Hold on to That 2018 Tax Refund

by Jackie Cohen on January 25, 2018 · 2 comments

2018 tax refundHave you already gotten a taste of your 2018 tax refund in the form of a higher paycheck this year? 

About 80% of salaried workers are seeing some form of an increase in their pay as a result of the Tax and Jobs Act.

Try not to get used to this higher net pay — the tax cuts begin expiring in 2025.

If you make a habit out of spending the additional money, that will result in feeling like you’re getting a pay cut by the time the tax cuts go away. Even if you also receive actual increases in compensation, they won’t offset the elimination of the tax cuts.

Spare yourself that agony by not getting into the mindset that you have extra cash in the first place. Here are strategies for putting the temporary windfall to good use.

Make Bigger Loan Payments

With interest rates steadily rising since 2015, it behooves you to allocate any increase in pay toward more generous payments of outstanding balances on credit cards and loans — make it a priority if possible.

If your debt includes a mortgage or student loans, the inability to deduct the interest provides another incentive — or at least a good reason why you don’t want to carry a larger balance indefinitely.

Fatten Your Nest Egg

Once your debt is all paid off, you can focus on allocating more money toward retirement or other savings. Even if you already contribute the annual maximum to a retirement plan, you don’t have to spread out your contributions over the course of a full calendar year.

Plan administrators don’t tell you this secret, but you can hack the contribution percentage so that your money goes into the market faster so you can enjoy the upside sooner.

Increase your contribution percentage to the highest amount you can afford, and once you reach the maximum for the year your plan automates things so that you go back to receiving your full paycheck. The maximum contribution amount for 2018 is $18,500, including the maximum of $5,500 you can put into a Roth IRA.

Sock Away More for Tuition

If you have kids, grandchildren, nieces or nephews who are younger than college age, set up a 529 savings plans for their tuition if you haven’t done so already. If you already have one going, increase your contributions to the tune of the added net pay you are receiving.

Challenge Yourself

If you’re already flooring it on the retirement plan and tuition savings, you could allocate your windfall toward a money challenge. By turning savings into a game, you can overcome a common hurdle: Savings goes from something dull yet overwhelming to being something fun.

You can even do a money challenge as a group, where participants all support one another in meeting a goal — and the fact that you’d be doing this with tax cut proceeds might put everyone on an even playing field.

Don’t Spend That Tax Refund Yet

It’s understandable to want to spend the additional money that you will see in your paycheck but if you get used to spending it, you’ll have to get used to another hard truth later on when the tax cut expires. If you can trick yourself into not acting like you got a raise, you’ll come out ahead.

What does your pay look like so far in 2018, readers?

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