An overwhelming majority of investors surveyed by online brokerage firm TD Ameritrade say they will save or invest their 2013 tax refunds, a move that indicates major improvement in personal finances.
"People are feeling less saddled with debt than they used to be," said Lule Demmissie, managing director of retirement guidance for TD Ameritrade. "The trend toward saving or investing shows investors are feeling better about their situation."
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In the survey, which included 1,000 investment account holders across the country, 45 percent said they would save their tax refund, and 24 percent said they would invest it. Just 21 percent said they would use the money to pay down debt.
Several age groups were represented, ranging from the so-called lost generation (those born between 1900 and 1945) to Generation Z (born between 1990 and 1995). Household income levels for respondents ranged from under $50,000 a year to $250,000 and above.
Nineteen percent of those polled said they would spend the refund on discretionary items, while 18 percent said it would go toward necessities.
Forty-five percent of participants expect to get a refund for the 2013 tax year, while 28 percent expected to owe Uncle Sam.
Generation Y (those born between 1977 and 1989) had the most members expecting a refund, at 66 percent. Ten percent of all respondents said they don't expect to get a refund or owe anything.
The survey also asked what respondents want to see done with their tax dollars.
Improving the quality of public education topped the list, at 41 percent, with making health care more affordable next, at 37 percent. Thirty-three percent said investing in job creation is their major concern.
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Spending on U.S. defense was No. 4, at 29 percent. That was a surprise, as was the 18 percent of respondents who said spending on environmental protection is a priority, according to Demmissie.
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"That was shocking to me in today's age of environmental concerns," she said. "I thought that would be much higher."
—By CNBC's Mark Koba. Follow him on Twitter