Is a tax refund coming your way? If you have already received your refund for 2011 or are about to receive it, you might want to think about the destiny of that money. Here are some possibilities.
1. Start (or add to) an emergency fund. Many people don’t have a dedicated rainy day fund, only the presumption that they might have enough cash in case of a financial tight spot.
2. Invest in yourself. You could put the money toward education, career training, personal improvement, or some sort of personal experience with the potential to enhance your life.
3. Put it into an IRA or workplace retirement account. If you haven’t maxed out your IRA this year or have a chance to get an employer match, why not?
4. Help your child open up a Roth IRA. Has your under-18 son or daughter worked and earned money this year? He or she can open a Roth IRA. Your child’s contribution limit is $5,000 or the amount of his or her earned income for 2012 (whichever is lower). You can actually make this Roth IRA contribution with your own money if your child has spent his or her earnings.
5. Pay down debt. Always a smart choice.
6. Establish a financial strategy. Some financial advisors work on a fee-only basis. They can perform a review of your current financial situation and give you pointers for the future for roughly $1,000 with no further obligation.
7. Pay for that trip in advance. Instead of racking up a bigger credit card bill, consider pre-paying some costs or taking an all-inclusive trip (some are not as pricey as you might think).
8. Get your home ready for the market. A four-figure refund may give you the cash to spruce up the yard and/or exterior of your residence. Or, it could help you pay a professional who can assist you with staging it.
9. Improve your home with energy-saving appliances. Or windows, or weatherstripping, or solar panels – just to name a few options.
10. Create your own food bank. What if a hurricane or an earthquake hits? Where would your food and water come from? Worth thinking about.
11. Write a proper will. Your refund could pay the attorney fee, and the will you create might end up more ironclad.
12. See a doctor, optometrist, dentist or physical therapist. If you haven’t been able to see these professionals due to your insurance situation or your personal cash flow, the refund might provide a way.
13. Give yourself a de facto raise. Adjust your withholding to boost your take-home pay.
14. Pick up some more insurance coverage for cheap. The typical flood insurance policy in a low-to-medium risk area costs less than $1,000 (and sometimes less than $500). A $1 million personal liability umbrella policy can usually be bought for $400 or less.
15. Pay it forward. Your refund could turn into a charitable contribution (deductible on your 2012 federal tax return if you itemize deductions).
In the past two years, federal tax refunds have averaged about $3,000. That’s a nice chunk of change – and it could be used to bring some positive change to your financial life and the lives of others.
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Bill Losey, CFP®, America's Retirement Strategist®, coaches women and couples nationwide with their retirement planning and investment portfolios. Bill is the author of Retire in a Weekend! The Baby Boomer’s Guide to Making Work Optional and he also publishes Retirement Intelligence®, a free weekly award-winning newsletter.
You can learn more at www.MyRetirementSuccess.com.