From “Great Ideas for $1,000, $10,000 or $100,000” in February issue of Kiplinger’s Personal Finance:
Scoop up a credit card bonus: 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 percent rebate on up to $6,000 spent yearly at supermarkets, it’s a favorite card for grocery purchases.) And for those who often choose Hilton hotels, the Amex Hilton Honors card offers 50,000 extra points.
Go solar: Installing solar panels on your roof will cut your electric bills. Last year, you could have purchased an average-size, 5-kilowatt system for $10,045 to $13,475 after taking the federal solar tax credit (trade tariffs imposed in January will likely increase the cost). The credit reduces your income taxes dollar for dollar for up to 30 percent of the cost of a system you install on your primary or secondary home. Some states, local governments and utilities also offer incentives. Plus, your electric utility may pay you for any power that your system makes but you don’t use. In general, if your goal is to maximize your savings and increase your home’s value, and if you can take full advantage of the tax credit, you’ll do best if you buy your system instead of leasing it.
Use the Solar Calculator at EnergySage.com, an online marketplace where you can also get quotes from prescreened installers in 35 states and the District of Columbia.
Retire early: Perhaps you have more in your retirement accounts than you counted on after the nearly nine-year bull market, or maybe you received an unexpected windfall when a relative passed away. An extra $100,000 may be enough to let you retire a year earlier than you originally planned without jeopardizing your retirement security. Estimate how much you’ll need for living expenses, such as food and utilities, and put enough money to cover those costs for a year in a savings account. That will allow you to postpone claiming Social Security benefits. You can file for benefits as early as age 62, but your payments will be reduced if you claim them before full retirement age, which is 66 for people born between 1943 and 1954.
Keep in mind that if you retire before age 65, you’ll need health insurance until you’re eligible for Medicare. Under COBRA, you may be able to continue coverage under your employer’s health insurance plan for up to 18 months if you pay the full cost of your coverage.
(c) 2018 Kiplinger’s Personal Finance; Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.