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Hi guys

I am a totally novice investor. I want to set up the 401 account with my company, since they are matching 6% of my pay. My mind went to totally blank when I saw these many choices my company offers in the 401 account. Can any of you be kindly enough to take a look and give me some suggestions which ones I should choose and how much to allocate? I really appreciate your help!


Hello,

Lots of suggestions, don't know where to start. One practical matter is that when you want to post tabular data to this board -- which seems to have been what you started out with -- you should use the option at the bottom of the message entry screen that says

"Table Data (fixed-width font, enter your own line breaks)"

That way, your columns would stay aligned and be more readable to others. Right now, they all run together in proportional spaced fonts.

After that, your most immediate need is to understand all those fund categories that your list included; to learn how to judge the quality of the funds included therein; and to decide what kind of portfolio balance suits you personally, and meets your financial needs.

One doesn't need to devote a lifetime to it, but one DOES need to take the task seriously. That's why it's very dangerous to take the advice that one of us might give you, without having any idea whether we have any clue what we are talking about. Or, for that matter, whether we are trying to help you reach YOUR goals, or instead, preaching to you and trying to sell you on our OWN personal tastes in investment styles.

That's a big issue and it's something you can only decide for yourself -- but obviously, you can't decide it without information. There is a lot of research involved to understand what is contained in each of those funds, as well as how some of them might change over the course of time -- with or without action on your part.

You listed funds from Vanguard, Dreyfus, and T.Rowe Price. Those are all well-regarded companies, for different reasons. They have strengths and weaknesses, and unlike some folks, I would not make a blanket statement about any of them. What's most important is that they are BIG companies, with lots of resources.

In other words: if you want to know about their products, you should be asking THEM. No, don't ask them for advice -- you won't be ready to evaluate its quality. Just scour their websites (or ask for printed materials by mail) that help investors out. I would bet that they all offer resources that go beyond mere sales brochures. But you should also get the sales brochures (or the online equivalent) so you'll know what every single one of those funds is for.

Frankly, for most of us, answering your question would require US to go look that stuff up for you. None of us has encyclopedic knowledge of every single fund, and none of us are paid to be here. The best we can do is provide a few tips and give you guidance on how to help yourself. Because self-reliance and independence should be your goal.

Besides any how-to primers that those fund companies might offer, You can of course buy books about mutual fund investing. Some folks here are fond of suggesting various titles. You are free to pursue that angle if you want; I have generally gotten my information in bits and pieces over time, rather than trying to learn it all at once. But that's a personal choice, and besides, you probably have a deadline.

It will be very tempting to do all your research on the internet, but you have to be aware that there isn't very much information on the internet that isn't colored by selfish interest of some kind -- whether it's advertisers, or brokers trying to get your business, or whatever. So, stay on your toes!

The Motley Fool has resources to help understand mutual funds, and they are well-meaning, but not entirely authoritative. So it's a good start, but I would not stop there. This board has a lot of information but it is not designed to be a quick-and-easy brochure. So the best way to use it is to go back at least a few months and to read through as many messages as possible. It does not matter if you understand everything you read at first glance. Just plow through, you will start to pick things up that will fit into place for you eventually.

Oh, some final thoughts. 1) You will no doubt get tips and advice from friends, family, and/or co-workers. Be wary of such sources until you have your own grounding in the subject matter, so that you can distinguish a good tip from a bad one. 2) Once you get going, and have a lot of information under your belt, do not assume you are done. Instead, know that there are always new things to learn, and new ways to think about things that you've already encountered before.

Hope this helps. Good luck!
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