Ask Money

What to do with a tax refund?

Chris Farrell Mar 18, 2009

Question: We are getting a hefty tax return this year (and yes, I had our tax accountant double check it three times!)– due to capital gains losses, losses on rental properties we have and loss of income for my husband. It’s a hefty 5 figure refund. I just don’t know what to do with it. Invest it? But where? Slit that mattress of ours? Money market? Savings? Any suggestions? Nancy, Berwyn, PA

Answer: Please, not in the mattress! It’s distressing enough that home safe sales are up during this financial crisis.

Seriously, if I were in your position I’d put the money right into an online savings account (FDIC insured), or some kind of comparable savings account backed by the full faith and credit of the federal government. This way you preserve the value of your unexpected “windfall” while you and your husband figure out the best use of the money. In light of all the economic uncertainty–and the losses you’ve suffered this past year–you may decide to keep it in a safe place in case you need it. On the other hand, you might want to pay down debt (always a good idea), invest in more education and skills for the job market, upgrade some aspect of your rental properties, or simply spend it in a way that adds to your life experiences.

But while you two talk it over, I would put it in a very safe place like a bank savings account or certificate of deposit–nothing fancy.

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