Tips for Investing Your Tax Refund

NEW YORK (MainStreet) — Investing your tax refund this year will help you get a head start on your savings for the year, investment experts said.

Consumers should opt to save their tax refund instead of spending it on disposable and depreciating items. Allocate the extra money toward your emergency savings or pay off an existing credit balance, said Jeff Speight, business development manager at Tanglewood Wealth Management, a Houston financial planning firm.

Another option is to use the refund to ramp up your retirement portfolio by allocating the refund to your 401(k) or an IRA.

Also See: 10 Tax-Day Friendly Tricks, Tidbits and Trivia

 

"If you have an emergency fund and pay off your credit card balance, consider using the extra cash flow to increase your 401(k) contributions," he said.

With the average refund yielding $3,000, investors who put that amount toward an IRA or Roth IRA will have reached half of the contribution limit, depending on whether they qualify, said Charles Sizemore, a CFA based in Dallas who manages four investment portfolios on Covestor, an online marketplace for investing.

"With wage growth being stagnant over the past decade, saving money can be something of a challenge, he said. "However, $3000 placed into a traditional IRA is worth an immediate $750 in tax savings in the 25% tax bracket."

Investing your tax refund now means you can easily double the amount within ten years. Assuming market returns of 8% to 10%, a $3,000 investment today would grow to between $6,476 and $7,781 if it was invested in a basic mutual fund or exchanged-traded fund tax free over ten years, Sizemore said.

Purchasing "as many shares of a solid large cap dividend paying stock," is another option for investors, said Jeff White, CEO of American Financial Group, a registered investment advisor in Philadelphia.

For investors who are concerned about the "coming devaluation of the U.S. dollar," White recommends buying a foreign security paying dividends in a sound currency such as the Norwegian krone or the Swiss franc.

Also See: Saving for a Rainy Day -- A How-To Guide

 

"Ben Franklin's advice is still sound – 'a penny saved is a penny earned,'" he said. "Definitely take advantage of the chance to own a new income source."

Investors who are taking the short-term approach and are allocating the money for a rainy day fund or need the money for a down payment for a car, should invest the money into a high-yield money market account, said Kimberly Foss, president of Empyrion Wealth Management in Roseville, Calif.

Another option is to ladder your CDs by purchasing more than one CD with different maturity dates, she said. Investors can also turn toward short-term high-quality fixed income funds.

Also See: CD Pays Five Times the Average

 

Consumers should use their tax refund dollars to invest in areas of the market which have "great long term prospects and yet are undervalued such as the emerging markets," said Daniel Beckerman, a portfolio manager on Covestor and a financial planner in Oakhurst, N.J.

"After being led by high momentum stocks for quite a while such as Netflix, Tesla and Amazon, the stock market is now experiencing a healthy rebalance," he said. "The overpriced stocks are being punished and the fundamentally undervalued areas are showing relative outperformance."

Equities in the emerging markets trade at 11 times earnings, which is a substantial discount relative to the U.S. stock market, Beckerman said. The emerging markets dramatically underperformed compared to the U.S. over the past year. A turning point occurred recently and in March, emerging markets rose by 5%. At the same time, the S&P was down 2% and the Nasdaq was down over 5%, he said.

"Most investors are underexposed to the emerging markets sector anyway, so it is a great time to make sure that they have a reasonable allocation there," Beckerman said.

While 56% of people intentionally plan to always receive a refund each year, the National Foundation for Credit Counseling encourages taxpayers to discontinue the practice of receiving a federal income tax refund since intentionally choosing to loan money without the benefit of earning interest is not a smart use of money. Not having ready access to your own money could put you in financial jeopardy if an unplanned expense or emergency occurred.

--Written by Ellen Chang for MainStreet

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