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all this talk about the possibility of crashes etc.

Not to worry about it. This is standard Wall Street gibberish. Any time stocks go up, someone somewhere asks I wonder how long that can go on. And then all sorts of stats about last time.

First be aware that big crashes are rare. Corrections of 10 to 20% or so should be within your risk tolerance range. By making steady investments as in your 401K, dollar cost average will buy you more shares in those dips and give you a better average cost.

The best part of your plan is to begin making regular investments as part of your routine budget. Over time "pay yourself first." As you get raises and promotions, make sure some of those gains go into your investment plan. Steadily increase your saving rate when you have the resources.

Best of luck with your choices. I agree an S&P 500 or total market index fund is the best way to begin. Once you pass the $10K mark it can be ok to start investing in individual stocks. CAPs is an excellent way to test your stock picking skills. Once you can consistently beat the average, investing in stocks is ok. Until then use mutual funds or etfs and let the pros do the stock picking.
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