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4 Smart Things to Do with Your Tax Refund This Year

If you haven't gotten your Federal tax refund yet, fear not: Just enter your social security number , filing status, and expected refund amount at the IRS Web site to find out your refund status.

And when that refund appears in your checking account, a few thoughts might cross your mind. You'll realize you overpaid your taxes throughout the year, and wonder what to do with the windfall of your own cash. I can help you with that.

I know you'll want to blow at least some of the money on something frivolous. Rick, for example, always uses his tax refund to buy a few more Power Puff action figures. Resist the temptation, and consider some of these more worthy uses, courtesy of Kimberly Lankford at Kiplinger:

Pay off your credit card debt. There's no question that paying off our high-interest credit cards is the smartest way to spend a bundle of cash. It's like getting an 18% return on your investment.

Contribute to your retirement savings. You still have a few weeks (until April 15, in fact) to invest up to $5000 to your 2009 IRA. Or, if you've already maxed out your 2009 investments, contribute to your 2010 fund.

Build an emergency fund. Or rebuild it. Conventional wisdom calls for keeping about 6-month's salary in the bank for fast access. Personally, I'm nowhere near that level -- if catastrophe struck the Johnson household, I'd be living in a refrigerator box inside of 6 weeks. Don't follow in my footsteps.

Build a savings plan for your kids. These days, word is that a Roth IRA is a smart way to help your kid save for the future. As long as he or she had some income of their own this year, you can contribute up to $5000 by April 15.

Did you get a refund this year? How are you planning to use it? Sound off in the comments.

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