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All Contents © 2019The Kiplinger Washington Editors
By the editors of Kiplinger's Personal Finance
| From Kiplinger's Personal Finance, February 2018
Got some extra cash? Perhaps you’ve earned a year-end bonus, or received a generous holiday check from Grandma, or banked a hefty tax refund from Uncle Sam. We suggest how to invest, spend and splurge with that money, plus ways to give back with it. Take a look.
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Move over China; it’s India’s turn. Thanks to tax and economic reforms, India is poised for a multiyear cycle of increasing business and consumer investment and higher productivity. A recent Harvard University study predicts 7.7% annualized growth in the country’s gross domestic product through 2025. (By contrast, the study forecasts 4.4% and 2.9% annualized growth in China and the U.S., respectively.) To get a piece of India’s expansion, stash $1,000 in iShares MSCI India ETF (INDA), which invests in large and midsize firms, and hold for the long haul. The fund has $1 billion in assets and charges the lowest annual fee of its peers, 0.79%. INDA climbed 28.5% over the past 12 months.
Target-date mutual funds are one-stop shops for retirement savers. Instead of managing your own portfolio of diversified assets, the pros do it for you. Year after year, a target-date fund’s managers will adjust the mix of stocks and bonds so the portfolio grows more conservative as it nears the year you expect to retire. Two of our favorite series, the Vanguard Target Retirement and T. Rowe Price Target Date
funds, come with excellent long-term track records. Aiding performance in both cases are low expense ratios and a higher-than-average allocation to stocks over time. One major difference in the funds’ approach: The Vanguard funds adhere to a fixed glide path (the change in asset mix over time), whereas the managers at T. Rowe tweak the funds’ allocations based on their assessment of market conditions. The Vanguard funds have a $1,000 minimum, and T. Rowe’s minimum is $2,500, or $1,000 if you purchase shares for an IRA.
These three rewards cards offer a generous kickback if you spend at least $1,000 in the first three months after opening an account:
BankAmericard Travel Rewards—our pick for the best no-fee travel card—offers 20,000 points (worth $200 in travel redemptions).
American Express Blue Cash Preferred
($95 annual fee) recently provided a $200 cash bonus. (Plus, with a 6% rebate on up to $6,000 spent yearly at supermarkets, it’s our favorite card for grocery purchases.) And for those who often choose Hilton hotels, the Amex Hilton Honors card offers 50,000 extra points.
You could cover some condo fees, pay for necessities such as window coverings or a lawn mower, or help your kids make their home their own with cosmetic changes or furniture. Or you could give them a gift card to a home-improvement store such as Home Depot, whose gift card has no fees or expiration date.
Craft breweries are bubbling up all over the country, so why not try your hand at brewing a batch at home? Assuming you’re serious about your suds, figure on spending at least $200 to buy the equipment and ingredients you need for your first batch, which typically runs up to 5 gallons. To find suppliers near you, a good place to start is the Home Brewers Association. If you like the results and want to become more involved in the hobby, switch from bottles to kegs to avoid the upkeep and cleaning involved with bottling. Be prepared to spend up to $1,000 on supplies to start kegging.
Knives and cookware are just as important to your cooking as an oven or stove, says Lance Nitahara, a chef and instructor at the Culinary Institute of America. Sharp, durable knives will make the prep faster and easier, whether you’re butchering a whole chicken or slicing basil into a chiffonade. The 19-piece set from German blade-maker J.A. Henckels ($230 on Amazon) should do the trick. For cookware, stainless steel is standard in professional kitchens, says Nitahara. “It’s nonreactive, looks nice, cleans easily and lasts a long time.” A 10-piece set from All-Clad (list price: $700) comes with pots and pans for most of your cooking needs. Round out your set with a 7.5-quart Lodge enameled cast-iron Dutch oven ($100 on Amazon)—perfect for stews and braises.
A survival kit should provide essential needs for 72 hours in case of an emergency or natural disaster. Basic supplies include one gallon of water per person per day, nonperishable food items, a flashlight, extra batteries, a battery-powered or hand-crank radio, and a first-aid kit. Don’t forget medications, important documents and pet supplies. (For more items, check out FEMA's Basic Family Emergency Supply list.) With a $1,000 budget, you could also toss in sleeping bags for each member of your family, a portable stove and cooking supplies, and some extra cash.
With one grand, you could create an appetizing itinerary in a foreign country. For example, you could spend 10 days on a food-and-sightseeing tour of Vietnam, including transportation within the country and lodging in a private room, through Go Asia Travel for $859. Several meals starring local cuisine come with the package, plus a cooking class in Hoi An, fishing for squid during a cruise of Halong Bay and a ride to the Cai Be floating market, where locals exchange goods on their boats. Airfare is extra; we recently found flights from Chicago arriving in Hanoi and departing Ho Chi Minh City (to match the tour’s first and final stops) in May for $952.
Months have passed since a trio of hurricanes slammed the Caribbean and U.S. and wildfires ravaged parts of California (although new fires have made headlines recently). But plenty of work remains, such as rebuilding homes, schools and roads. Eileen Heisman, chief executive of the National Philanthropic Trust, recommends giving a $1,000 lump sum to a single organization with expertise on how to allocate the funds to meet current needs. Locate funds dedicated to medium- and long-term rebuilding for recent disasters through the Center for Disaster Philanthropy (look under “Disasters”). The website of the National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster also lists nonprofits currently responding to disasters. Or look up the website for the local community foundation that serves an affected area for information about its relief fund to benefit residents.
A grand will get you the essentials to fund a school-board campaign, such as voter files and campaign mailers. Start by contacting your state's election board to gain access to the files. The voter files for towns with populations of about 20,000 can cost as little as $700.
Opportunities to catch the hit musical about founding father Alexander Hamilton expand this year and next. On top of seven to eight weekly performances in New York and Chicago, the second U.S. tour will travel to Minneapolis, New Orleans, Greenville, S.C., and 40 other cities. In New York, a couple could recently purchase full-view seats in the orchestra for $449 each on a Wednesday night in March. For a Friday night in April in Chicago, we found five seats together in the balcony for $178 each. Further afield, ticket prices in St. Louis and in Portland, Ore., range from $80 to $500 each.
One week at an overnight camp runs from $200 to more than $1,500 per child, according to the American Camp Association. You can donate to the ACA’s Send a Child to Camp Fund; camps across the country apply to the ACA to pay for camp scholarships for kids with financial need. Or check a local community foundation to see if it has a fund that makes grants to organizations to send kids to camp.
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