Well, I probably should have been a little more clear - my vision didn't involve me living solely upon the returns of my investments, as I don't really have that kind of money to invest, but more that those investments would hopefully be substantial enough by then to allow me a financial leg-up. That sounds suspiciously like I'm backtracking here...hm.
Okay, as a for instance - let's say I'm 30 and I've established a pretty basic lifestyle: apartment, a bike rather than a car, probably a dog as I can't see myself living without a dog ever, and some form or another of work. I'm majoring in philosophy and minoring in history right now, and while there aren't nearly as many job opportunities tailor-fit to those studies as there would be to organic chemistry and biology, neither is there a complete dearth of work. I also don't expect to stick strictly to what I've learned in school - a degree is a degree.
I've a plan to look around for work in a publishing house, law office, or accounting firm when I get back from overseas next year, so one way or another I'll be furthering the knowledge I'm interested in pursuing. But assuming those potential jobs don't pay so well, or in the not-too-unlikely event I'll be largely freelance, I don't want to be forced to live off of credit cards (no matter how responsibly I'd do so) or take out loans or (heavens forfend) call my mom up for a little help. I do want to be able to take vacations, I do want to be able to get my dog the good dog food, I do want to be able to visit my family wherever they may roam, and occasionally I do want to be able to do stuff for me, like add to my wardrobe or splurge at Williams Sonoma. I don't really expect it to be much, but on the other hand I know it'd be virtually impossible without some serious preparation first, even for those relatively modest goals.
Of course, as you say, everything may change and I might find myself somewhere completely different by the time I'm 30, but at least I'll have something reliable to fall back on - and not just my emergency fund.
As per the consultant, I'd normally agree with you, but my IRA is with USAA, and their people are salaried. I'm still a little wary, because I don't know the in-depth details of their policy regarding their clients, but still... I feel better about it than I would going to an independent company like Vanguard, for instance, even though they do come so highly recommended. Even with her advice, I'm thinking of going with a more aggressive fund, so while I appreciated her advice, I'm not certain I'm going to follow it just yet.
The index funds that are available to me through USAA aren't really an option, unfortunately, though they are very appealing prospects. Most of them require a minimum balance of $10,000 to open, which I don't have just yet. Some of them can't be opened within the IRA I've already set up... So I'm looking into equity funds as my best bet right now. There's a good mix of international and domestic funds in some of them, and I'm going to be calling USAA back again today to baffle them with more brilliant questions.
Nothing new to report today, I guess. Thanks for your input, plonkee! Life has been getting a little more hectic here at home, so it was nice to receive an email notification reminding me to visit GRS and catch up.
More to come soon. Cheers, all!