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Are You on Track to Save Your Tax Refund—or Spend It?

  • Steve Smith CEO of Finicity
  • 2013 4 Apr
  • COMMENTS
Are You on Track to Save Your Tax Refund—or Spend It?

Tax season—or rather tax refund season—is here, and many are wondering what to do with the extra chunk of change. Last year’s national federal return, on average, was $2,700. While it might not be enough to quit your job and take a year off work, a couple thousand dollars, or even a couple hundred, enables you to pay off extra debt, start saving or finally buy that big screen TV you’ve been eyeing since Christmas.

So how will you react when your refund check arrives? Are you more likely to save and invest or are you prone to spending the money on a vacation or large ticket item? Answer each of the below questions and check your score at the bottom of the quiz to find out how you stack up.

1. When I get my paycheck each month, I typically:

a. What paycheck? It’s direct deposited into my savings and investment accounts appropriately, leaving me enough to pay for bills, groceries and gas.

b. Shout “just got paid!” from the rooftops and go on a mini-shopping spree. Nothing like a payday, new shoes and a night on the town.

c. First I pay the bills and then see what’s left. I try to stick it into a savings when I can, but sometimes I need to spend it.

2. Do you ever pay bills late?

a. Never

b. All the time

c. Sometimes, but I’m typically good at paying bills on time.

3. Your car breaks down and it is going to cost a substantial amount of money to fix it. What is your reaction?

a. I go right to my “emergency fund” account and withdrawal the amount needed to make the fix tomorrow.

b. I immediately find myself in a sheer panic, thinking about the next payday and what I can shift around to at least pay a portion of it. I will stick it on my credit card for now.

c. I am pretty even keel—while this is not the greatest situation, I know I can find a way to get the money together.

4. You decide you want to start investing money, so you:

a. Make an appointment with a financial advisor, or begin researching on your own. Within a week I know exactly what type of investment account is right for me.

b. That thought crosses my mind, but by the time I take action on it, I’ve spent all of the money that I’d want to invest.

c. Start an online search for what might be the best fit. No need to jump into something prematurely!

5. When you go grocery shopping, you:

a. Have a list, and rarely purchase anything off the list.

b. Tend to purchase whatever looks appealing as I walk down the aisle.

c. I roughly know what I need to purchase when I walk in the store, and try not to sway from the list in my head. But that $12/lb cheese looks good…

6. Do you make a budget?

a. Of course.

b. What’s a budget?

c. I know what my bills are each month, and I make sure my income at least meets that amount. I’m not quite sure where the rest of my money goes….

7. Do you eat many meals out?

a. We budget some money so we can enjoy a few meals out a month.

b. Depends on my schedule and what is the most convenient.

c. I try to eat at home because I know it’s cheaper, but I don’t hesitate when my friends as me to join them at a restaurant for dinner.

8. Do you have an emergency fund in place to cover medical expenses, last-minute flights, etc.?

a. Yes, and I do not use it for anything else.

b. No

c. Yes, but sometimes I dip into that account for non-emergency things.

If you answered mostly A’s: Sounds like you are a stickler for savings, which means you are a candidate for properly saving and investing your tax refund. But be sure to have a little fun—saving all the time can be stressful too! Consider using a budget tool like Mvelopes to maintain a balance between saving and spending.

If you answered mostly B’s: Stop! If you just got your tax refund, don’t go spend it until you’ve read this advice: this is the perfect time for you to start a savings account, or invest in a ROTH IRA. If you have yet to begin saving for retirement and do not have an “emergency fund” to cover unexpected medical expenses, it is important to get started right away.

If you answered mostly C’s: Sounds like you might not have a consistent way of saving—or spending. Consider becoming more structured when it comes to your paychecks and once you receive your tax refund. As yourself: are there areas where I should be investing, or a specific large-ticket item or vacation that I want to save up for? Use your tax refund to make it happen!

Steve Smith is the Chief Executive Officer of Mvelopes and Money4Life Coaching, as well as the author of Money for Life: Successful Money Management and Financial Fitness in Just 12 Weeks! and the Money for Life Success Planner: A 12-Week Companion to Achieve Financial Fitness. He has strong strategic and tactical business skills and combines them with a passion to develop products and services that make a positive difference in people’s lives.

Publication date: April 22, 2013