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This Web site contains a compilation of more than a thousand consumer finance  columns written by Tony Novak from the 1980s through 2006, updated and reformatted for maximum usefulness today.  New material was added after 2010.

Content is the opinion of the author and does not represent the position of any other person or entity. Information is from sources believed to be reliable but cannot be guaranteed.

The author is paid for product endorsements and has an ownership or other financial interest in the businesses related to the topics covered.

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First investment

originally posted: 11/22/2006  reposted: 2/18/2011 This post has not been recently reviewed or revised by the author and may be out of date. If you notice an error or are in doubt, please send a new question by email or ask for an update. Email

Q: I heard that an “S&P 500 Index Fund” is the best choice for a first investment. Do you agree?

A: Yes. “S&P” refers to Standards and Poors, a reliable provider of investment data and news. The “500” means the largest companies in the U.S. – not bad company as far as investing goes. “Index fund” refers to a mutual fund that offers shares to the public. If you are starting out with a small balance and plan to add to the account over time, use the well-established Vanguard Index 500 fund. If you are investing a single lump sum, use “SPY” an exchange-traded fund with lower costs and even better performance. Accounts are available directly to the public or can be set up through OnlineAdviser service.


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