What to Do with Your Tax Refund

What to Do with Your Tax Refund

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By Donna M. Phelan, MBA
Start an emergency fund in a savings account that is outside of your retirement accounts.

1. Have Fun!

Take 10% and have fun!  Splurge on a getaway weekend, a day at the spa, a new outfit, or cool sports gear. After all, you worked for it, celebrate yourself.
2. Give Back!  (Just not to the IRS).
Give 10% to your favorite charitable cause to enrich the life of someone less fortunate than you. It feels good and creates good.
3. Get Serious!
Pay off non-productive debt, such as credit cards. If you can’t pay them in full at the end of the month, at least pay more than the minimum. Use cash instead of credit cards – it will help put the brakes on your spending.  Pay down tuition debt. You’ll feel lighter, freer.
4. Get Started!
Up your retirement game by starting or adding to an IRA.  Roth or traditional IRA? — it depends.  If you are younger or in a lower tax bracket, you may want to consider the Roth. If you’re in a higher tax bracket and need a tax deduction, you may want to consider a traditional IRA, especially if you don’t have a plan at work.  If you’re self-employed, check out the SEP (Simplified Employee Pension) IRA, which lets you contribute 25% of adjusted gross income up to $ 53,000 in 2015 (www.irs.gov).
5. Get Safe! 
America saves in the 401(k). Start an emergency fund in a savings account that is outside of your retirement accounts.  When life hands you an unexpected crisis, such as illness or job loss, you’ll be prepared with a safety net.
6. Get Secure!
Think about what you value in your life and consider securing it with a term life insurance policy.  If you’re married, you and your spouse may want to take a term policy on each other to cover the unexpected loss of income of a primary earner in the event of death.  If you’re a parent, you would want to have enough insurance to cover the long-term living expenses and college tuition of your spouse and children.  If you’re single, you may want to consider disability 
insurance to replace your own income in case you are disabled and unable to work.
7. Get Healthy!
With healthcare costs rising at approximately 2 to 3 times the rate of inflation, joining a health club and staying healthy may save you considerable money in the long run.
8. Get Smart!
Take the time to learn the language of money and investments.  Financial literacy is empowering and will help you learn how to grow and protect your money.
9. Get a Plan!
Ask yourself:  “Where do I want to be in 1-, 3-, 5-, 10- and 20-years?  What kind of lifestyle do I want to have?  How will I finance that lifestyle?” Write down your ideas. This is your first plan. Take that with all your financial statements, neatly organized, to a financial advisor who may be able to help you create a formal plan and increase your odds of success.
About Donna M. Phelan
Donna M. Phelan has spent more than 18 years at some of Wall Street’s largest and most prestigious investment firms. She holds an MBA in finance from the University of Connecticut, and provides personal financial advice to clients coast to coast. The author of “Women, Money and Prosperity: A Sister’s Perspective on How to Retire Well,” (www.donnamphelan.com), she has lectured at conferences nationwide on a broad range of financial topics and has published numerous articles on investments, retirement and financial planning. Phelan was formerly president of the American Association of Individual Investors (AAII) Connecticut state chapter and was active in the Financial Women’s Association (FWA) in New York.
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