Open IRA first--and fast

Question: I am 29 and I work for a family owned retail business that does not offer a retirement plan. Currently my husband does have one through Marquette University, which is his place of employment. I don't really know where to start since I have to find one on my own, and I am wondering if I should just stick with my bank or if there is a lot of competition out there as far as rates of return, etc. Basically, my question is, how much time should I take when searching or are they all pretty similar plans so to keep things simple, I should just stick with my bank. Nikki, Milwaukee, WI

Answer: My first reaction is for you to go ahead and open up an IRA at your bank. Just do it. It's easy to do online or in person.

Even though you aren't quite sure where you would like to put your retirement money long-term, you'll potentially pay a large penalty by waiting and researching. You can always shift the account to another financial institution and change your mix of investments. What you can't get back is time.

You can contribute up to $5,000 a year into an IRA funded with pretax dollars or a Roth- IRA funded with aftertax dollars.

There is a lot of competition for your money. The differences in investment choices are profound, too. So, while you're contributing to your newly opened IRA I would look at two books for some guidance. One is The Random Walk Guide To Investing by Burton Malkiel and the other is Smart and Simple Financial Strategies for Busy People by Jane Bryant Quinn. You can then decide if the bank and its products suits you'll or if it better for you to move the money elsewhere. Meanwhile, your retirement savings pot is growing.

About the author

Chris Farrell is the economics editor of Marketplace Money.
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Since Nikki's husband works in higher education, she may be eligible to open her IRA (or Roth IRA) through the entity that carries Marquette's retirement program. If it is TIAA-CREF, I am almost certain that is the case. She might want to look into that. It might give her more investment options than her bank will.


A lot of people these days are also looking to invest in real estate with their IRA money. Real property that is rented out, especially in parts of the country where prices are down but rents have maintained, offer excellent returns just from cash flow. Once the markets rebound the opportunity for further gains from the price appreciation also are excellent. There are numerous IRA institutions that offer the ability to hold these types of assets in IRA's.
For more on this go to <a href="http://propertymortgageinvestment.com/discount-investment-property-%E2%8... estate investing with IRA money!</a>.

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