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RISMEDIA, April 15, 2009-Plasma TVs. Getaway vacations. Shopping sprees. The tax refund splurges of years past are not a reality for most Americans in 2009. Many people are likely wringing their hands over what to do with the money they receive back from Uncle Sam. Their concerns are well-founded: It’s more important than ever to consider the right options for your refund.

It’s also the right time for refund recipients to consider meeting with a financial professional who can help establish financial priorities and goals.

“If you have outstanding bills or debts, take care of those matters first,” says Allstate Regional Financial Sales Leader Dan Mattingly. “But if you find you have money left over from your tax refund or have the full amount, don’t be scared of your options – be smart in your decisions.”

If you want your tax refund to work for you, consider the following options:

Set up an emergency savings fund. Simply essential. The old conventional wisdom advised saving enough money to cover three to six months of unemployment. Many financial professionals now recommend keeping enough money stashed away to cover six months to one year of unemployment.

Buy life insurance. Many people have only the life insurance plans offered by their employer, but your family needs protection whether you’re working or between jobs. There are two basic types of life insurance: term and permanent. A financial professional can help you determine the type and amount of protection you may need.

Contribute to or open an IRA. Yes, the market is unstable, but pulling out of a retirement plan altogether is not the answer. Both the traditional and Roth IRAs are great ways to save for retirement, although each offers different advantages. If you’re employed and have an IRA, continue contributing. If you’ve become unemployed, you might want to do a rollover from your retirement plan to a qualified IRA.

Purchase a CD. If you don’t need immediate access to your funds, you may benefit from the fixed interest rates available with a Certificate of Deposit (CD). You can buy a CD with a maturity or holding period as short as 30 days or as long as five years.

Start or add to a college fund. Pay for the present, or save for your child’s education? That’s the agonizing decision faced by many parents considering a 529 College Savings Plan. But what many parents may not know is that the plan portfolio has different investment allocations based on the age of your child.

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