How can I get on the right investment path after starting later in life?

I am beginning to invest a little late. I am 44 years old and only have a small amount in a ROTH IRA. I recently took a shot in the dark on a stock ($200) and have been watching it decline. I'm really not worried about it because this was just to "break the ice" so to speak. I have been doing a ton of research and have purchased a book. My question is, what can I do to get on track with a retirement investment account? Should I just dump a bunch of money into several Mutual Funds? Should I diversify with some Mutual funds and play the volatile market? Seems like things are in a downturn right now and soon could be a good time to invest. I would prefer to do this on my own and not pay a local Financial Advisor a bunch of money.

Asset Allocation, IRAs, Mutual Funds
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June 2017
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Congratulations!  You're getting started at least.  But if you fixate on costs and not benefits, you could make some serious mistakes.  Find a flat-fee planner.  We're worth every penny.

There is a sequence of priorities or "buckets" that you should fund.  

1. The first and most important bucket is an Emergency Fund, which needs to be 3-6 months living expenses.  This needs to be very liquid so you won't earn much on it.  I favor the virtual banks for this function.  This fund is important because if you lose your job, have health issues or other unexpected expenses you don't want to have to liquidate- and pay taxes on -your IRA portfolio when the market might be down.  So, unless you have a matched savings program through work, you have no business investing until this emergency fund is filled.

2.  If you haven't already, defer at least enough into your employer sponsored retirement plan to get the maximum match.  If you have no employer plan, work with your tax person to figure out if you qualify for the Saver's Credit.  This tax credit can be up to $1000 or half your retirement contribution.  If you make too much to qualify, then you should be able to afford maximum IRA contributions of $458/mo.  Remember that these contributions reduce your taxable income.  Most of the fund families make it very easy to set up IRAs and determine how to allocate.

3. If you still have money left in your budget, then you might toy with individual stocks, preferrably with dividend reinvestment programs (DRIPS).  

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