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I know NOTHING, but I have a retirement fund check needing to be cut, made out to a qualified retirement fund, and I plan to keep the money in for about 30 years. I don't want to do much with it besides let it grow, but I need to get something going ASAP...ideas for the average uneducated Fool in a hurry?
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By implication of the title of your message, I am guessing that you are going to receive a "retirement check" from your (ex)spouse's retirement plan coincident with a divorce. In this regard you ahve at least three options:

1. Take the check, in which case the plan adminstrator will be obligated to withhold 20% for federal taxes. Then you can either:

a. rollover the balance into a Conduit IRA; or
b. put the money in your checking account and declare the distribution as income.

2. Have your attorney draft a QDRO (Qualified Domestic Relations Order) & have said order served on the plan administrator. Then you can:

a. Keep the funds invested, right in the plan where it currently is, but under your name.
b. Perform a trustee-to-trustee transfer where 100% of the balance is directly transferred to a conduit IRA of your choice with no taxes withheld.

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Greetings, RobinRice, and welcome. You asked:

<<I know NOTHING, but I have a retirement fund check needing to be cut, made out to a qualified retirement fund, and I plan to keep the money in for about 30 years. I don't want to do much with it besides let it grow, but I need to get something going ASAP...ideas for the average uneducated Fool in a hurry?>>

TheBadger provided you an excellent outline of your choices on how to take that distribution. As to what to do with it after it's in hand, that's another story. You have indicated that all you wish for it to do is to compound for the next 30 years or so. You've also said you know nothing about investing. We can't possibly advise you what to do with the money. I will suggest, though, that with 30 years before you need to see it, you should be willing to take some risk with it. The higher the risk, the greater the potential for reward in terms of return. Since 1926 history shows that over 30 years stocks have never lost to any other investment; however, they are highly risky in the short run. Even when they fall 20% or more in value, the market has always recoverd and gone on to newer highs. That's no guarantee that will always happen, but there's nothing to indicate it won't, either. Therefore, if you can withstand the temptation to sell when the market falls, you may wish to strongly consider an investment in the stock market. Even so, there's no hurry. For now, you could just park the money in a money market fund for a few months and take some time to learn a few things.

You have wandered into a forum that believes you, as an individual, can do far better for yourself than most professional money managers. Provided, that is, you take some time to learn a few basic investment concepts and do some self-examination to see where you fit on the risk tolerance scale. Therefore, why not take some time now -- not later -- to be sure about what you want to do. Start first by reading The 13 Steps to Investing Foolishly, which you can access from the main, opening screen to The Motley Fool. They will suggest some important things you should consider. Then I suggest you toddle over to your local library, discount bookstore, or even here in the Fool Mart, and pick up some easily read, easily understood, inexpensive texts that will thoroughly explain how to invest in stocks using some simple systems that will take but an hour per year of your time (if you're slow) yet produce returns that put the majority of professional money managers to shame. I suggest and commend the following to you: "Beating the Dow" by O'Higgins; "The Dividend Investor" by Petty and Knowles; "The Motley Fool Investment Guide" by the Gardner brothers; "One Up on Wall Street" by Lynch; and "What Works on Wall Street" by O'Shaughnessey. All are well worth their low cost and the small investment in time it takes to read them. Get them and read them. You'll be glad you did.

While you're doing all that, also take some time to explore the various nooks and crannies of Fooldom to see what others are doing and what they're discussing. I also recommend you read my 13 Steps to Foolish Retirement Planning and my Foolish Retirement Plan Primer at http://www.fool.com/Retirement/Retirement.htm . Both will give you some insight as to what you can do. In the process of all that reading, you'll gain a wealth of knowledge and information that will serve to clarify how you want to approach this very personal issue. Don't be afraid to ask a question anywhere in Fooldom. Folks around here are great about answering questions and clearing up misunderstandings.

Regards.......Pixy
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Everything Pixy says is true. I write only to address your desire to do something in a hurry. (I suspect it would take months to follow all of Pixy's advice, even if you weren't rearranging the rest of your life at the same time.)

Since you have a 30-year time horizon, you can reasonably put your money into a stock market index mutual fund. Vanguard's 500 Index Fund, for instance. There are no fees to get in or out of this fund, and the overhead is extremely low, about 0.2% a year. The fund is volatile, as is the stock market, but over the long term, returns should be good. Just be reasonably sure that money you invest is money you won't need for more than a few years. That way you'll be able to ride out market dips, and make a long-term profit.

Then, when you get around to Pixy's reading list, you will find that index funds are one of the Foolish Steps. You may someday get beyond, or you may not.

Live long and prosper!

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