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Here are the top 5 ways to spend your tax refund

Tax Refund Delays
Posted at 5:35 AM, Feb 28, 2023

(WXYZ) — Have you done your taxes yet? The IRS is in the thick of tax season. As of Feb. 17, the IRS has already received more than 36.8 million tax returns.

It has issued more than 27.7 million refunds, and the average refund amount is $3,140, down 11.2% from last year's average refund amount.

If you're planning to get a windfall from the IRS, have you thought about how you'll spend it? I talked with a financial advisor about the five smartest ways to spend it so you don't waste your money.

Stephanie Bloom, the Director of Engagement at Bloom Advisors in Farmington Hills, says for many people, the tax refund is the largest financial windfall they'll receive all year.

"It's very tempting to spend it on something you've been admiring — a new TV, a gift for someone, a fancy handbag. Unfortunately, these frivolous expenses don't pay you long-term," she said.

So, I asked her for the top five smartest ways to spend your tax refund.

1. Pay off high-interest credit card debt

“Paying off that high-interest credit card debt, which these days runs an average 19.2% or so, is an excellent way to pay yourself," Bloom said.

2. Create or contribute to your emergency fund

That fund should be enough to cover 3-to-6 months of living expenses.

“I know that number can seem a little overwhelming to some. However, this tax refund could amount to a week's worth, a month's worth or more of expenses. So it's a great foundation to start building that [emergency fund]," she said.

3. Add to your retirement savings

You can do that through a 401k plan, an IRA or a Roth IRA.

“When you see that investment grow over time, you won't regret the choice that you made," Bloom said.

4. Fund a college education

Setting up a college savings plan through MISaves.com is easy and offers tax advantages, low minimums, and flexibility in how and where the money is spent.

5. Pay for a repair or replacement you've been putting off

“I'm thinking of something that you use all the time that's a necessity -- that leaky pipe, the roof that needs repair, the car that's squeaking," Bloom said.

That way, those issues don't become more problematic and more expensive down the road.

If you want to find out how your withholding affects your refund, take-home pay, or tax due, you can go to IRS.gov to use the tax withholding estimator. It walks you through what information you need to make the calculation.

Of course, some people don't want a big refund, because that means they've loaned the U.S. government their money without making interest on the loan.

So, if you're good at setting aside money, you can add to an emergency savings account, pay down debt, or add to your retirement every month throughout the year.