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By John W. Schoen Senior Producer
msnbc.com

Q:If you had $25,000 what would you invest in — i.e., real estate, stocks, or bonds? I am 40 years old. - Robert S.

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A: We get this question — or close variations of it — a lot at the Answer Desk. So for all those looking for the definitive answer, it is: “Yes.”

Investing makes sense no matter what age you are. It’s a lot better than working for a living. And history has proved pretty conclusively that keeping all your money in cash is not the wisest course.

Oh, you want to know which investment to make? No one knows that but you, and no one can invest “for you.” You can turn over your money to someone else who makes investment choices. But that’s not investing. That’s called picking a skillful investment manager. There’s something like 10,000 mutual fund managers waiting to put your money to work — for a fee.

If you want to invest on your own, you have to go shopping — just as you would for a car, or a house, or, for that matter, a spouse. When you understand what’s out there, learn what makes sense to you and what doesn’t, decide how much risk you want and how much you don’t, you’ll be ready to make a decision.

You’re bound to make some mistakes along the way. But that’s okay: Mistakes are usually more informative than successes if you remain calm and look carefully at what went wrong.

But there’s no such thing as a single, “right” investment. Even the “smart money” makes gigantic, dumb mistakes. (Like Long Term Capital Management — the hedge fund run by Nobel prize-winning economists that flopped on such a colossal scale the Federal Reserve had to step in to avoid a market panic.)

One other good piece of advice: Never, ever take investment advice over the Internet from someone you’ve never met.

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