Getting started in investing

By riding a bicycle for transportation and bartering part of my time for lodging and food, I am able to save $200 a month from my income of $340 a month. I now have about $900 in one savings-and-loan and $150 in another. I would like to put money into a no-load mutual fund, but I'm concerned about investing without a broker. How much should I keep for a rainy-day fund? If I want to draw out some money for a vacation, should I set up a special account with a certain goal in mind or just pull it out of savings? F. W.

I suggest you combine your savings and put them into one no-load money market mutual fund. By combining the $900 and $150, you can meet the $1,000 initial deposit requirement of many funds, and your money is available at any time. Until you can put away about three months' expenses as an emergency fund, you should not be looking for investments in stocks or long-term CDs. I suggest you avoid the 30- month CDs because of their illiquidity. With the small amount of your savings, I suggest not joining a vacation savings club; instead add the same money to your no-load mutual fund. If you wish, you can keep your vacation contribution separate in your own account book to know when you've reached your goal. By keeping the vacation money in the money market fund, it will pay more interest than in a plain savings account.

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