Here's How the Average American Plans to Use Their Tax Refund

For many Americans, tax refunds are an annual windfall that helps strengthen their finances, allowing them to pay down
debt, put some money away, or buy something slightly indulgent. The average taxpayer expects $2,019 from their tax
refund, according to a new survey of 2,012 taxpaying Americans by tech website Decluttr.
The good news is that many Americans plan to use at least some of their refund to pay bills or to boost their savings. Four
in 10 of those surveyed plan to use a portion of their refund to put money away in a savings accounts or a certificate of
deposit (CD), and the same number (40%) planned to use the funds to pay off credit card debt.
Where is the money going?

Many Americans (42%) expect to use at least some of their refund to pay off debt, according to the survey.

The fact that so many Americans are counting on their tax refund to pay off everyday bills is a sobering indication of how
Americans are doing with their personal finances. But, it's encouraging that 40% plan to save, at least some of their return.
Saving money -- whether in a savings account or by making an investment -- can build a cash cushion that can help you in
case of an emergency.

In some cases, this type of saving is the continuation of good habits and planning for the future. For others, this will be their
first step on a long road toward getting their finances in order. No matter, it's a good idea to develop a habit of saving or
investing a portion of any unexpected income.

The below chart shows how the 40% of survey respondents who saved at least some of their refund allocated those dollars:

Of course, not every American plans to put money away for a rainy day or use their refund to pay off bills. Nearly half
expect to spend the money on travel (25%), shoes/apparel (23%), electronics (20%), and home and garden (13%).
What should you do with your tax refund?

How you spend your refund (assuming you're getting one) depends upon your financial situation. If you have overdue
utility bills or you're behind on your mortgage or your rent, it's important to pay those bills first even if it means not paying
down high-interest loans.

After your immediate needs are taken care of, if you have high-interest debt like credit card balances or personal loans, pay
those off or at least pay them down first. That will be the best return on your money, since the interest you would have
paid would almost certainly exceed any returns you could earn on that money by investing it.

If you're current with your bills and you have no high-interest debt, how much you save from your refund depends upon
your personal situation. Do you have an emergency fund that could support you for three to six months of unemployment?
Have you been saving regularly for retirement and could your portfolio use a supercharge?

If you're behind in either of those areas, you can allow yourself a small indulgence (maybe a nice dinner or a modest
weekend trip), but save or invest most of the money in your tax return. Of course, if you're in superb financial shape,
consider using more of the money for fun purposes. If you've already handled your finances well, you've earned it.

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