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I am fairly new to the Fool, please be gentle!

My husband recently got a new job that puts us in a position to finally start saving, investing and generally be more responsible with our money. Because I'm the one who seems to care, it's become my job to do the investing and make the investment choices for our family.

The job he just left had a retirment savings plan that he has to cash out in a lump sum. We'll get taxed as well as pay a 10% penalty. We'll be using that money to open 3 education IRAs for our kids and payoff the remainder of our credit card debt. Anything left from that we might invest in a Roth IRA. Also, we will now have $500-$1000 each month to invest. (it was a BIG raise in pay!)

My questions:
The new job offers a 401(k) but does not match funds. Are we better off investing in the 401(k) or in a separate IRA where we can use the Foolish 4 and perhaps get a better return? They plan to start matching funds in the future, obviously then it's the better option.

Is there any benefit to splitting the max contribution over more than 1 retirement plan (401k, ira, roth) other than being able to self direct a separate account?

And finally, we will be opening the education IRAs with the max yearly contribution of $500 each. Thats too little to Foolish 4 with and too little to put in a Vanguard 500 (which I seem to read as the next best option) Does anyone recommend a decent index fund that we could put the money into until it's big enough to withstand the Foolish 4?

We will be opening the accounts with either Seibert or Waterhouse, probably Waterhouse, as soon as we cash out the retirement system account.

Thanks for your help!
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