The Average Tax Refund And How To Spend It

The average tax refund is roughly $2,750 for 2014. With the US per capita income at around $48,000, that’s 6% of one’s income they’ve overpaid to the evil empire. Everybody knows that getting a refund is like giving the government an interest free loan.  But, with interest rates the way they are, who cares?!

If you were to ask people to put aside $230 a month to save $2,750 a year, I bet most would fail due to the lack of discipline. As a result, I think it’s fantastic most people are getting refunds. The key is not blowing your refund on some splurge you wouldn’t otherwise spend money on if you didn’t get a refund.

In 2014, I had to pay about $1,000 more in Federal taxes, but I got several thousand back from the state of California. For the past 10 years, I’ve saved or invested every single refund I’ve received, and this year was no different. Boring! At least a philosophical post came out of it entitled, “Is Paying Taxes A Form Of Charity?

Here’s a neat infochart with more ideas of what to do with your refund. I like the rocket ship chart of investing your refund every year until you retire with a 7.5% return. Buying a nice Macbook Pro would be sweet too, however, that’s a corporate expense, baby!

If you are like me, you should be motivated to invest and pay down more debt with your refund, rather than spend it on superfluous things. Although buying 1,000 lottery tickets sure sounds like way more fun!

Make Money with Your Tax Return Infographic

HERE’S HOW TO INVEST YOUR REFUND

1) Take your boss out to lunch (10% / $300 over the year). Your number one money-maker is your job; hence, it behooves you to invest as much as you can in making yourself the most compensated employee possible. One of the best ways to get paid and promoted is to build a tremendous support network of individuals predisposed to root for your success. When it comes time for a raise and a promotion, your name will float to the top of the list because managers tend to take care of people they like and disregard people they don’t really know. It doesn’t matter how rich somebody is — nobody can resist a free lunch!

Estimated return on lunch: 1,000%+

2) Donate to a charity that matters most to someone whom you want to impress (10% / $300). If for some reason you feel bad about taking your boss out to lunch, support her in a different way by volunteering your time or money to a charity that she cares about deeply. (Ideally, you will sincerely care about the charity as well, for congruency purposes.) Nothing builds better relationships than finding something shared in common that greatly matters. Because his mother had died from lymphoma years before, a friend of mine supported a client’s lymphoma marathon charity. The client was raising money for lymphoma research because his close friend had also died from lymphoma. Not surprisingly, the two men formed a very tight bond,and from then on my friend was perennially ranked #1 with that client.

Estimated return on donation: A lifetime connection + 1,000%+

3) Take your loved one on a weekend getaway (30% / $900). Money doesn’t matter much if you don’t have somebody you love with whom to spend it. Assuming there’s someone special in your life, you probably neglected, upset, disappointed, or saddened that person at some point during the year. Use some of your refund to apologize and show them you still love them deeply. If you don’t have someone special, then offer to take your best friend somewhere to catch up on good times and make new good times. Poll after poll shows that having a good circle of friends is the number one source of real happiness.

Estimated return on friends and partners: Priceless.

4) Thank your parents (30% / $900). Without our parents we would not be where we are today. Although most of our parents don’t expect any special thanks for raising us, it’s always nice to give back to those who may have sacrificed the most for us. Some parents are financially struggling due to unlucky breaks or poor decisions and are too proud to ask their children for help. Touch base with them and allocate part of your refund to those who could use the money most. They’ve spent a lifetime working to provide not only for you, but also for themselves in retirement. Help make their golden years the best years possible.

Estimated return on thanking our parents: Priceless.

5) Treat yourself (20% / $600). A tax refund isn’t new money; it’s money that you earned and that was owed to you all along. Most financial advisors would encourage you to save your refund, invest your refund, fund a ROTH with it, or use it to pay down high interest debt. By now, however, you’ve already invested 80% of your refund in steps 1-4, with returns that range from 1,000% to priceless; go ahead and treat yourself with the remaining 20%! A 1,000% return on a lunch investment blows away any historical 8% S&P 500 return average.

Estimated return on thanking yourself: Sanity and motivation.

FOCUS ON GIVING INSTEAD OF RECEIVING

Because the average refund is a relatively small absolute dollar amount, going the traditional route of investing or paying down debt is not an exciting proposition. Even if your entire $3,000 refund returned a healthy 10%, that’s only a $300 pre-tax return… and how much would that really change your life?  Focus instead on using your refund to improve existing relationships or make new relationships. Not only does it feel better to give than to receive, you’ll likely end up receiving way more down the line anyway!

RECOMMENDATION TO BUILD WEALTH

Manage Your Finances In One Place: One of the best way to become financially independent and protect yourself is to get a handle on your finances by signing up with Personal Capital. They are a free online platform which aggregates all your financial accounts in one place so you can see where you can optimize your money. Before Personal Capital, I had to log into eight different systems to track 25+ difference accounts (brokerage, multiple banks, 401K, etc) to manage my finances on an Excel spreadsheet. Now, I can just log into Personal Capital to see how all my accounts are doing, including my net worth. I can also see how much I’m spending and saving every month through their cash flow tool.

The best feature is their Portfolio Fee Analyzer, which runs your investment portfolio(s) through its software in a click of a button to see what you are paying. I found out I was paying $1,700 a year in portfolio fees I had no idea I was hemorrhaging! There is no better financial tool online that has helped me more to achieve financial freedom. It only takes a minute to sign up.

Updated on 2/4/2015. May you all get a healthy 2014 refund in 2015!

A Look Inside Australia’s Education, Investment, Tax, Healthcare & Retirement System

Australian CurrencyYou’ve heard about Bondi Beach, the Great Barrier Reef, Elle McPherson and the Australian Open.  You know that Australia has a great “walkabout” culture where college graduates take a gap year to go explore the world and expand their horizons.  As far as you can tell, Australia is a wonderful land down under!

Unless you’ve been to sunny Australia, everything is hearsay.  I’ve never been, but fortunately for all of us,  Shaun from Money Cactus is a regular reader who hails from Australia and has decided to provide some insights into what it’s really like living and working in Australia.

One of my friends from San Francisco moved to Sydney five years ago and he loved it so much he decided to start a business there and become an Aussie citizen!  After looking more into the Australian healthcare and social safety net system, there’s no wonder why people love Australia!  In fact, I might consider retiring there myself if they have me.  Then again, why would they since I haven’t paid any of their taxes!

Here’s Shaun’s perspective on Australia.  For other Australian readers and those who’ve spent some time there, please feel free to share your thoughts as well!

Australian Boom: Where The Money’s At

Is Paying Taxes A Form of Charity?

Sleepy Old ManI just got done with two things: 1) Writing a check for another $1,000 more in taxes to the Federal Government for 2011, and 2) Re-reading the article, “The Average Percent Of Income Donated To Charity Can Improve“.  Hopefully all of you are on pace to finish doing your taxes before the April 17th deadline.

Forget about filing an extension and putting off paying your taxes.  Do it now!

Several things I’ve learned from doing my taxes:

* I paid almost as much in taxes as I’ve saved.  In fact, most of my friends, and probably most of you have paid MORE in taxes than what you’ve saved, since most people don’t save more than 20% of their gross income, let alone 55% of their after-tax income.  Go ahead, make the calculation and start vomiting.

* The amount of total taxes I paid in 2011 could buy a nice 4 bedroom McMansion in the MidWest or a Lamborghini Gallardo.  With the money left over from the Lambo, I could pay for five friends to go to Vegas for a week.  We’d stay in suites at the Aria Hotel and reserve a private booth each night at Tao with an endless flow of Crystal, Ron Zacapa, and Goose.  And here I am, a total fool trying to keep my credit card spending below $1,500 a month so I can save more for retirement and build more financial security.  I might as well live it up since the government is living it up with my money!

Disadvantages Of The ROTH IRA: Not All Is What It Seems

Passed Out Drunk Vomit Oozing From Mouth

If you contribute to a Roth IRA

For years I’ve been an opponent of the ROTH IRA after the government came out with its tricky dick way to let us all do a “one-time” conversion from our traditional IRAs. The government was so successful in getting people to pay huge sums of taxes on their IRAs during the financial crisis that I just shook my head in disbelief.

As a personal finance blogger who wants to help you achieve financial freedom sooner, rather than later, it’s my duty to write this post to help you see the error in contributing or converting to a ROTH IRA if you have not maxed out your 401(k).

Of course if the choice is between NOT SAVING and saving via a ROTH IRA for your future, then the answer is that one should open up a ROTH IRA rather than piss their money away on stupid stuff that depreciates in value. However, do know that you are still pissing money away by giving some of your money to the government. And if the choice is between choosing a traditional IRA over a ROTH IRA, choosing the traditional IRA is hands down the way to go.

Please read the reasons why a ROTH IRA is not a good idea for the large majority of you. I really hope this article will wake you up to the tremendous government brainwashing that is being conducted to get you to part more with your hard earned money. If you’re still in favor, at least you know the other side of the story and Uncle Sam thanks you!

DISADVANTAGES OF A ROTH IRA – NOT ALL MILK AND COOKIES

What Is The Average Audit Rate By Income Level?

In a great display of public income profiling, the IRS recently highlighted they are increasing their audit rates for income levels above $200,000.  If you study the chart carefully, you will see that after $200,000, your audit rate percentage goes up anywhere from 3X to 30X the average audit rate for those making less!

I’ve said this before, and I’ll say this again, the average income for maximum happiness is $200,000 a year per person because $200,000 is the income level which provides maximum financial reward without drawing discrimination from the government or general public.  Any income above $200,000 gets assaulted like a rabid pit-bull against a defenseless baby bunny!

Average Audit Rates By Income In America

IS INCOME PROFILING OK?

We all can agree that racial profiling is not OK.  Therefore, is income profiling OK?  Are we really going to allow the government to try and make the lives of the wealthier incrementally more miserable?  By doing so, we are saying that those who make more in our free country are more likely to cheat on their tax returns.  Wouldn’t those who have more money feel less of a need to cheat on their taxes since they already have enough?  Maybe.

However, if you are super rich, you’ve got the finest accountants money can buy who know these stats and who will ensure that in case of an audit, they will do everything possible to make sure things are clean because too much is at stake, including their own jobs!

From a rational point of view, given our tax code is 10,000+ pages long, we can assume that errors will be made across the entire income spectrum.  The flat tax above a certain income level is clearly the most efficient way to go.  Given limited resources at the IRS, it is rational for IRS agents to go after bigger fish to descale, slaughter, and eat vs the little minnows.  Better bang for the buck.  However, once again, is this right?

Recommendation: I’ve been using H&R Block’s Premium Tax Software to do my own taxes for the past 11 years. It’s inexpensive and very easy to use for novice to advanced tax filers. The software always updates with the latest tax rules so you’re never behind. They also have audit protection service as well.

Regards,

Uncle Sam

Tax Rates Based On Work Ethic Shall Fix The World

Light Bulb FluroescentI want to fix America and make things better for our children.  We cannot fix anything through complaining.  Instead, solutions must be made and implemented.  Of course no solution will be perfect, as there will always be a group of people who feel unduly hurt by new proposals.  That said, during tough times, tough choices must be made!

One of the best ideas proposed to help improve our country’s fiscal health and our personal finances is limiting what consumers can buy based on their high school grades.  Since high school is mandatory, we use high school as a barometer.

Let’s use the car as an example of how we can use grades as a way of controlling consumption to protect our fiscal health.  The car is one of the great personal finance killers of our generation and our attitude towards what our car spending habits needs to change!

The assumptions in this article are namely: 1) Big government is good, otherwise, we would not allow such massive federal government spending and ballooning budget deficit, 2) We are all patriots and want to help America, and 3) Despite allowing big government, we are still a meritocracy.

Please keep an open mind while reading as we look towards controlling our overconsumption habits and healing our nation!

THE “GRADES AND CONSUMPTION PLAN”

Is Discrimination OK If You Aren’t Being Discriminated Against?

Iguana In TijuanaOn Wednesday, January 18th large internet companies such as Wikipedia blacked out their sites in protest of the Stop Piracy Act Bill (SOPA).  The nice-sounding bill threatens to destroy creativity and freedom of speech on the Internet by allowing the US Department of Justice and copyright holders authority to attack sites who enable or facilitate copyright infringement.

Imagine Financial Samurai sharing a piece of useful information on how to prevent credit card theft online, and the original creator is from some giant corporation who has a propensity to sue despite linking back and giving credit.  I will probably never bother to share this useful content in fear of having some overly paranoid lawyer sue me for SOPA infringement if this bill passes.  Our society is already litigious enough!

I’m proud of the Internet community for speaking out against SOPA.  The government, despite all its “good intentions” should not be in the business of regulating what we can share and say online.  Sure, there is a limit to what we can and should do, especially if someone is being untruthful, but for the government to get involved with what I can and cannot say on my own site is wrong and I am fiercely against SOPA and more government regulation!

You would think that those who are against big government would also be against big government who discriminates based on income, gender, and sexual preference, but you’d be mistaken.  To many, discrimination is OK, so long as they aren’t being discriminated against.

THE HYPOCRISY OF INCONSISTENCY