10 things to do with your tax refund

With Tax Day officially behind us, I thought I’d put together a list of things to do with your tax refund. Remember… Your tax refund isn’t some sort of magical windfall — it’s your money, and you worked hard for it. Do something smart with it.

1. Start an emergency fund. If you don’t have an emergency fund, consider opening a high-yield savings account and depositing your windfall for a rainy day. While it might not be enough to create a full-fledged emergency fund, it’ll be a good start. And if you already have an emergency fund, consider adding to it.

2. Pay down your debt. Whether it’s credit cards, an auto loan, or a student loan, you need to get that monkey of your back. So add your windfall to your debt snowball and keep on digging.

3. Invest in yourself. Use the money to cover tuition for a course about something that interests you, or which increases your earning potential.

4. Prepay your mortgage. Send your windfall to your mortgage lender. You’ll realize savings over the life of your loan, and you’ll own your house outright sooner than expected.

5. Refinance your mortgage. While refinancing your mortgage to a lower rate can result in substantial savings, you typically need to bring some cash to the table. In this case, your tax windfall could be just what the doctor ordered.

6. Fund your IRA. Did you know that you can have the IRS direct deposit your refund into your Roth, Traditional, or SEP-IRA? While it’s too late to arrange for that this year, it’s never too late to write a check to your IRA custodian when your refund arrives.

7. Invest in your children. Start a college fund for your kids. Whether it’s an Education Savings Account (ESA) or a 529 plan, there’s no time better than the present to get started.

8. Support your favorite charity. Not only does making a charitable donation help a worthy cause, it’s also deductible on next year’s taxes.

9. Add it to you “sunny day” fund. While emergency funds are all well and good, everyone needs a bit of fun and games every now and then. Why not set some aside for a future vacation or some other special expenditure?

10. Adjust your withholding. Last but certainly not least, you should consider adjusting your withholding so you don’t end up giving the government an interest free loan during the upcoming year.

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