Getting a tax refund? Congrats! Almost 40 million tax refunds worth nearly $125 billion were issued in 2015, with the average refund being $3,120. Whether you’ve already spent the cash, or are patiently waiting the three weeks it takes to receive the money after filing, consider investing the funds on what matters most.
For many families, that may mean a vacation to Disneyland or a trip to Hawaii. For others, it means bolstering their personal finances. If your bags and Mickey Mouse ears are already packed for vacation — great. If not, here are five good ways to properly invest your tax return and improve your overall financial wellness.
1) Pay off high-interest debt
Use the refund to pay off credit cards or car loans with high interest rates. Paying off even an extra $1,000 in debt this year could help you save hundreds in finance charges.
2) Strengthen your emergency fund
Avoid high-interest credit cards or loans altogether with an emergency fund. Stashing aside money now will help you prepare for life’s little surprises — things like car problems and medical emergencies that come with a big price tag. Save your tax return in an easily accessible savings or money-market account that earns interest.
3) Boost retirement savings or diversify your 401(k)
How much do you really need to save for retirement? The short answer: more is better. Depending on your annual income and filing status, you can contribute up to $5,500 to an IRA for 2016 — $6,500 if you’re age 50 or older — and withdraw the money tax-free in retirement. If you earn too much for a Roth, contribute to a nondeductible traditional IRA, then convert it to a Roth. If able, consider diversifying your 401(k) to add funds to current investments like speciality bonds or stock funds.
4) Build a college fund
Your retirement savings and your child’s college education shouldn’t compete. Save for both by contributing to a 529 plan. A 529 plan is a tax-advantaged savings plan operated by a state or educational institution. The qualified tuition plans are designed to help families set aside funds for future college costs. The contributions aren’t deducted from income for tax purposes, and when the money is withdrawn to pay for college costs the distribution is tax free.
5) Refinance your mortgage or make home improvements
Refinancing your mortgage can save you thousands in mortgage interest per year. If you’re comfortable with your current rate, consider making improvements to increase your home’s curb appeal or energy efficiency, which can immediately increase your home equity.
Have more questions or ideas? Let’s chat!