Hopefully this helps folks to avoid my mistakes. I did a tally last night of the contributions I've made since I've been working back in the mid to late 90's, and it's sad but I'm negative
for that time period.
I had invested in the Vanguard Aggressive Growth initially, then didn't like the performance and rolled it over to the Strong Enterprise Fund (SENTX) which focused on midcap companies and had a good expense ratio way back when...unfortunately for me, Wells Fargo bought out Strong, raised the expense ratio by like 0.5% and it's horrible and I never rolled out of it.
So I put in about $17,500 of my own $$$ into this non-deductible IRA (not that much in the grand scheme of course) but it's worth only $17,000 right now...that's like 15 years of my life wasted on these investments when the "bank of the mattress" would've been safer.
Just negative compounding...in addition to 2 recessions and bad timing
So anyway lessons learned (and mistakes made by me) include doing LARGE lump sum purchases rather than dollar cost averaging since I never knew if I'd have the $$$ to put into an IRA until after I received a bonus since all other $$$ was allocated into other things (ie: 401K, mortgage and some non-retirement investments).
I would make $2000 or $4000 payments (back when the IRA limits were smaller) say right before April 15th for the previous year and the market was never in my favor as I never knew if I could afford to put the $$$ in.
Yeah, so I'm a tad discouraged about investing more $$$ in any IRA now...am thinking about rolling that Wells Fargo IRA into some Vanguard target fund to at least cut the expenses down (maybe the 2030?) .
Can't complain too much as my 401K is relatively healthy at the moment and I just re-allocated recently to match my age in terms of risks, etc
Hopefully others can avoid these mistakes that I've made, but life goes on and I'm healthy and pretty happy at the moment.