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By all means fund the Roth to the max. each and every year.

Your contributions to Roth's can be withdrawn at any time for any reason without penalty. The growth(capital gains and dividends, etc.) must remain for at least 5 years and age 59 1/2 except for a few special items. IRS Pub 590 is the main source for IRA rules.

A Roth can be used as an emergency fund after a few years when the total contributions equal what you want in your emergency fund. I don't know too many people who have needed to use their emergency fund to the amounts recommended so it helps to have it where you get some growth.

Setting up the Roth as a brokerage account is a great idea. Investigate brokers fees carefully, they do vary quite a bit. Some charge a custodial fee for Roth's (many don't),some have inactivity fees (some don't),some offer fee free reinvestment of dividends and will do partial shares (some don't), some charge a transfer fee to rollover a 401k to a self directed IRA(some don't). There is a great deal more to brokers fees than just trade commissions and your investment style will govern which set of fees are best suited to you.

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