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Americans are About to Receive an Average $3000 in Tax Refunds; Here's how to Make the Most of it

IRS data shows $3,000+ avg. refund; experts advise debt payoff, savings, investment, & enjoyment
Pexels | Photo by olia danilevich
Pexels | Photo by olia danilevich

At a time when Americans are struggling to make ends meet amidst rising prices and the sluggish pace of salary hikes, tax refunds come as a much-needed boost for savings. As per the latest data from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), the average federal tax refund for the past year stands at over $3,000. With the majority of tax filers expecting refunds, many individuals may find themselves with a substantial sum of money to allocate. But instead of frittering away this windfall on frivolous expenses, financial experts recommend these strategies to make the most of it for long-term financial well-being.

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) building | Getty Images | Photo by Zach Gibson
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) building | Getty Images | Photo by Zach Gibson

Paying off high-rate debt should be your top priority if you're grappling with credit card balances accruing 20% to 30% interest. According to Eric Bronnenkant, a certified financial planner and head of tax at Betterment, failing to address this debt promptly can lead to it snowballing faster than you can manage. For instance, if you have a $3,000 balance accruing interest at 27%. If you only make the minimum payment of $97.50 each month, it would take a staggering 240 months, or 20 years, to clear the $3,000 debt. Shockingly, during this period, you'd end up paying a whopping $3,044.57 in interest alone, according to calculations from The total repayment amount would balloon to $6,044.57, underscoring the urgency of addressing high-rate debt promptly.

Consider using your tax refund to establish or reinforce an emergency fund, a crucial safety net for unexpected costs. Allocate a portion of your refund to tackle your debt while earmarking the remainder to kickstart your emergency fund. If you're facing a critical repair, such as for your vehicle, allocating funds for such emergencies ensures you can maintain your livelihood. Any surplus can then be directed towards reducing credit card debt or other high-interest obligations.

Pexels | Photo by Leeloo The First
Pexels | Photo by Leeloo The First

For homeowners with mortgages carrying high-interest rates, making additional payments can yield substantial long-term savings. By reducing the principal balance, you effectively decrease the amount of interest accrued over the life of the loan. Financial planner Keyana Russ advises homeowners to view these extra payments as a form of savings, resulting in significant interest savings over time.

Consider investing your tax refund in a Roth IRA if your income qualifies. With after-tax savings, you can contribute up to $7,000 this year ($8,000 if you’re 50 or older). These funds will grow tax-free until retirement, and after age 59-1/2, withdrawals are both tax-free and penalty-free provided the account has been open for at least five years.

Pexels | Photo by Leeloo The First
Pexels | Photo by Leeloo The First

For individuals participating in employer-sponsored retirement plans such as a 401(k), maximizing employer match contributions is paramount. By increasing your pre-tax contributions, you can capitalize on employer matching funds. For instance, if you receive a $3,000 refund, deposit it into a high-yield savings account to earn interest. Then, adjust your paycheck contributions on your 401(k) site to ensure you contribute $3,000 more in pre-tax money by the end of the year than you otherwise would have.

If you have upcoming financial goals within the next three to 10 years, such as buying a home, embarking on a special trip, renovating a room, or sending your children to summer camp, consider investing your tax refund wisely. For short-term goals, like needing the money within three years, opt for low-risk options such as certificates of deposit and US Treasury bonds. But if your goals are five to 10 years away and you're comfortable with some risk, you could allocate a portion of your refund, say 30%, to a stock index fund and 70% to a total market bond fund for a conservative approach.