It’s not uncommon to see green on St. Patrick’s day, but there’s usually more green to go around this time of year when you get your tax refund. Obviously, your tax refund is simply the excess money you paid to Uncle Sam throughout the year and the result of getting the tax deductions and credits you deserve, but it’s still a nice little bonus if you happen to get one. Instead of wasting the money, if you plan ahead you can turn your tax refund into your own little St. Patrick’s Day pot of gold.
Above all else, try to come up with a plan for the tax refund money before you even receive it. One of the worst things that can happen is you don’t have a specific goal in place for the money and it just gets deposited into your checking account.
It sits there and slowly, day by day, you chip away at the money without even realizing it. A few months later it’s gone and you’re not even sure where it went. So, don’t let this happen to you and come up with a use for the money before you have a chance to spend it.
Knock Down Debt
If I told you about an investment that had a guaranteed return of 15-30 percent or more, you’d probably view that as a little pot of gold and would like to invest, right? Well, if you carry a balance on a credit card, you can achieve these rates of return easily.
Most credit cards have an annual rate of anywhere from around 12 percent all the way up to 30 in some cases. Any balance you leave on that card will rack up those finance charges. For example, carrying a $2,500 balance on a card with a 25% APR will cost you $625 in interest a year!
That’s a lot of money being spent on nothing but the privilege of using a credit card and not paying it off right away. So, if you’re getting a tax refund this year and you’re carrying any high-interest credit card debt, one of the best things you can do is to use it to pay down the debt. It’s the easiest way to generate your own personal pot of gold even if you don’t see the total benefit immediately.
Padding Your Golden Years
What if you don’t carry credit card debt? There are still a few good uses for that tax refund. Chances are you haven’t been maxing out your IRA or 401k, and that’s OK. It’s difficult to fully fund these accounts with so many other financial obligations, but it’s something that should not be overlooked or pushed to the back burner just because retirement may be a few decades away.
If there’s tax refund money coming your way, consider dumping it right into an IRA or bump up your 401k contribution at work to make up for the extra money. If you thought paying off a credit card with a tax refund provided a good rate of return, you haven’t seen anything yet. Take that $2,500 tax refund and stick it into your retirement account. Even if you only see a modest return of around 5 percent a year, this year’s tax return would turn into a $8,500 pot of gold in about 25 years.
That may not seem like a lot, but what happens if you take your $2,500 tax refund each year and do the same thing? Now you’re thinking. If you did this, in 25 years your pot of retirement gold would be over $130,000. Think about that for a minute. All you’re doing is taking your tax refund money, that typically gets spent on odds and ends, and significantly padding your nest egg with virtually no effort.
Have a Little Fun
Paying down debt, saving for retirement, or building an emergency fund are not exactly the most exciting things to do with your tax refund money, but the results over time are more than worth it. If your financial house is pretty much in order already, then having a little fun with the money isn’t a bad idea if done right.
Instead of blowing it on a new laptop, television, or other gadget that will be thrown to the curb in a few years, think about long-lasting lifestyle upgrades like making sensible home improvements, which will not only provide enjoyment while you’re living there, but can increase the value of your home, which can put more money in your pocket when it’s time to sell.
Haven’t Filed? You Can Still File so You Can Get Your Pot of Gold
If you haven’t filed your taxes yet you can still file so you can get your tax refund. TurboTax will help you get the tax deductions and credits you deserve and help you keep more of your hard-earned money and turn it into a pot of gold.