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I'm not an expert, but I've been toying with the same questions recently.

I went with the 500 Index... no brainer, safe, stable. The other Vanguard funds are good for long-term growth, but might cost more to manage.

If you buy directly into the Vanguard 500 Index, outside of a Roth, don't you have to pay an ugly commission each time you buy? I think the Roth method might cost less in commissions since you can contribute monthly.

Hopefully someone can either confirm or dispell these guesses...
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