Invest $500 a year for the next 10 years in the S&P 500 (an index of 500 diversified companies), and you'll end up with $7,195 — assuming the S&P earns its historical annual average of 11.91 percent — says Jennifer Ellison, CFA, a portfolio manager at Bingham Osborn & Scarborough LLC. (An index may do better than individual stocks because highs and lows even out.) The long-term profit potential is even more compelling. A 35-year-old woman investing $500 a year until she hits age 65 could amass $103,958 by the time she retires. (Just think of all the shoes you could buy with that nest egg!)

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