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It is more important what you do with your money after you earn it than how (or how much) you earn. The key is NOT to spend all of your earns given that there are only three ways to make money: land, labor or capital.

As a starting investor, first establish your emergency reserve fund while eliminating all debt. As your grandparents lived, if you don't have the cash to buy the thing(s) you want then you save until you can afford it. Debt is the number one enemy of financial independence, ergo credit is the number one evil...path to slavery.

This aside, self directed IRA's tend to be better than 401k's because the traditional IRA provides you greater options than the hand full of mutual funds typically offered in a 401k. In an IRA you can start with core ETF's that function like mutual funds but don't have the fees as they trade like stocks. XLI (the industrial ETF) is hot right now, but there are many options.

Must of the discount brokers have no fee IRA's with low trade costs, so look at a few and the save as much of your earnings as possible after you have achieved an adequate emergency fund of at least 2-months income.
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