need to develop an aggressive investment plan. I presume you are 30 something, so you still have plenty of time, but get started soon. Max whatever tax preference plans you can qualify for. Then in addition, start a taxable investment program. Read up on the basics starting with Fool School from the fool.com homepage. An S&P Index fund at a major mutual fund company like Vanguard is a good place to begin. This can work either as an IRA or a taxable investment. You can have both kinds of accounts.

As you learn more, you will probably want to do stocks. Fooldom has several stock portfolios. The basic one is Foolish Four. But a long term buy and hold strategy with a Rule Maker stock is about the best you can do in terms of low tax implications and low costs.

Best of luck to you. You seem to be asking the right questions.
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Dear 43:

good for you for getting out there and taking control of your life!! and the retirement mountain looms large in front of you, i know. but it is surmountable, and you can do it!

if you haven't done so already, first is education. read read read. get all the Motly fool books and devour them. (myself, i haad to read them several times for it all to sink in my thick little brain.) read read read the message boards. (again, my own experience was a good 9 months glued to the computer screen. my husband started to worry!)

you need to first check with the SS folks. give them a call and order a copy of a report (you can also do this online) that tell you EXACTLY how much money you're gonna get if you retired today. this amount may be small, or it may be better than you thought. but knowledge is power ( i just made that up -- you like it??:-) ) . it is important to KNOW this information rather than guess or presume. don't eliminate this step.

get out of debt. this is hard sometimes, but essential.

open an account with a broker (see the Discount Broker Board for a lively (and confusing :-) ) discussion of which one to go with.

know how much you need when you retire. have a specific goal. "I need $xxxx at the age ?? that will last me for he last ??? years of my life." write that and put it on the fridge. and have a SPECIFIC amount.

now, go celebrate putting all this info together and enjoy your life. in the end, money or no, enjoyment and time with your children are the most important things!

keep reading and writing messages and let us know how it's going! everyone of us here is On Your Side!

-megeranski, 41
who has only been investing for 14 months now.
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pauleckler- Thanks for your help. It gives me a place to start. You have alot of patients and caring for people in trouble. That's hard to find in this day and age. Thanks again.
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