When a federal tax refund check popped into George Schmidt's mailbox Monday, he knew exactly what to do with his $600.
He put it in the bank.
Instead of "jump-starting" the economy, he's giving himself a boost.
"They send me money and I put it in the bank and say, 'Thanks,'" said Schmidt, 43, a Southwestern Bell employee from Kansas City, Mo.
President Bush said he hoped the tax rebates would boost a sagging economy, giving people enough to pay for that DVD player, vacation or shopping spree.
But financial planners say individuals can help themselves by saving the money. And taxpayers say they had other plans for the refunds, including sharing it with Bush's next opponent.
Refund checks will be arriving in mailboxes during the next 10 weeks, returning as much as $300 to single taxpayers, $500 to single parents, and as much as $600 to couples.
Over the long haul, the money could be worth a lot more, experts say.
"We advise people to have their money achieve their financial goals," said Harold T. Pearce, a certified financial planner and president of David M. King & Associates LTD, 1425 Oread West, Suite 106.
Good starting place
Although people's needs and goals are different, Pearce said, the refund checks could be the seed money for a nice little nest egg.
By his math, a $600 investment earning 10 percent interest after 30 years would be worth $10,470.
"I think that makes a difference, even with inflation," Pearce said.
Evelyn Senecal, a certified financial planner with American Express Financial Advisors Inc., 945 Mass., said her clients would probably save their refunds. But she worried others might not be looking to the future.
"I think the average person is going to spend it on things they held out on," she said. "Maybe a car repair or fix the air conditioning something that's needed, that could be held off."
Callie Parrott, 29, an artist for Hallmark Cards Inc. and Kansas University student, said she was going to use the refund to pay for her wedding.
"It's only 300 dollars," she said. "It's not like I can go out and buy a car."
Parrott said she didn't mind getting the money but disagreed with the tax cut.
"They should have kept the money to help people in greater need," she said.
Jon Jones and his wife, Miko Nakashima, of Lawrence, said the government should have kept the money to help poor people, and improve education and health care.
To Bush's opponent
But with their $600, Jones said they would pay bills, student loans and "donate a little to whoever runs against George W. next time."
"You get $300 in a refund and we're going to lose thousands in services by the time things are over," said Jones, 34, a Lawrence attorney.
While some people may think about donating their refunds, local organizations such as the United Way and the KU Endowment are not directly asking for the refund money.
"We will be very happy to accept anyone's donation from the refund or anything else," said Diane Silver, senior editor at KU Endowment. "But we don't have a program in place to solicit donations."
At Lawrence Bank, officials hope to lure new customers by offering them a $10 bonus if they open an account with their tax refund money.
"Quite a few people have called about it, but nobody has come in at this point," said Tricia Boyd, assistant vice president. She said it was too early to tell whether the promotion would work because the first round of checks just arrived this week.
But she said she knew what she planned to do with her refund: pay a few bills, use some for vacation, and save.
Boyd's advice: "I think I could see people saving half and spending half."