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I for one don't have a problem with maxing out the 401k and investing in the S&P with it. It's really important to get a retirement fund started as early as possible to get the maximum benefit from compounding. The S&P is an excellent core investment to do it with.

The 401K will reduce your taxes, but it will also reduce the money you net. So overall, you'll have more money but some of it will be in the 401K. You could consider just investing in the 401K to the extent of the employer match and then puting the rest in a Roth (my choice) and investing the Roth through a broker. That would enable you to get a solid start on retirement and still invest in regular stocks.
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