1. Decide If an IRA is REALLY What You Want
Read why my wife and I DO NOT have an IRA or 401k. Ask yourself why you want an IRA? Usually for tax benefits. However, with all the liquidation and investing limitations I seek tax benefits elsewhere. Yes, there are Alternatives to Traditional Retirement Accounts.
2. Find a Provider
I prefer Sharebuilder.com or Zecco.com. It depends on how envolved you want to be and how often you will make trades. Sharebuilder has $4 stock trades IF you have an automatic investing plan (you have an auto transfer to sharebuilder with an auto purchase set up). Zecco has $5 stock trades both ways (buy and sell), but takes a little more time to transfer money to and from your account.
3. Decide How Much You Want to Contribute
For 2012 you can contribute a maximum of $5000/year, unless you are older than 50. Then you can contribute $6000/year. Luckily, you can still contribute for the year 2011 until you file your taxes.
4. Fund It
Fill out the forms on the chosen website. Select your funding option. You can transfer a different IRA, rollover a 401k, or just contribute cash. Connect an account, wire the money, or send a check. You can even call a previous provider and have them send a check directly to your new provider.
5. Pick Your Investments
I can't help you too much with this one. I can say that I like ETF's. Mutual Funds cost too much and have to many downsides to them, like you can owe taxes even if you've lost money. Good Luck.
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