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All this reading has me one thing… very confused.

Two key phrases: "information overload" and "analysis paralysis".

Sometimes more reading is not the answer.

My Advice: Vanguard if you can put off stock trading for a while and will always have at least $5000 in each mutual fund*. Otherwise, Scottrade. (remember that until April 17 you can still contribute for 2005, so you could potentially start out with $8000 in the IRA)

But we should point out that the Fool has an IRA center where you can compare online brokers who are advertising on the Fool:

Keep the money in something low-risk until you're more confident. But do start a paper portfolio where you execute pretend trades.
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