Change Your Tax Withholdings.
Are you giving the federal government an interest-free loan every year? If you get an annual refund from the IRS, the answer is yes. Your employer deducts federal income taxes from each of your paychecks based on the number of “allowances” you claim on your W-4* (the form you filled out when you were hired). Many people claim zero allowances—having the maximum amount of taxes taken—and then file their return with exemptions and other deductions to receive a tax refund. Essentially, they are overpaying their income taxes. Why not pay an amount closer to your actual taxes and increase your weekly discretionary income and have more to save and invest?
People love getting a tax refund. Who wouldn’t love having $1,000, $2,500 or even $5,000 deposited into their checking account each spring? Many even argue that their tax refund IS their savings account. They use their annual refund for larger purchases, vacation, to pay off holiday debt, etc.
But here’s the brutal truth: It’s not smart savings and if you are not in a position to handle an unforeseen circumstance, you don’t need to be going on a vacation or buying a big screen TV. Above and to the right is an actual example of how one person began investing over $6,000 per year without feeling a strain on her day-to-day living or monthly budget.
By simply changing the allowances on her W-4 from zero to two, she was able to start investing 10% of her income ($166.67 bi-monthly), but her take-home pay only decreased by $45. Plus, her company—like many companies—matches her contribution up to five percent. Hence, her actual annual investment is $6,000.
*This example is intended as an illustration only and does not reflect the performance of any specific investment and should not be considered financial advice.