By Terry Frisk
Once again, it’s tax time! That dreaded time of the year when you must gather all the relevant information to prepare your tax return. But wait; it may result in receiving a refund! In a recent article posted on Bankrate.com, 72 percent of the tax returns filed in 2019 resulted in a refund. The average refund for the year was $2,869. Odds are, most of you will receive a tax refund this year, as well. HOORAY! Now, the question is what to do with that refund. Before going on a spending spree, you should consider how to best utilize the windfall you received. Here are some recommendations in order of importance.
- Give back to the Lord.Giving is an act of faith thathelps us keep our priorities straight. Everything we have is a gift from God and we are stewards of what He has given us. Honoring God with some or all of your refund recognizes that God is our provider and that we will prosper with more than just money if we trust in Him.
- Reduce or pay off debts.We know from Proverbs 22:7,“The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is the slave of the lender.” While we are not literally a slave to the financial institution that we owe money to, it can sure feel that way when we make the periodic payments. Use the “snowball method” debt reduction plan advocated by financial advisor Dave Ramsey to pay off your smallest debts and take the payments you would have made on those to apply toward your larger balances until they are paid off.
- Create or add to your emergency fund.While God provides for our needs, we should still be prepared for unexpected financial emergencies. I am reminded of the parable of the 10 bridesmaids in Matthew 25:1-13. The foolish bridesmaids brought only enough oil for their lamps to last until the groom arrived, while the wise bridesmaids brought extra oil in case it was needed. When the bridegroom arrived late, only the wise bridesmaids who were prepared attended the wedding banquet. Using your refund to build an emergency fund will give you peace of mind knowing that you will be prepared when an unexpected expense arises.
- Add to your retirement account.In Proverbs 6, we learn about the wisdom of the ant who prepares and stores food in the summer for sustenance in the winter. Putting money in a retirement account now will provide for the winter of your life. If you put your refund in an IRA, it will reduce your tax bill next year. Win-win!
- Reward yourself.You have worked hard and deserve a reward. Ecclesiastes 9:13 states,“And people should eat and drink and enjoy the fruits of their labor, for these are gifts from God.” Allocate a modest portion of your refund to reward yourself. Better yet, take the opportunity to recognize those around you who have been a part of your journey over the past year. Take your family to dinner, treat friends to a movie, or purchase something you can enjoy with others. Sharing the fellowship will bring more satisfaction than spending on something that loses its luster once the new wears off.
If you are receiving a refund this year, use it as an opportunity to accomplish some important financial goals and to also reward yourself for your toil. Keep in mind, a tax refund shouldn’t be a free pass to go do whatever you want with the money. Prayerfully consider how to put it to best use to serve God. Remember, it’s still our responsibility to be good stewards with the abundance God has provided.
Terry Frisk is a partner in the firm B2B CFO, providing financial advisory services to small businesses. He also counsels individuals on personal financial matters through the Cathedral of the Rockies Budget Counseling ministry. He may be contacted through e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.