Currently, most Americans don’t save enough money for retirement or don’t have enough saved for emergency expenses like home or car repairs. If you’re in that position, you have a chance to take a look at your saving habits and learn ways you can make your financial future more stable during America Saves Week.
You can start by assessing your current savings progress:
- Do you know your net worth — the total amount of your assests minus your debts?
- Do you have a spending plan in place with specific goals?
- Do you have credit card debt?
- Do you save a portion of your tax refunds, gifts or other windfall payments?
- Are you building equity in a home?
Based on your answers to these and other questions, you’ll get advice on next steps you can take to form a strong savings plan.
Learn more about America Saves Week and how to test your money saving knowledge.
About 75 percent of taxpayers are expected to receive a federal income tax refund this year. If you’re one of them, here are five ways to help you keep more of the money you’re getting back from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS):
- Automatically deposit your savings. Use IRS Form 8888 (PDF) to automatically deposit your refund into up to three accounts. You have the option to deposit some of your refund into your checking account and some into your savings account. You can also use the form to deposit refunds into retirement accounts, mutual funds, or U.S. Savings Bonds. All you need are your account numbers and routing numbers. Contact your financial institutions if you need assistance locating these numbers.
- Use free filing services. Store-front tax preparers can charge you hundreds of dollars to file your taxes. But many taxpayers can use the IRS’s FreeFile service to complete and file their taxes free online.
- Compare instant refund offers to direct deposit. Many commercial tax preparation companies market “free filing” or “instant refunds.” But these offers may come with hidden fees and strings attached.
- Be sure to claim all credits or deductions. A tax credit lowers your tax bill dollar for dollar. A deduction lowers your taxable income, so the amount you save will depend on your tax bracket. Knowing which credits and deductions you qualify for can be complex and you may want to find a qualified tax preparer to help. Although a qualified tax preparer will generally charge for their service, if you qualify for the earned income tax credit, have children, have a mortgage, contributed to a retirement plan, or paid tuition, the added tax savings may be worth the extra effort and cost.
- If you qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit, contact your local VITA site for free help. There are more than 12,000 Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) sites across the United States. These sites offer you free tax preparation and assistance by trained volunteers if you meet the income limits. Call 1-800-906-9887 to find the VITA site nearest you. To learn more about the VITA program, visit the IRS website.
Learn more about how you can keep more of your tax refund from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
Getting a mortgage, checking account, or credit card with the most favorable terms is like finding a good deal on anything else: you need to shop around.
But knowing what to look for in an escrow account or overdraft program isn’t like trying on shoes. Bank products come with confusing terms, fine print, and potentially hefty obligations. A quick read that will put you on the right track is the Shop and Save…at the Bank: A Buyer’s Guide to the Right Loan, Credit Card or Deposit Account.
Struggling with debt? Here are guidelines for making a budget and resources for extra help in managing finances.