Don't Spend Away Your Tax Refund

So you're one of the lucky taxpayers receiving an income tax refund this year? The IRS estimates that the average refund will be $2,548. While it's tempting to spend that chunk of change on a plasma-screen TV or a fabulous vacation, consider using it to firm up your financial future.

Bill Stroh, co-CEO of, says that "many tax refund recipients dream of ways to spend that cash. But before getting carried away in a spending fantasy, think long term. A tax refund is not really a windfall, but a return of your own money to you. Tax refunds are a forced savings plan from the IRS ... not a gift. That shift in your mind may make it less likely that you will squander the refund."

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Here's how you can spend your refund wisely:

Pay down debt. Use the refund to get rid of high-interest debt, such as credit-card balances. Stroh also suggests slashing your mortgage and car payments. Create an emergency fund. You should have six to nine months worth of living expenses in your fund. Your refund can provide a good foundation. Buy insurance. If you're not covered adequately with the proper health, auto, home or renters insurance, now is the time to get it. Save for retirement. Stash some of your refund into your 401(k), Roth IRA or other retirement-savings plan. Put the money back into your home. Take care of minor and major home maintenance so that you don't have to deal with bigger, more costly problems later.

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