Getting your taxes done early not only takes one more thing off your to-do list but further allows you to start planning for the future. Working with your tax professional, determine how much your family may receive this year from a tax refund. No matter the amount, we recommend putting it towards your financial goals for the year. Here are some great strategies we’ve tried to get the best bang for our buck:
Max out your 401(k) or Traditional IRA contributions. If you aren’t taking advantage of one of these two accounts, we highly suggest opening one! These tax-beneficial accounts help holders accumulate and grow their funds without the burden of tax at the time of deposit. Each account, however, is limited by how much you can contribute. By allocating funds into these account types it may not only help you save for retirement, but also allow your money to mature throughout the years, with no additional effort.
Make an extra payment on your mortgage or student loan. Paying down your loan is always a great option when selecting financial goals. In the case of a mortgage, you earn more equity as you pay, while with student loans, you gain more momentum towards financial freedom. Instead of adding money to each monthly installment, we recommend creating one lump payment. By doing this you can create a single but large decrease in your principal amount owed, drastically reducing your associated interest as well.
Save for the 2017 holiday season. While holiday events, family gatherings, and memories are held dear, the burden of the season can pose potential problems for your personal finances. If you struggled saving last year, now is the perfect time to set aside funds for the holidays. Determine how much you need to pay for each aspect of your seasonal activities, and save as much as possible in a separate account from your tax refund. If additional funds are needed, automate your savings to transfer a specific dollar amount into this account each month.
Pay off outstanding credit card debt. With one of the highest interest rates, credit cards are notorious for taking years to pay off. If you want to make a dent in your debt, we recommend tackling one card at a time. Using your tax refund, see if you can eliminate smaller debts first, then with the remaining funds, begin paying down each additional credit card. By paying off the card with the least amount of debt first, you can begin to snowball your way to financial freedom!
Start saving for a vacation. Whether it’s a spring break, a summer adventure, or a fall festival, it’s never too early to start saving. Once you have determined a destination, you can then create a rough budget of the expected expenses. Depending on your refund you may be able to pay for the whole trip outright, or you may need to supplement the funds with some additional monthly savings. No matter how you choose to save, we recommend keeping your vacation funds in a separate deposit account so you’re not tempted to use them throughout the year.
If you still have questions on how to best use your tax refund, our personal bankers would love to help. At Raccoon Valley Bank, we can assist you in coordinating all your accounts to help make the most of your money. Stop in and see us today!
Raccoon Valley Bank challenges you to make 2017 the year of financial prosperity. Complete with an emergency fund, sound credit, and a monthly budget, you can conquer any fiscal goal so long as you keep moving towards it. To optimize your money management potential, we recommend these seven goals:
Check Your Credit Score. There are many websites available which allow you to view your current credit score across the three reporting bureaus. However, the only federally authorized FREE site is annualcreditreport.com. This site gives users one free report from Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian every year. By keeping regular track of your score, you can ensure that no fraudulent inquiries have been made, and no outstanding debts are currently being held against you. After all, a higher credit score could mean potential savings elsewhere.
Make a Monthly Budget. This tool is invaluable when building your personal financial success. By creating a plan for each dollar you earn you are no longer reacting to your spending, but proactively telling your money where it should go. Adding this transparency to your spending can often showcase areas where you may be spending more than desired. After adjusting your monthly allocations you can then reassign some of those dollars to help build your personal savings and other areas of improvement.
Automate Your Savings. “Out of sight, out of mind,” or so the saying goes. Adding processes to your budget, such as automated savings, can help you to accumulate money before you miss it. Before you start planning your spending for the month, determine how much you want to save. So long as your fixed monthly expenses are covered, you can then create an automatic monthly transfer from your checking to your savings. By doing this the same day you are paid, the funds will be gone before you even know to miss them. You can then budget the rest of your spending to cover flexible categories like groceries, entertainment, and more.
Start an Emergency Fund. In order to safeguard your savings, you’ll need to create an emergency fund. This particular account offers protection against unexpected expenses or dilemmas that could otherwise infringe upon your diligent accrual of funds. It is often recommended to begin by saving $1,000, and then gradually work up to three or six months worth of income. By adding this cushion to your personal finances, you ensure that you are financially stable enough to weather storms both big and small.
Submit Your Taxes Early. Tax fraud is an increasingly relevant issue, posing many problems for both the IRS and tax paying citizens. To help avoid potential criminals from using your information to their benefit, we suggest completing your tax return as soon as possible. Additionally, if you have a potential tax refund, the earlier you file your return, the sooner you are able to receive it.
Maximize Your 401(k). To make the most of your diligent savings, we recommend revisiting your HR materials, to find out the specifics of your company’s 401(k) plan. If they will match up to ten percent, and you’re only contributing six, you could be missing out on free funds! Additionally, if you want to retire by a certain age, you may need to adjust your contributions to maximize the years you still have during your employment.
Pay Down Your Credit Cards. Interest rates on credit cards are infamous for being consistently high. If you have multiple credit cards which carry a balance, we recommend paying down the account that has the least amount on it. By continuing to pay the minimum installment on each card, you can then assign any additional funds to the card with the lowest value, to help pay it off sooner. Once the first card is no longer carrying a balance, you can then utilize the monthly installment and the additional funds to put toward the next card, and continue through the accounts.
Becoming a homeowner is an exciting and trying time in your life. Once all the papers are signed, and the keys turned over, it all seems worth it. That is until a pipe bursts, lightning knocks out a tree, or your dog decides to burst through the screen door. Not all hope is lost however. In return for your endless work, and commitment to a never ending to-do list, the U.S. Government has provided four tax-based ways to reward you for your new home ownership. See how to take advantage of these four tax breaks, and make the most of your home purchase:
Early IRA Withdrawal: For many new homeowners, securing the initial down payment can be the first hurdle in their real estate journey. If you’re a first-time home buyer and have an IRA, or Roth IRA, the IRS will allow you to withdraw up to $10,000, penalty-free, to aide in the cost of your new dwelling!
Valuable Deductions: Between your mortgage interest, mortgage insurance, and real estate taxes, your home deductions could make a big dent in your taxable income. When preparing your taxes as a new homeowner, be sure to bring any mortgage documents, and escrow account information, to your tax professional to gain the full benefit of the deductions.
Renewable-Energy Tax Credit: Did you upgrade your home appliances to more efficient and environmentally-friendly options? Did you install a geothermal system in your home? If so, this helpful tax credit may be able to take a portion of that improvement cost out of your deductible income!
Tax-Free Profit on Sale: When you go to sell your home, the IRS allows you to avoid the capital gains tax on the profits you generate from the sale. This means that if your home’s value goes up $35,000 in the two or more years you live there, you are then able to retain the additional $35,000 your home is sold for without having to pay any taxes on those funds. One other major stipulation of this benefit is that in order to avoid the capital gains tax, you must purchase a new home as your primary residence within the next two years.
With these key homeowner tax breaks, the next thing to put on your to-do list is to make a plan for those tax refunds! If you have questions on how to best budget for your new home, don’t hesitate to stop in. We’d love to talk taxes, financing, or other improvement ideas you have for your home!