Dear Dr. Don,
I've been eyeing a Roth IRA for a couple of years, but don't know how to get started or what brokerage to open it with. Also, do you have any suggestions on how to invest in my Roth IRA?
-- Sonya Selects
Assuming you qualify to contribute to a Roth IRA this tax year, you can choose to invest via a bank account, a brokerage account or by dealing directly with a mutual fund family. Your choice of custodian for the account should be based on how you want to invest the funds, and the fees and expenses associated with both the custodian and the investment.
I can't provide any specific investment advice because I don't know anything about you. The closer you are to retirement, for example, the more conservative you may want to be in your investments. If you're early on in your career, the stock market makes more sense -- even in today's market environment.
Bankrate's "What's your risk tolerance" quiz can help you decide how much risk to take on when you invest.
My rule of thumb for people just starting out investing is to concentrate their investments in a broadly diversified mutual fund rather then diversifying their investments among concentrated mutual funds.
A no-load stock index fund can keep costs down. A balanced mutual fund that invests in both a stock index and a bond index can also be a good choice if investing in just stocks doesn't match your risk tolerance and investment horizon.
If you need additional help, consider hiring a Certified Financial Planner. It is best to work with a fee-only planner rather than someone who works on commission.
It's easy to get nervous about making the wrong choice and put off investing in tax-advantaged retirement accounts. The irony is that putting off investing for your retirement is the wrong choice.
If you don't like where you have the account, or how the account is invested, you can change those things. But you won't get back the opportunity to contribute this year after the deadline for this year's contribution has passed.