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10 Smart Things You Can Do With Your Tax Refund

10 Smart Things You Can Do With Your Tax Refund

It’s that time of the year again and you’ve been pretty diligent with your taxes, so you find yourself with an extra $2000 on your hands and you start wondering what to spend it all on. People often get confused when they get a relatively large sum of money and end up spending a good chunk of it without really knowing where the money went.  Well, spending your tax refund might be pretty easy, but it if you want to use this money wisely I suggest you take a look at some of options listed below.

Figure standing on money

    1. Pay off school loans

    Student loans can affect your life plans and even your partner’s plans for that matter. These loans can never be discharged, even in bankruptcy, and if you delay paying, your tax refunds can be seized, wages garnished and credit ruined.  Of all the debt you may have to pay, student loans should take top priority.  For young married couples, the problem can be doubled if both have student loans. Even if you are currently single you’ll want to pay off your student loans as quickly as possible, so you can move on with your life and worry about more important things.

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    2. Enhance your child’s college fund

    It’s never too early to start thinking about the future and when it comes to giving your child the best education you can afford, it’s good to start planning well in advance. A thousand dollars can be a nice starting point and help you get the ball rolling, so to speak. Check out your state’s 529 plans.

    3. Put it in your savings account

    Putting money into a savings account allows you to have peace of mind. When faced with potential problems and emergencies you will feel a lot less stressed out if you know that there are a couple of thousand dollars sitting on your account. Major home or car repairs, injuries, or an infestation in your home can come at the worst of times ,and having that little extra money saved for rainy days will reduce your stress immensely.

    4. Focus on big ticket buys

    Instead of frittering your tax refund away on a bunch of insignificant things that will be gone or unwanted in a short time, you can focus on investing in some big items that will last,  like a new fridge, a big screen TV, a new car or even a gaming console for your kid (or yourself). These purchases are good investments since you use them every day and they will last a long time.

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    5. Take a bite out of your credit card debt

    When it comes to debt, an extra $1000-$2000 can really help you move forward and start that debt-destroying tactic you’ve been trying to implement for a while. You’ve probably already discovered that paying just the minimum every month doesn’t reduce your debt by much, if any. Paying off a smaller debt first and then moving on to the next one until everything is paid off is a sound tactic, but with this sudden boost to your funds, you can focus on high-interest debt first and take a huge chunk out of it, saving yourself hundreds or even thousands of dollars of interest in the long term.

    6. Get a better cell phone

    Technology is getting better by the day, it seems,  and staying stuck with an old phone and a mediocre plan is far from ideal. If you use your phone a lot, and most people do, a tax refund can be a great opportunity for you to upgrade to a brand new cell phone and get a cell phone plan that fits your needs. If this means that you can get rid of a land-line phone, or keeps you from needing a laptop, it can save you money in the long run.

    7. Do some house maintenanc

    There are always a lot of things that need fixing around the house, things that we usually put off because we don’t have the time and money to deal with them. A tax refund is the perfect incentive to get some of the work done. You can repaint the house, fix the plumbing, buy some new furniture, get a couple of new lamps for the living room, get a new carpet, remodel your bathroom, improve security with a sturdy front door and new windows, invest in some landscaping, buy more energy-efficient appliances, etc. Your house is probably your largest investment, and taking care of it pays off.

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    8. Invest in acquiring new skills

    Having a range of useful skills doesn’t just look good on your resume – it can help improve the quality of your life or even help you earn a bit of money on the side. If you’ve always wanted to play an instrument or sing you can join a class or go to a vocal coach. Maybe you want to invest in a defensive driving course that will greatly improve your driving skills and lower your car insurance costs.  You could take a cooking course or buy a decent camera and start learning about photography. These skills can increase your enjoyment of life, and might also increase your income.

    9. Invest in your health

    Let’s face it, most of us need to take a good hard look at ourselves and make a few changes when it comes to our health. With some extra money on your hands you can afford to,join a gym, consult with a nutritionist,  and hire a personal trainer.  Maybe you’d like to combine acquiring new skills and healthy exercise by joining a dance or martial arts class. Investing in your health also means fixing your teeth, getting a checkup at the doctor’s office and stocking up on some supplements like D3 and fish oil.

    10. Allow yourself some luxury

    Sometimes you just have to give in to urges and pamper yourself a little, especially when you have a good opportunity to do so. You can use your tax refund to go on a little romantic trip with your partner, wine and dine at some higher-class restaurants for a while, take the kids to Disneyland or anything else that allows you to live life to the fullest and recharge your batteries. This way you are investing in your mental health and strengthening the bond between you and your loved ones. The important thing is to use only a portion of your tax refund on indulgence and dedicate the rest to things that will improve your life long-term.  Finding this balance is the key to enjoying your windfall.

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    People are often tempted to go wild and start spending their tax refund willy-nilly, losing hundreds of dollars on insignificant items bought on impulse. Try to fight this temptation and look into some of the smart options listed above that will help you put that extra money to good use.

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    Ivan Dimitrijevic

    Ivan is the CEO and founder of a digital marketing company. He has years of experiences in team management, entrepreneurship and productivity.

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    Last Updated on June 6, 2019

    The Average Retirement Savings and How to Save Wisely

    The Average Retirement Savings and How to Save Wisely

    Are you on track for retirement?

    If not, don’t worry, I’m not sure either. I save each month and hope for the best.

    Fortunately, I’m at an age where most people don’t save so I’m ahead of the curve.

    But, what if you aren’t in your 20s? What if you’re near retirement and are looking to gauge where you stand?

    If so, keep reading. Here’s how to prepare for retirement and save wisely during the process.

    What Does the Average American Have Saved for Retirement?

    Saving for retirement is tricky.

    Tell someone straight out of college to save $10k a year for retirement and it’ll be next to impossible.

    Make the same request to someone decades older and they’d be more likely to be able to save this amount. But, a 20-year old college student can be “financially ahead” of someone saving more than them. Why?

    Age matters in your financial journey. The younger you are, the more time you have to save and put compound interest to work. As you get older and have more saving power, you’d have less time to put compound interest to work.

    Here are the average savings Americans hold by age bracket:

    20’s – $16,000

    During this stage, most people are paying loans and moving up the corporate ladder. Your best bet during this stage is to focus on eliminating debt and increasing your income. Don’t focus only on getting a high-paying job neither.

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    Instead, focus on learning via Podcasts, reading books, and taking specialized courses. Doing this will make you more valuable and give you more career options.

    30’s – $45,000

    At this stage, you’ve hopefully escaped your entry-level salary and work at a career you enjoy. Your earning power has increased but you now have more obligations. For example, marriage, kids, and a mortgage.

    Set a plan to pay off all your debt and focus on eliminating unnecessary expenses. Leverage financial tools like Personal Capital to ensure you’re on track for retirement.

    40’s – $63,000

    This is the stage where you’re at the prime of your career. Top financial institutions recommend you have at least 2 to 4 times your salary saved up. If you’re falling behind, start maxing out your 401K and Roth IRA accounts.

    50’s – $115,000

    During your fifties, you’re close to retirement but still, have time to save. You may be helping your kids pay college tuition and other expenses. Since you’re at the peak of your earning power, max out all your retirement accounts.

    60’s – $172,000

    By this point, you should have about eight times your salary saved up. If not, you’ll depend primarily on social security benefits averaging $1400 per month. Max out all your retirement options as much as possible before retiring.

    Ways to Save Money on a Tight Budget

    The sad reality is that most Americans aren’t saving enough for retirement.

    Even high-earning power isn’t enough to secure one’s financial future. You need to have the discipline to save for retirement while time is in your favor. Don’t wait for you to have a high salary to save, start with having a small budget.

    First, get a clear picture of where you stand. Write down a list of “needs” and “wants.” For example, Netflix and Amazon Prime are “wants” and a “cell-phone” is a need.

    Use tools like Personal Capital to analyze your spending patterns. Personal Capital allows you to add all your financial data in one place–making it a powerful option to gauge where you stand.

    Once you know all your expenses, organize them from highest to lowest expense. When you can’t cut more expenses, call your service providers to negotiate a lower price. If you’re not good at negotiating, use services like Trimm to lower your monthly expenses.

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    How to Save Money Each Month

    By this point, you know the average amount of money you should have saved for retirement based on your age.

    But, breaking this down into monthly goals can be challenging. Here are some rule of thumbs to follow:

    Aim to contribute 10%–15% of your salary each paycheck. Review your progress each week.

    Why so often? The reality is that life gets in our way and you will have many financial setbacks. Your goal isn’t to be perfect but to get back on track instead.

    Reviewing your finances weekly lets you know where you stand with your retirement. This doesn’t have to be a long process either. All it takes is login in Personal Capital to view your net worth and check how much you have saved for retirement.

    Turn saving into a game and aim to save more each month. It will get challenging but you’ll get creative and find more ways to save.

    Top Money Saving Challenge Tips

    To prepare for your financial future and not be another statistic you need to be different.

    How?

    By adopting new habits that’ll help you become a saving machine. Here are some ways you can save more:

    Automatically Contribute Towards Retirement

    If you’re working for a company, you can automatically contribute towards your 401k. If you’re not currently contributing more than 10%, make this your goal. Contribute 1% more today and automatically increase this amount a year from now.

    Odds are that you’re not going to be negatively affected by contributing 1% more. Many times we spend our money on things we don’t need. Contributing more towards retirement is a great way to secure your financial future.

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    Use the Right Tools to Know Where You Stand

    Once you’re contributing more towards your retirement accounts, gauge your progress. Make use of finance tracking apps to help you view the big picture of your retirement.

    When I’d first signed up for the app Personal Capital, I didn’t know I had a negative net worth. Despite saving thousands of dollars, my debt brought my net worth to the negative. Knowing this motivated me to save more and spend less.

    Now, I have a positive net worth. But, it was because I was able to view the big picture using the app. Find out what your net worth is using a finance tracking app and you may surprise yourself.

    Bring in Experts to View Your Blind Spots

    If you have too little or too much money saved, you should consider hiring financial experts.

    Why?

    You may need someone to hold you accountable to help you reach your financial goals. Or, you may need help managing your money as effective as possible.

    Regardless of the reason, getting help may help improve your financial situation.

    Before you hire an expert, find out which areas you need help the most. For example, if you’re constantly overspending, find a debt counselor. If you’re struggling with choosing the best investment options, hire a financial advisor.

    Speed up Your Retirement Contribution

    After learning how to manage your money well, the next best thing is to earn a higher income.

    You’re capped at how much you can save but not much you can earn. Even if your employer isn’t giving you a promotion, you can still take charge of your financial future. How?

    By starting a side-business.

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    This will be something you’d work on after you’ve finished your day job. Once you start earning income from your side-business, you’ll be financially better off.

    The best part is the more work you put into your side-business,[1] the more potential it has to earn more money.

    So start a side-business in an area you’re familiar with. For example, if you enjoy writing, do freelance writing for small e-commerce businesses.

    Once you’re earning a higher income, you can contribute more towards your retirement. Don’t wait for the right opportunity to secure your financial future, create one.

    Reach Financial Freedom with Confidence

    What if you were able to retire tomorrow with no problem, all because you’d have enough money saved up and little to no debt left to pay off? How would you feel?

    My guess is that you’d feel happy and relieved.

    Most Americans are falling behind their retirement goals for many reasons. They’re not prepared, they carry bad money-habits and are thinking short-term.

    For you to retire successfully, you need to work backward and adopt better habits. Contribute more towards your 401K and focus on growing your income.

    If you do, you’ll save money and pay debt faster.

    Don’t beat yourself up if you’re behind your retirement goals. Take the first step today towards a brighter financial future. Isn’t retirement worth the hard work and sacrifice to be at peace?

    Featured photo credit: Huy Phan via unsplash.com

    Reference

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