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Investing strategies

Choosing investment accounts

Deciding on an account type is easier than it might sound. It just comes down to the reason you're investing.
3 minute read

Points to know

  • You need an account to hold your investments.
  • Some accounts are meant for specific goals.
  • General accounts can be used for anything.

Accounts for common goals

There are specific types of accounts for certain goals, some of which offer tax benefits. If you're saving for college or retirement, start by looking at these account types.


If you're self-employed or own a business, there are specific types of retirement accounts just for you. For everyone else, a 401(k) or 403(b) plan (through your employer) or IRA (on your own) may be a good choice.

Find out more about IRAs

Find out more about small-business plans

Learn about saving for retirement


Start by considering a 529 savings plan or an UGMA/UTMA account. There are significant differences between the 2 account types.

Find out more about 529 college savings plans

Find out more about UGMA/UTMA accounts

Learn about saving for college

Accounts for everyone

If you prefer a little more flexibility, you can open a general investing account. With this type of account, you can buy and sell whenever you want, but you pay taxes on your investment earnings.

Find out more about general investing accounts

If you have an existing trust that's designed to control what will be passed down to your heirs and minimize estate taxes, you can open an account in the name of the trust. We recommend you talk to your attorney or tax advisor about whether this would be appropriate in your situation.

What's next?

Once you've got the basics down, it's time to choose your investments.

See how to find the right investments for you

Saving for retirement or college?

See guidance that can help you make a plan, solidify your strategy, and choose your investments.

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When taking withdrawals from an IRA before age 59½, you may have to pay ordinary income tax plus a 10% federal penalty tax. 

For more information about any 529 college savings plan, contact the plan provider to obtain a Program Description, which includes investment objectives, risks, charges, expenses, and other information; read and consider it carefully before investing. If you are not a taxpayer of the state offering the plan, consider before investing whether your or the designated beneficiary's home state offers any state tax or other benefits that are only available for investments in such state's qualified tuition program. Vanguard Marketing Corporation serves as distributor for some 529 plans.

All investing is subject to risk, including the possible loss of the money you invest.