Q What does a college student do with $5,000 that he won't necessarily need for a while but will most certainly need after graduation? I put it in a certificate of deposit for nine months at 2.2 percent, which I don't think was the best idea. But I needed to get it out of my 0.3 percent savings account.
Christian (age 21)
You had the right idea. If you need the $5,000 in the next few years, you would want to place the money in a short-term investment, such as a CD or a higher-yielding money market account.
The advantage of the money market account over a CD is that you have greater access to your money if you need it. There could be a penalty if you cash in a CD early.
Jeff McGrath (34) and Sarah Boyd (23)
Q My company doesn't match in my 401(k). I haven't put money into the 401(k) since there is no incentive to use their plan. What are my alternatives?
If your company matches part of your 401(k) contributions, you should contribute at least enough to grab this free money. It's like automatically receiving a 100 percent return on your investment plus the added tax benefits.
If they do not match your contribution, consider a Roth IRA.
The 401(k) allows you to use earned income before it is taxed and defer the taxes until you withdraw the money. You may contribute up to $13,000 of your earnings in 2004 and there are no income limitations.
With a Roth IRA, you contribute after-tax dollars but never pay taxes on your money again. You must be disciplined enough to put the money away. You can solve this problem by setting up an automatic transfer from your bank account the day you receive your paycheck. Your can contribute $3,000 a year, and your personal income can't exceed $110,000 if you are single or $160,000 if you are married.
Joe Pitzl (23) and Casey Diderrich (23)