Cash is king, and having even a little bit more of it often makes you feel like one.
So if you don’t receive regular bonuses from your employer, or give them to yourself as a business owner, tax season is one of the few times of the year you get an extra few thousand dollars in your hand and, yes, it feels like and is a very big deal.
According to the IRS, the average direct deposit refund this year has been just under $2,000 so far. The U. S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports the average American salary was $936 per week in 2019— so an extra $2k means a lot in many households. Determining what to do with a lump sum of money is rarely easy. Many folks treat refund season like it’s Christmas; others use the boon to pay off the debt they accrued during the previous Christmas.
Your financial choices are a direct reflection of your goals, values, and discipline. Spending your money on travel or depreciating assets is good for some seasons in your life, particularly when you’re focused on experience. Other time periods, like when you are looking to build more financial stability, require more restraint and understanding that it’s important to set yourself up for less immediate wins. The first thing to do is identify your financial season—both have value in your life.
Now, if you’re in a season of financial growth, and can’t wait to see (or have just received) that uptick in your bank account, making a calculated decision of where you deposit your tax return is a must. Here are some ways to invest your 2020 refund that will ensure you’re cultivating big wins during this season for larger rewards in 2021 and beyond.
- Sit it in Savings
If you ever want to move, get a loan or qualify for a line of credit or mortgage, the first thing a financial institution will ask you to submit are bank statements. They want to know that you have money on hand, that stays put to address non-emergency issues—it shows financial prudence and makes you less of a risk. Open up an account at a bank you’d like to do business with in the future. You can even automate a small month deposit—even $25—to show some activity.
- Get Ahead on Big Bills
Value Penguin reports that housing and transportation remain the largest household expenses. These are bills that can become problematic when emergencies arise—even if you have a bit of savings. Pay on it. Knock out an extra month on that lease or get a few months ahead on your car payment so your cushion is even more layered.
- Start an Investment Portfolio
Jumping into the stock and mutual fund game can seem unattainable or intimidating if you’re using the cash you need to cover basic necessities. Using money that isn’t earmarked for survival and bills gives you the opportunity to take a calculated, long-term risk. Financial institutions such as Fidelity, TD Ameritrade and E*TRADE offer opportunities to start an account with less than $500.
- Team Up for Bigger Goals
Many people have folks in their circle who have brilliant ideas; solid business plans and simply need a little capital. While your money alone may not make a major dent, combining with like-minded individuals to create a funding source makes you an investor. Since the money you invested isn’t needed for day-to-day, you can let it sit and create a more substantial payday in the future.
- Fund a Goal-Based Account
People frequently use credit cards to fill the gaps when larger, cyclical expenses—think summer vacations, back-to-school shopping, winter wardrobe updates and holidays—occur. Earmarking a small pot of money to address these anticipated needs is a great way to budget effectively and avoid racking up consumer debt.
- Upgrade Your Tools
Take inventory of the big-ticket items you use for work and to run your household and consider what can you get ahead on. Do you need a new computer or updated software to make you more competitive at work? Perhaps your home really needs a revamped HVAC or plumbing system to avoid future breakdowns and cut utility costs. Think about how you can proactively invest in the things essential to your stability and productivity and spend there.
Tia Brown is a licensed therapist, life coach and journalist who specializes in real life, practical tips that work. Follow her on IG @tiabrowntalks.