Your tax return is finally filed - or about to be - and you are due a refund. Before you break out the bubbly or head online for a shopping spree, stop and take a breath. If the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us anything, it's to be ready for the unknown. Here are some tips on ways to put your tax refund to sound financial use:
Start an emergency fund
After a global pandemic and a turbulent financial year, an emergency fund can be a steady anchor in rough seas. Put aside some money to get you by if the unforeseen happens, such as a job loss, your car breaks down or you need to make emergency home repairs. It will be worth your peace of mind.
Open a savings account
Designating a percentage of your income to savings is always a good idea. Open a savings account and have automatic transfers made from your checking to your savings every payday. It is a seamless, invisible way for you to build a nest egg. If you have children, open a minor savings account to teach them the value of saving.
Pay down debt
If you had to rely on high interest credit cards to get you through tough times, it's wise to pay down that debt. Using extra funds from your tax refund to pay off your credit card is a smart way to use a cash windfall. Look for lower interest credit cards to consolidate debt if you must keep a balance.
Fund your retirement
Putting aside some cash for the future will help you live the life you want in your golden years. Tax-advantaged retirement accounts, like traditional IRAs and Roth IRAs, will help you grow a comfortable nest egg and even save you taxes along the way.
Kickstart the kids’ future
If you have a teen with a part-time job and have the extra funds, help them start their own Roth IRA. You or they can contribute up to the amount they earned, up to $5,500. The money contributed now as a young person will benefit from compounding interest and the tax benefits of decades of growth.
Start a college fund
Open an Educational Savings Account for a child or grandchild and help put them on the path to paying for higher education. College costs are climbing and kids with college funds can lessen or even avoid huge amounts of student loan debt when they collect their diploma.
Start or contribute to an investment plan to help secure your financial future. If you are unsure about what steps you need to take, talk to a financial planning expert who can design a plan to fit your needs.
Prepay your mortgage
Making an extra payment or two on your mortgage can knock off interest payments and save you big dollars down the road. It will also shorten the life of your loan.
Make home improvements
If your roof is aging, your carpet has seen better days or your appliances aren’t energy efficient, making home improvements can improve the value or your home, minimize emergency repairs down the road and make your home a nicer place to live.
Start a business
Turn a hobby into a money-making opportunity by using your tax refund as seed money to start a business. Make sure you are financially on track with a business checking account.
If you are due a tax refund, invest it in your home, your future or your financial security to make the most of the windfall.
Reviewed July 2023
Julie Landry Laviolette is a freelance writer who specializes in personal finance, health and living well. Find her on Twitter at @JulieLavio.
The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. Ameris Bank is not affiliated with nor endorses any of the companies featured in this article. Ameris Bank does not provide tax advice. Please consult your tax advisor to determine how this information may apply to your situation.