Believing that time really is money, we at the Fool are big on cutting to the chase. Indeed, we've produced 60-second guides on such hot topics as getting out of debt and optimizing your mortgage.

Of our guides, two of my favorites are those that help you learn how to maximize your 401(k) and open an IRA. Taken together, these constitute an investing one-two punch that newcomers to the wonderful world of investing should find appealing. 401(k)s, after all, provide a way to invest while reducing your taxable income and perhaps pocketing some free moola in the form of your employer's matching contribution. IRAs, meanwhile, can provide a nice tax deduction if you opt for the traditional type or, if you go the Roth route, tax-free earnings and withdrawals, too.

Once you've decided to take advantage of these two vehicles, the next question is how to best put 'em to work. On that front, your employer's plan likely features a fat stack of mutual funds that you'll need to choose from, while with IRAs, you're free to invest as you see fit.

Before diving into either, you'll want to consider your temperament and tolerance for volatility. More buttoned-down types, for example, will likely favor value-priced, large-cap stocks like Caterpillar (NYSE:CAT), Valero Energy (NYSE:VLO), and Pfizer (NYSE:PFE) -- or the kinds of mutual funds that invest in them.

Aggressive types, meanwhile, may tilt toward growth-oriented picks such as Genentech, eBay (NASDAQ:EBAY), and Yahoo! (NASDAQ:YHOO) -- each of which sports a five-year earnings-growth forecast in excess of 20%. And don't overlook index funds: While even Grade-A index funds like the Vanguard 500 (FUND:VFINX) are basically destined to lag the market by roughly the amount of their expense ratios, an index tracker may be your 401(k) plan's best bet.

Putting it all together
If you're looking for specific, actionable guidance while contemplating your investment choices and temperament, consider taking the Fool's new GreenLight service for a spin. Thus far, we've highlighted racy growth stocks that look cheap plus smart ways of playing investment defense.

GreenLight covers personal finance as well, which is why I think of it as the Fool service that brings it all together for investing newbies. If you feel you could benefit from a little handholding as you begin your career as investor -- or if you're playing catch-up and could use a refresher course in the basics -- click here for a free 30-day guest pass to our archives, members-only boards and blogs, and the next issue, too. It hits the streets next Wednesday and -- just in time for the holidays -- zeroes in on giving the gift of investing.

Shannon Zimmerman runs point on the Fool's Champion Funds newsletter service and co-advises GreenLight with his pal Dayana Yochim. At the time of publication, he didn't own any of the securities mentioned above. Yahoo! and eBay are Motley Fool Stock Advisor picks. Pfizer is an Inside Value choice. You can check out the Fool's strict disclosure policy by clicking right here.