5 Crazy Money Ideas That Just Might Work

From buying a second home to taking out life insurance on your parents, these aren’t standard tips.

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We've all heard the standard personal finance fare about saving more and spending less, repeated ad nauseum, so we were pleasantly surprised when five original money strategies floated across our radar recently. They are extreme, and not for everybody, which is why they're not on the lips of every finance guru out there. But for some people, they might just work.

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1. Buy a vacation home as soon as possible.

Casey Weade, a vice president of Howard Bailey Financial and a certified financial planner, says young people in their twenties and thirties should not only buy a first home, but should also consider buying a second home. As long as a young person is otherwise debt-free and on top of their finances, he argues that a second home can serve as a forced savings vehicle, a kid-friendly vacation spot, and a retirement home down the road.

"If you're in a neat area, then you can rent it when you're not there and let the place pay for itself," he says. Weade, who is moving to North Carolina, plans to take his own advice and look for a vacation home near the beach.

The downside: If your expenses go up or you lose your job, a second home is the last thing you want on the books. Also, rental income isn't guaranteed, and hidden costs from extra insurance to unexpected repairs abound.

2. Take out life insurance on your parents.

After maxing out his Roth IRA, Weade decided to take out a life insurance policy on his father. Then, when his father dies, he will collect the payout. Weade acknowledges this strategy will sound morbid to some, but he insists that it makes sense. "He's in really good health at 61, and I'm 25. In 30 years, I'll be 55 and he'll be over 90, and there's a low chance of living that long, so I'll get that tax-free benefit by age 55," he explains.

Weade calculates that his returns, after paying for the policy, will be at least 10 percent. "You have to be in a great relationship in order to do this. [Parents] have to understand the purpose and why it's beneficial," Weade adds.

The downside: If parents outlive a term policy, it may never pay out, and by that time, the insurer might not be willing to re-issue another one, explains Rita Cheng, a financial adviser with Ameriprise. (Some term insurance policies are convertible, she adds, which means they can be converted to cash value or a permanent policy prior to the end of the term.) Cheng says she doesn't usually suggest that people take out life insurance policies on their parents, but in some cases, life insurance policies that are structured properly can be a tax-efficient way to pass on wealth from parents to children.

3. Open up an extra credit card account.

People who take the "credit cards are evil" message to heart can find themselves in trouble when they want to borrow money for a house or car, since lenders want to see some experience with credit. Opening up credit card accounts and paying them off on time each month can help build a solid credit history and avoid that predicament. That way, when you need to take out a big loan for a house or a car, lenders will be competing for your business. (Other ways to build credit include opening utility accounts in your own name. Becoming an authorized user on accounts owned by others, such as spouses or parents, can also help.) Multiple accounts also provide an extra buffer in case of accidental account freezes, lost cards, and other problems.

The downside: If an extra credit card serves as a temptation to spend more, it can lead to a debt snowball effect.

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4. Overpay the IRS.

Most Americans make the mistake of overpaying the IRS throughout the year. Many financial experts point out that anyone who does this is floating Uncle Sam a loan free of charge. But is doing so really a mistake? Getting a tax refund every April can serve as a method of forced savings (or splurging, depending on one's priorities).

Getting a slightly higher paycheck every two weeks instead of that April bonus can make it harder to track the extra money. Tax refunds, on the other hand, are easy to track, since taxpayers receive the money in one lump sum. An ING Direct survey found that most refund recipients save the money or use it to pay off debt. The average refund is $3,000, according to the National Endowment for Financial Education, which is no small safety net.