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Archive for Monday, March 31, 2003

Ways to put tax refund to work

Using money to pay off credit cards tops list

March 31, 2003

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Lucky enough to get a refund check from the IRS and not sure what to do with it?

Here are five ideas for that or any other chunk of change you might have sitting in your checking account or stuffed under your mattress:

l Pay off credit cards. If your credit card offers a "low" 9.9 percent rate, paying off your balance is the equivalent of a risk-free 9.9 percent return on your investment. Where else can you get that? If you can't pay off all your cards, pay down the one with the highest interest rate, or pay off one with a small balance that you can eliminate in one fell swoop.

l Put it into your mortgage. If you're a candidate for refinancing, putting some cash into the deal to cover costs will make your monthly payments even lower. If refinancing doesn't make sense for you, just mail your mortgage servicing company extra money with a note asking that it be applied to principal.

l Lend it back to Uncle Sam. EE savings bonds currently offer 3.25 percent interest; I bonds, 4.08 percent. The rate adjusts every six months.

l Park it in a high-yield checking account. Some banks offer tiered checking accounts with higher rates for higher balances. With a balance of at least $5,000, you can earn 2 percent at some institutions until you decide what else to do with your money.

l Give your IRA a cash infusion. Got an old retirement account withering away from the stock market's slump, lack of new contributions or both? If you had earned income, you have until April 15 to make a 2002 contribution: up to $3,000, or $3,500 if you're 50 or older.

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