Three-fourths of filers get a tax refund every year, with the average check weighing in at $2,895. Here are some ideas to put that money to good use:
#1: Pay off debt. If you have debt, part of your refund could be used to reduce or eliminate it. With high-interest credit card or auto loan debt, you have to work harder just to counteract the effect of the debt on your financial health. Extra payments on your mortgage put more money in your pocket over the long haul.
Bonus tip: Start by paying down debts with the highest interest rates and work your way down the list until you bring your debt burden as low as possible.
#2: Save for retirement. Saving for retirement works like debt, but in reverse. The sooner you set aside money for retirement, the more time you give the power of compound interest to work for you. Consider depositing some of your refund check into a traditional or Roth IRA. You can contribute a total of $5,500 every year, plus an extra $1,000 if you are at least 50 years old.
Bonus tip: You have until April 17 to make an IRA contribution for 2017. You may be able to use a contribution to a traditional IRA to lower your 2017 tax burden, depending on your income level and whether your employer provides a retirement plan.
#3: Save for a home. Home ownership can be a source of wealth and stability for many people. If you dream of owning a home, consider adding your refund to a down payment fund.
#4: Invest in yourself. Sometimes the best investment isn’t financial, it’s personal. A course of study or conference that improves your skills or knowledge could be the best use of your money.
#5: Give to charity. Giving your refund to a charity helps others and gives you a deduction for your next tax return.
#6: Don’t give to scammers! Scammers are using a new tactic to separate people from their tax refunds. First, they file fraudulent refunds on behalf of their victims. Then, after a refund check arrives at the taxpayer’s address, they impersonate an IRS agent over the phone and demand to be sent the refund because it was sent in error. Remember, real IRS agents will never call over the phone and demand immediate payment for any reason.
Finally, consider saving some of your refund to have a little fun. If you use some of the ideas mentioned here, you can feel comfortable you are taking a balanced approach with your refund.