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Greetings, Judymaisonneuve, and welcome. You wrote:

<<I am a teacher, and I have found the accounts available to me (TSA's or 403(B)'s)do not gain a lot. One of funds hasn't done any better than about 2%. I want to retire in about 7 years, and I need to get the best return possible.

Here are my questions:

1.Would I be better off (meaning would I get a better return) by just investing in mutual funds?
2.As a teacher, can I invest in a Roth IRA as well as in TSA's? >>

It may be possible for you to improve the selection of funds available to you by arranging for a transfer of the money to what's called a 403b(7) account with another mutual fund family that accepts such accounts. Both Vanguard and Fidelity do, and both provide a wide selection of funds from which to choose. If you have a 403b plan that does not fall under ERISA (i.e., there is no matching contribution by the employer), then you should be able to arrange for such a transfer.

As to investing in mutual funds on an after-tax basis versus the pre-tax contributions you now make in the 403b, you must do a tax-equivalent analysis of both options based on the investments within each. I suggest one way to do that in Step 4 of my 13 Steps to Foolish Retirement Planning at Run similar numbers for yourself, and the choice should be clear.

Yes, you may use a Roth at the same time as you use the 403b plan. Use of the 403b plan only affects your ability to make a deductible contribution to a traditional IRA. It has no effect on the use of a nondeductible traditional IRA or a Roth IRA.

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