According to the Internal Revenue Service, through Feb. 20 the average tax refund received this tax season has been for $2,292, a 4.5% increase over last year.

We know the giddiness that accompanies a refund check from Uncle Sam. We can't help but think of all the possibilities: a cruise, a set of golf clubs, a rolltop desk, a week in the mountains... two grand can still buy a lot.

We don't want to discourage you from actually indulging in such luxuries, but may we suggest you put them off a bit -- say, 25 years?

In other words, instead of spending that refund now, invest that money in an individual retirement account (IRA), where the money will grow and help create truly golden years.

Someone who deposits $2,136 in a Roth IRA and is able to earn 8% a year for 25 years would add $16,823 to her nest egg. If her investment earns 10% a year (closer to the historical return on stocks), that two grand would grow to $27,634.

In case you were curious, contributing that $2,136 to an IRA every year for 25 years and earning 10% annually would hatch a nest egg of $269,653. Wow.

It's not too late to fund an IRA for 2003. The deadline is April 15, even if you've already filed your taxes. However, if you choose a deductible traditional IRA instead of a Roth, you'll have to refile to get the deduction. (Of course, it's not too late to file your taxes, either. Visit our Tax Center for help and tips.)

Don't know the difference between a traditional and a Roth IRA, or which is best for you? Looking for guidance on opening an IRA? Then visit our handy-dandy IRA Center. A quarter-century from now, when you're golfing in Scotland with your new clubs, you'll be happy you did.