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Where Is My Tax Refund?

It can be tough to tamp down your impatience while you’re waiting on an income tax refund—especially if you have plans for the money.

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) knows this, which is why the agency helps taxpayers who are anxiously wondering, “Where is my tax refund?” track their status on the IRS website or through the IRS2GO app .

You can begin checking your refund’s progress within 24 hours after the IRS receives your e-filed return or four weeks after mailing a paper return. And, if everything goes smoothly, you can use the “Where’s My Refund?” tracking tool daily to watch your tax return progress through three stages: Return Received, Refund Approved, and Refund Sent. Or the tool may provide a more specific explanation of what the IRS is doing with your return.

Common Tax Refund Delays

The IRS cautions visitors to its website not to expect their refund by a certain date. Though most taxpayers typically receive their refund within three weeks, and in even less time if they e-file and choose direct deposit, there are several reasons why a payment might be delayed. Some snags are inevitable, even when there isn’t a pandemic-related backlog of paper returns for IRS staffers to wade through, as there was in 2020.

Here are some issues that could cause a holdup:

Filing a Paper Return

Under normal circumstances, the IRS says, it can take six to eight weeks to process a paper Form 1040. Unlike returns that are filed electronically, paper returns must be manually entered into the IRS system. This is why the handling of those returns slowed considerably in 2020, as the IRS limited staffing due to concerns about COVID-19. If in-person staffing continues to be a problem at IRS locations in 2021, there’s a possibility the processing of paper returns could be delayed again.

Tax returns are opened in the order they’re received, so if your refund is taking longer than expected, the date you sent your return could be a factor, as well. The delivery option you choose for your refund also can affect how quickly you receive your funds.

According to the IRS, the fastest way to receive your refund is to combine the direct deposit method with an electronically filed tax return. But taxpayers who prefer a paper return also may be able to speed things up a bit by choosing direct deposit for their refund instead of a paper check.

Providing Incorrect or Incomplete Information

Did you or your spouse forget to sign your return, or did you type in the wrong Social Security number? Returns with missing information or errors can cause extra work for the IRS, which could hold up a refund. And the IRS is strengthening its screening process to help fight identity theft, so even the smallest mistake—such as using a different name than what’s on your Social Security card—could slow things down. If the information you provide is wrong or something is missing, you can expect the IRS to contact you for additional documentation or to correct the error.

Claiming Certain Tax Credits

If you’re claiming the additional child tax credit or the earned income tax credit, the IRS won’t issue your refund before mid-February. A federal law that took effect in 2017 gives the IRS extra time to review those returns, check employers and other information, and detect any possible fraud.

Filing an Amended Return

You may have to amend your return if you find you made an error or there’s a change that affects your filing status, income, deductions, credits, or tax liability—and that could delay your refund by several weeks. According to the IRS, it can take up to 16 weeks to process an amended return—even if it was filed electronically.

If it’s been at least three weeks since you sent an amended return, you can check your return and refund status daily with the IRS’s Where’s My Amended Return tracking tool.

Falling Victim to Tax Fraud

A missing refund could be a sign that someone used your personal information to file a fraudulent tax return in your name. If you suspect you may be the victim of tax fraud, the IRS lists several recommendations for what to do next on its Taxpayer Guide to Identity Theft web page, and the agency advises potential victims to report their concerns to the Federal Trade Commission .

Owing Money Elsewhere

Congress has authorized the Bureau of the Fiscal Service (the agency that issues taxpayer refunds) to reduce refund amounts to offset certain types of debt owed to the government, such as unpaid child support, or student loans. The BFS will generally notify you if your refund is being reduced through its Treasury Offset Program, and you can dispute the payment with the agency that received it. And if there’s any money left after the offset, you’ll receive it by direct deposit or in a check, depending on what you requested on your tax return.

Your Return Never Made It

If you e-filed with third-party tax software or the IRS’s Free File system, you likely received confirmation that your return was received and accepted. If you don’t remember getting a confirmation notice, or if you’re concerned because you haven’t heard anything since then, you can check your status with the agency’s Where’s My Refund? tool.

If you still aren’t sure your return ever made it, you also can try calling the IRS at 1-800-829-1040; but be prepared—wait times might be especially long due to COVID-19. However, you may be able to get the information you need by using the automated phone system.

Finally, you could try creating an account with the IRS to view your tax records.

Your Refund Went AWOL

If the IRS’s Where’s My Refund? tool says your refund check was mailed, but 28 days or more have passed and you haven’t seen it, you can file a claim online to receive a replacement. (Where’s My Refund? will show you how.)

Even if you opted for direct deposit, it still could take a few days for the money to show up in your account. But if you think your refund has gone missing, you may want to call your bank about tracking the deposit, then move on to contacting your tax preparer or the IRS for help.

The IRS won’t accept responsibility if it sent a refund but you or your tax preparer wrote the wrong account number on your return. If the IRS notices an error, or if your bank rejects the deposit and returns the money to the IRS, the IRS still may end up sending you a check (instead of using a direct deposit). But if you entered an account or routing number that belongs to someone else and the financial institution accepted the deposit, you’ll probably have to work with a bank representative to recover the money. The IRS cannot compel the bank to return the refund.

Don’t Give Up!

To use the Where’s My Refund? tracking tool, all you need is your Social Security number or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN), your filing status (single, married filing jointly, etc.), and the exact dollar amount of your expected refund.

You may not get all the information you wanted about your refund, but it’s a start. If you can’t get satisfaction there, your local IRS office may be able to help.

Better Luck Next Time?

If you’re hoping to get your next refund faster, here are a few steps that might help:

File Electronically and Choose Direct Deposit

The IRS says refunds will generally be received by taxpayers sooner if they have e-filed and selected direct deposit. Even if you prefer mailing in a paper return, you can choose to have your refund deposited into your account.

If you don’t have a bank account, you may consider opening an account like SoFi Money®, a cash management account. With SoFi Money, you’ll have easy access to your money with a large ATM network and your refund won’t be eaten up by fees while you decide how best to use it. (If you set up direct deposit now, you can enjoy SoFi’s benefits right away.)

Sweat the Details

Pay attention to every detail as you prepare your taxes. Don’t let a little mistake cause a long delay.

File as Early as Possible

By filing as soon as possible during tax season, you’ll be able to position your return at the front of the line for processing. And by starting early, you’ll give yourself plenty of time to research any filing strategies that might apply to you, your business, and your family.

Check out the benefits of direct deposit with a SoFi Money cash management account.



SoFi Money®
SoFi Money is a cash management account, which is a brokerage product, offered by SoFi Securities LLC, member FINRA / SIPC .
Neither SoFi nor its affiliates is a bank. SoFi Money Debit Card issued by The Bancorp Bank. SoFi has partnered with Allpoint to provide consumers with ATM access at any of the 55,000+ ATMs within the Allpoint network. Consumers will not be charged a fee when using an in-network ATM, however, third party fees incurred when using out-of-network ATMs are not subject to reimbursement. SoFi’s ATM policies are subject to change at our discretion at any time.
Tax Information: This article provides general background information only and is not intended to serve as legal or tax advice or as a substitute for legal counsel. You should consult your own attorney and/or tax advisor if you have a question requiring legal or tax advice.
External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.
Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

SOCO20115

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What Is a W-2?

A W-2 is a form filed by an employer that shows compensation paid and amounts withheld from an employee’s paycheck. Compensation includes wages, tips, and other forms of compensation. Withholding can include taxes and other amounts deducted from an employee’s pay. If you have more than one employer, you may receive multiple W-2 forms. These forms are essential documents in filing your taxes for the previous year.

The W-2 is generated based on an employee’s income during each calendar year, as well as the information the employee provided on their W-4 withholding certificate. Understanding how to read your W-2 can be helpful in understanding your overall tax liability.

What Information Is on a W-2?

All W-2 forms require the same information, regardless of employer. This information includes key employer information, such as business address and employer identification number (EIN). It also includes the employee’s information, such as social security number and mailing address. Assess the form for any errors; if you see an error, contact your employer for a corrected form.

The W-2 has boxes that display various information. Box 1 displays the employee’s total wages, tips and other compensation for the year. Box 3, 5, and 7 display wages and/or tips in regard to social security and Medicare, which is a portion of an employee’s overall wages. Boxes 2, 4, and 6 display amounts withheld for federal income tax, Social Security tax and Medicare tax, respectively. Boxes 15-20 at the bottom of the form will display state and local income tax amounts withheld, if applicable.

Employees receive multiple copies of the same W-2 from each employer, to be filed with a federal tax return, a state tax return, and to be kept for the employee’s records. The IRS recommends keeping copies of W-2s for at least six years in case they contact you.

The Connection Between a W-2 and a W-4

A new employee will be asked by their employer to fill out a W-4 form, which is used to assess how much tax to withhold from the employee’s wages. Withholding depends on the employee’s circumstances, including whether they have dependents and what their tax filing status is, among other things. Employees who do not fill out a W-4 will be taxed as if they were single.

Employees won’t be asked to complete a W-4 form again unless they switch employers. An employee must take initiative and fill out a new W-4 if their tax circumstances change, such as getting married, having a child, or receiving taxable income not subject to withholding, such as earning money from a contract or freelance job.

Each allowance an employee claims on their W-4 will minimize withholding throughout the year. An employee can also request additional amounts be withheld from their paycheck. When taxes are filed, the goal for employees is to avoid a tax bill or a large refund, both of which can indicate that your tax payments during the year were off the mark.

While “tax time” is in April each year (though the IRS has extended it to mid-May in 2021), taxes are essentially pay-as-you-go, according to the IRS. That means that, in an ideal world, April shouldn’t bring a large tax bill or a large refund. For a single person who has only one employer, filling out a W-4 should be relatively straightforward. But those with multiple income streams, including rental income, investment income, or income from side gigs, may need to take some time with their W-4 to ensure they’re withholding an appropriate amount, as well as paying quarterly estimated taxes if necessary.

How do you know that your W-4 is accurate? You can assess based on the refund or bill you receive at tax time. While a refund can feel like a windfall—and people often earmark it to pay off bills or fund a vacation, home improvement project, or other big-ticket purchase—the money represents an overpayment to the IRS. While getting a big check can be exciting, it may make more sense to have that money available to budget with throughout the year. Similarly, a large tax bill can throw your budget off track and may subject you to penalties from the IRS for not having enough taxes withheld from your paycheck or not paying quarterly taxes.

Are You an Employer?

If you pay someone wages of $600 or more in a calendar year, even if that person is a relative, you’re technically an employer in the eyes of the IRS. This means that a person who employs a regular babysitter or housecleaner may need to withhold and pay certain taxes, including Medicare, federal unemployment, and social security.

This is an example of paying someone “on the books” and can be protection from fines and penalties that may come from paying an employee “under the table.” Having a clear understanding of what forms need to be filled out and what steps you need to take as an employer can help avoid a potentially complicated tax situation down the line.

Having Your Paperwork in Order

Because things can change from year to year, it can be a good idea for an employee to regularly check their withholding on their W-4 every year, and make sure a new one is filed if there is a life change, such as having a baby or getting married. It’s also a good idea for employees to keep an eye out for tax-related paperwork, since tax is due regardless of whether paperwork has made its way to an employer’s mailbox.

Checking in with an HR department can help make sure nothing falls through the cracks. Having paperwork ready and available can make filing taxes as seamless as possible when the time comes. Having your paperwork ready and considering any questions you may have can also maximize your time if you work with a tax prep professional.

The Takeaway

While tax time may be met with eye-rolling and stress, it can also be a time to set up financial intentions and systems for the year. This can include submitting a new W-4 to your employer, estimating quarterly taxes, and developing a strategy to ensure that your money works for you in the year ahead. Keeping on top of your finances throughout the year can make tax time more manageable. An account that allows for saving, spending, and earning all in one place, like SoFi Money®, makes it easier to monitor your finances and make sure funds are in place to pay taxes when they’re due.

Learn more about how SoFi Money® can help you at tax time and beyond.



SoFi Money®
SoFi Money is a cash management account, which is a brokerage product, offered by SoFi Securities LLC, member FINRA / SIPC .
Neither SoFi nor its affiliates is a bank. SoFi Money Debit Card issued by The Bancorp Bank. SoFi has partnered with Allpoint to provide consumers with ATM access at any of the 55,000+ ATMs within the Allpoint network. Consumers will not be charged a fee when using an in-network ATM, however, third party fees incurred when using out-of-network ATMs are not subject to reimbursement. SoFi’s ATM policies are subject to change at our discretion at any time.
Tax Information: This article provides general background information only and is not intended to serve as legal or tax advice or as a substitute for legal counsel. You should consult your own attorney and/or tax advisor if you have a question requiring legal or tax advice.
External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.
Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

SOCO20120

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couple on couch with laptop

Prenup vs Postnup: What is the Difference?

They’re certainly not as romantic to discuss as your dream house or your honeymoon, but prenups and postnups can be a financial lifesaver in the event your marriage does come to an end.

Both prenups and postnups are about figuring out who gets what if you and your spouse get divorced.

But these two types of agreements have some important distinctions, and circumstances may make one better suited to your relationship than the other.

Here are some key things it can be helpful to understand about prenups vs. postnups, plus how to decide if you and your significant other might benefit from getting one.

What is a Prenup?

Short for “prenuptial agreement,” a prenup is a legally binding document set up before a couple gets married — hence the “pre” suffix.

These contracts typically list each party’s assets, including property and wealth, as well as any debts either soon-to-be-spouse might carry.

It then details how these assets will be divided in case the marriage comes to an end, either through a divorce or the death of a spouse.

Who Needs a Prenup?

Prenups may also be known as “antenuptial agreements” or “premarital agreements,” but the bottom line is, they’re contracts drafted before vows are made.

Couples who are getting married for the first time and are bringing little to no assets into the marriage may not need to bother with drawing up a prenup.

However, a prenup can be particularly useful if one spouse is coming into the marriage with children from a previous partnership, or if one partner has a large inheritance or a significant estate, or is expecting to receive a large inheritance or distribution from a family trust.

These types of agreements aren’t just used in case of divorce, but also death, which can be particularly important for couples with children from a previous marriage.

If that partner dies, the prenup can define how much of their wealth should be passed onto their children versus their surviving spouse.

Prenups can also be useful for protecting assets earned and property acquired during the course of a marriage, which, without a prenup, are generally considered “shared ownership.”

If one partner wants to maintain a separate claim to acquired wealth or possessions, a prenuptial agreement makes that possible.

A prenup can also keep a high-earning partner from being required to pay alimony to their partner in the case of a divorce — though in some states, a spouse can’t give up the right to alimony, and the waiver may not be enforced by a judge depending on the way the prenup is drafted.

In the event of divorce, a prenup can also help protect a spouse from being liable for any debt the other spouse brought into the marriage.

What is a Postnup?

A postnup, or postnuptial agreement, is almost identical to a prenup — except that it’s drafted after a marriage has been established.

They may not be as well known as prenups, but postnups have grown increasingly common in recent years, with nearly all 50 U.S. states now allowing them.

A postup may be created soon after the wedding, if the couple meant to do so but simply didn’t get around to it before the big day, or well afterwards, especially if some significant financial change has taken place in the family.

Either way, a postnup, much like a prenup, does the job of outlining exactly how assets will be allocated if the partnership comes to an end.

Who Needs a Postnup?

Along with being drafted whole cloth, a postnup can be used to amend an existing prenuptial agreement if there have been big changes that mean the initial contract is now outdated.

And although it’s not fun to think about, if a couple feels they’ll soon be facing divorce, a postnup can help simplify one important part of the process before the rest of the legal proceedings take place.

A postnup, like a prenup, can help separate out assets that would otherwise be considered shared, “marital property,” which can be important if one partner obtains an inheritance, trust, piece of real estate, or other possession they want to maintain full ownership over.

Postnups can also be part of a renewed effort for a couple to commit to a marriage that may be facing some obstacles and challenges.

Prenup vs. Postnup: Which is Right for Your Relationship?

While it may be a difficult conversation to face with your fiance or spouse, creating a prenup or postnup can be an important step to help you avoid both headache and heartache later on.

If you don’t make a pre- or post-nup, your state’s laws determine who owns the assets that you acquire in your marriage, as well as what happens to that property in the event of divorce or death. State law may also determine what happens to some of the assets you owned before marriage.

While almost any couple can benefit from a frank discussion of who gets what in the worst-case scenario, here are the situations in which you might specifically want to consider a prenup vs. postnup.

Prenup:

•   If one or both partners have existing children from a previous partnership, to whom they want to lay out specific inheritances in case of death.
•   If one partner has a larger estate or net worth (i.e., if one spouse is significantly wealthier than the other).
•   If one or both partners want to protect earnings made and possessions acquired during the marriage from “shared ownership.”

Postnup:

•   If you intended to create a prenup but ran out of time or otherwise didn’t do so before the wedding.
•   If significant financial changes have made it necessary to change an existing prenup or draft a new postnup.
•   If divorce is looking likely or inevitable, and the couple wishes to streamline the process of dividing marital assets before undergoing the rest of the process.

In all cases, prenuptial and postnuptial agreements can help simplify the division of assets in the case of either death or divorce—and in either of those extremely emotionally charged scenarios, every little bit of simplification can help.

However, prenups are sometimes considered more straightforward, since they’re made before assets are combined to become marital property.

Prenups may be more likely to be enforceable than postnups should one partner attempt to dispute it after a divorce.

How to Get a Prenup or Postnup

For a prenup or postnup agreement to be considered valid by judge, it must be clear, legally sound and fair.

Couples looking to save money may be able to use a template to create a prenup or postnup themselves.

It may still be a good idea, however, for each partner to at least have separate attorneys review the document before either one signs.

If your estate is more complex, you may want to consider hiring an attorney to draft the agreement.

Either way, having an attorney review the document will help protect your interests and also help ensure that a judge will deem the agreement is valid.

Reducing the Odds You’ll Ever Need to Use that Prenup or Postnup

While creating a prenup or postnup can be a smart move for even the most hopeful and romantic of couples, the ideal scenario is a happily-ever-after that leaves those contracts to gather dust.

Fighting about money is one of the top causes of strife among couples, and one of the main reasons married couples land in divorce court.

For some couples, one way to improve their odds might be waiting until they’ve achieved some measure of financial stability before tying the knot.

Walking into a marriage with a solid personal foundation, such as a well-stocked emergency fund and a well-established retirement account, can help partners feel empowered and able to focus on other important relationship goals.

Financial transparency, starting before and/or early in marriage, can also help mitigate marital tension over money.

To achieve more transparency, some couples may want to consider opening up a joint bank account, either after they tie the knot or before if they are living together and sharing household expenses.

While there are pros and cons to having a shared account, merging at least some of your money can help make it easier to track spending and stick to a household budget, while also fostering openness and teamwork.

For couples who’d rather not share every penny (or explain every purchase), having two separate accounts along with one joint account can be a good solution that helps keep money from becoming a source of tension in a marriage.

The Takeaway

Prenuptial and postnuptial agreements are both legal documents that address what will happen to marital assets if a married couple divorces or one of them dies.

A prenup is drafted before marriage, while a postnup can be drafted soon after or many years into marriage.

Both agreements can make divorce or the death of a partner significantly less traumatic.

These agreements can be particularly useful if one spouse has children from a previous marriage, has significant assets, and/or expects to receive a large inheritance or distribution from a family trust during the marriage.

It can be helpful to use an attorney to draw up or look over one of these agreements to make sure it’s legally sound.

For couples who are ready to integrate their finances, SoFi Money® makes it easy to create a joint account that gives couples shared access to their money.

Prefer to keep some (or all) of your finances separate? The SoFi Money app makes splitting bills and expenses easy by allowing you to send money directly from the app. If your partner is also a member of SoFi Money, he or she will get the money instantly.

Learn more about SoFi Money today.



SoFi Money®
SoFi Money is a cash management account, which is a brokerage product, offered by SoFi Securities LLC, member FINRA / SIPC .
Neither SoFi nor its affiliates is a bank. SoFi Money Debit Card issued by The Bancorp Bank. SoFi has partnered with Allpoint to provide consumers with ATM access at any of the 55,000+ ATMs within the Allpoint network. Consumers will not be charged a fee when using an in-network ATM, however, third party fees incurred when using out-of-network ATMs are not subject to reimbursement. SoFi’s ATM policies are subject to change at our discretion at any time.
Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

SOMN20116

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12 Ways to Stretch Your Money

If you find yourself living paycheck and paycheck, and a raise isn’t in the offing any time soon, you may want to consider some ways to make that paycheck go further.

The key to stretching your money is to first get a handle on where–and how much–you are currently spending.

You may then be able to find some relatively easy ways to pair back some of your recurring (as well as unnecessary) expenses.

Making your dollars go further may also involve finding ways to help grow the money you do have in the bank (and there may soon be more of that).

Simple Ways to Stretch Your Money Further

Read on for money-stretching strategies that may help make it easier to make ends meet, plus have a little bit of extra.

1. Tracking Your Money

If you want to do more with your money, it helps to first figure out what you are currently doing with your money.

You may have a good sense of your fixed monthly expenses (such as rent/mortgage, car payments, groceries, student loans), but smaller everyday expenses have a tendency to slip through the cracks–yet, nevertheless, add up.

A good exercise is to track how much you’re actually spending each day (that includes every cash/debit/credit purchase you make, plus every bill you pay) for a month or so.

You can do this by carrying around a notebook, or saving all of your receipts and putting them into a spreadsheet on your computer. There are also a number of apps that can make the process of tracking your daily spending easy.

This can be an eye-opening exercise. Spending is so frictionless these days, many of us really don’t have a handle on how much money we are actually spending.

Seeing it all in black and white can help you think twice before buying something nonessential, and help you start becoming much more intentional with every dollar.

2. Setting up a Budget

Once you’ve done the work of tracking your monthly expenses, you may next want to compare this to how much money (after taxes) is coming in each month.

If you are consistently spending more than you are bringing in, you may want to set up a budget to help you get these two numbers better aligned.

The process requires grouping all of your spending into categories, seeing where you may be able to cut back, and then setting up some monthly spending parameters.

There are a number of tools and apps that can help you create–and stick with–a household budget, but even just keeping a ledger or a basic spreadsheet can help you gain more control over where money is falling through the cracks.

While the idea of living on a budget may sound like a drag, the truth is that planning how you want to spend your money can often lead to having more money to spend on the things you want.

A budget can also help guide your money toward short- and long-term financial goals like an emergency fund, a down payment for a house, and retirement savings.

3. Paying Bills on Time

Knowing when your bills are due and paying them on schedule could save you money in a few different ways.

First, it can help you to avoid paying interest and late-payment fees.

Second, It might also boost your credit score. A good credit score is important because it can help you qualify for the best interest rates on credit cards and loans.

And the less money you have to pay in interest, the faster you’ll be able to pay off debts–and the more money you’ll have to spend on other things.

4. Negotiating a Better Deal

Some of those recurring bills (like cable, internet, your cellphone, car insurance) may not be set in stone.

It might take some research—and a little nerve—but you may be able to negotiate for a lower rate from some of your service providers, especially if you’re dealing with a company that’s in a competitive market.

Before you call or email a business or provider, it can help to know exactly how much you’re paying for a service, what you’re getting for your money, and how much the competition is charging for the same or similar service.

It’s also a good idea to make sure you are communicating with someone who actually has the power to lower your rate and, if not, ask to speak with someone who does.

It may also be helpful to let a provider know that if they can’t do better, you may decide to switch to another company (and you might).

5. Ditching Expensive Debt

Another way to help make your money go further is to spend less on interest payments on debt.

If you can pay down that debt, you could use the money you’re now throwing away on interest to pay other bills, build an emergency fund, invest for the future, or save for a vacation or some other goal.

Reducing debt is easier said than done, of course—but choosing the right debt reduction strategy may help.

Since credit card debt typically costs the most in interest, you might consider, chipping away at these debts first or, if possible, wiping them out completely. You could then move on to the debt with the next-highest interest rate, and so on.

Another approach to reducing debt is to pay the minimum toward all your accounts, and then pay any extra you can toward the debt with the smallest balance. When that debt is paid off, you can move on to the next smallest balance, and so on.

If you can qualify for a lower interest rate, another option might be to take out a personal loan that consolidates all those high-interest debts into one more manageable payment.

Getting rid of that damaging debt can have long-range consequences as well.

If you can lower your credit utilization ratio, which shows the amount of available credit you have, you could improve your credit scores. And that, in turn, could make it easier to qualify for lower-interest loans and credit cards in the future.

6. Balking at Bank Fees

Unless you’re vigilant about checking your statements, you might not even notice the fees your bank may be charging every month for your checking and savings accounts.

They might include service fees, maintenance fees, ATM fees (if you don’t use their machines), minimum balance fees, overdraft or insufficient funds fees, and/or transaction fees. And all those little nips can take a toll over time.

If you see that your bank is hitting you with one or more monthly fees, you may want to consider shopping around for a less expensive bank, or switching to an online-only financial institution. Because online financial institutions typically don’t have the same overhead costs banks with physical branches do, they generally offer low or no fees

7. Pressing Pause on Impulse Purchases

If impulse purchases are your downfall, consider trying a temporary spending freeze, during which you avoid buying anything that isn’t a must.

Or maybe pick a single category (shoes, wine, cigars, jewelry) or a specific store to stay away from for a certain period of time.

To help keep you motivated, you might track the money you didn’t spend during your freeze and then put it to use paying down debt, starting an emergency fund, or saving for a downpayment on a home or other short-term financial goal.

Once you start seeing the benefits of saying No to impulse purchases, you may find yourself spending less even after the freeze is over.

8. Making Lists

Another way you may be able to make your money stretch is to make a list any time you’re going to shop, keep it in your pocket or on your phone, and then stick with it in the store.

And lists aren’t just for grocery shopping. You could make one before you hit the pharmacy, the mall, the local coffee shop, the sporting goods store–or just about anywhere you might wander off course.

Keeping a list close at hand can help avoid having to go back to the store because you forgot something (keeping store visits to a minimum), and you might be less tempted by items that aren’t on your list.

9. Click Unsubscribe

If your favorite retailers tend to bombard you with emails alerting you to their latest and greatest sale, you may want to think about getting off their e-mailing lists.

Sales and great deals are happening all the time, and generally the best time to purchase something is when you really need it.

Even if you don’t find that needed item at its lowest ever sale price, you will likely end up spending less than buying more things simply because they are on sale.

If the bait to buy doesn’t constantly land in your inbox, you’ll be less likely to take it (and won’t even know what you are missing out on).

This move could quickly translate into more cash or one less bill at the end of the month.

10. Maximizing the Money You Save

Another way to stretch your dollars is to consider how you might get a higher return on any money that is sitting in the bank earning little to no interest.

Higher-yield savings options you might consider include an online savings account, cash management account, certificate of deposit (CD), or a money market account.

For a longer-term payoff (and potentially higher rate of return), you may also want to consider putting more money into your 401k or other retirement fund, as well as starting or adding to a nonretirement brokerage account.

11. Keeping the Change

Loose change may seem fairly worthless, but over time it actually can add up, and might help you help you pay a bill or buy a nice dinner.

Instead of letting coins live indefinitely in the bottom of your bag or the cup holder in your car, consider setting up one money jar in your home to collect it all.

Then, every month or so, you might sort and roll the coins to take to the bank. (You can also use a coin-counting machine, available in some stores, but keep in mind that some deduct a fee, or percentage of your change.)

If you rarely use cash anymore, you may still be able to make good use of virtual change.

Some mobile apps and credit/debit card accounts offer users the opportunity to automatically round up purchases to the nearest dollar and have that money transferred into a savings account.

So, for example, if you bought a doughnut for $1.25, the purchase would be rounded up to $2, and the extra 75 cents would be sent to your account to go toward a savings goal.

12. Using Windfalls Wisely

It can be incredibly tempting to use a tax refund or a work bonus to buy something fabulous. And there’s nothing wrong with an occasional splurge.

But you may also want to consider using that money to pay down a high-interest credit card, make an extra payment on a loan, or start (or add to) a high-yield savings vehicle or other investment.

Any of these moves can help you stretch those dollars, either by cutting the amount of interest you’ll owe over time or adding to the interest you’ll earn.

The Takeaway

With a few smart savings strategies, you might be surprised at how much further you can stretch your money each month.

Getting started is simply a matter of tracking your spending. Once you know exactly where your money is currently going, it can be relatively simple (and often pain-free) to find ways to save.

Some money stretching moves might include negotiating with (or switching) service providers, putting a bit more money towards debt reduction, knocking down (or eliminating) monthly bank fees, reducing the temptation to make impulse purchases, and finding ways to make your savings grow faster.

Looking for a better way to manage your spending and saving so you can get the most for your money? Consider opening a SoFi Money® cash management account.

SoFi Money offers anytime access to your money at 55,000+ fee-free ATMs worldwide, along with an above-average yield to help you grow your savings.

Plus, it’s easy to track your spending (and your savings progress) with the SoFi Money app.

Check out everything a SoFi Money cash management account has to offer today.



SoFi Money®
SoFi Money is a cash management account, which is a brokerage product, offered by SoFi Securities LLC, member FINRA / SIPC .
Neither SoFi nor its affiliates is a bank. SoFi Money Debit Card issued by The Bancorp Bank. SoFi has partnered with Allpoint to provide consumers with ATM access at any of the 55,000+ ATMs within the Allpoint network. Consumers will not be charged a fee when using an in-network ATM, however, third party fees incurred when using out-of-network ATMs are not subject to reimbursement. SoFi’s ATM policies are subject to change at our discretion at any time.
Third Party Brand Mentions: No brands or products mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.
Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

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9 Ways to Improve Your Financial Life

Like any goal, making it in life financially is a matter of developing good everyday habits.

That doesn’t mean you need to overall your entire lifestyle and start sticking to a draconian budget starting tomorrow.

Small, incremental changes in the way you manage your money—such as trimming back some of your recurring bills and putting just a little bit more into savings each month—can, over time, significantly grow your net worth.

Success may not happen overnight, but financial wellness is worth working for.

Here are some ideas that can help put you on the road to a better financial life.

1. Reviewing Monthly Expenses

One of the simplest ways to improve your financial health is to take a closer look at exactly where your money is going each month.

Consider tracking expenses for a month or so, and then making a list of how much you’re currently spending monthly on essential and non-essential items.

You may want to list them in order of priority, and then look for places where you could potentially pair back, or, in some cases, completely eliminate the expense.

This might involve canceling inactive memberships and unused subscriptions, and/or re-evaluating your cell, cable and car insurance plans (do you have more bells and whistles than you need? Could you get a better deal elsewhere?).

Or, you might decide to cook more, and get takeout less often, or make fewer trips to the mall.

Another way to knock down recurring bills is to do a little haggling.

Sometimes all it takes is a phone call to get a provider to give you a better deal or to lower your rate.

For instance, if you see a promotion going on from a competitor, you can always ask your company if they can apply that rate to your account.

You can also call up a hospital to negotiate a discount on a medical bill.

2. Trying a 30-Day Spending Freeze

One quick way to change your spending habits is to put yourself on a one-month spending freeze, during which you avoid buying anything that isn’t a must.

If that seems too challenging, you might want to pick a single category (such as clothing or shoes) or a specific store to stay away from for 30 days.

To help stay motivated you might keep track of the money you didn’t spend during your freeze and then put it to use paying down debt, starting an emergency fund, or saving for a downpayment on a home or other short-term financial goal.

This can result in more money in the bank (or fewer bills) at the end of the month.

And once you start seeing the payoff of not giving in to impulse buying, you may find yourself spending less even after the freeze is over.

3. Automating Every Bill

Setting up automatic withdrawals from your bank account to pay all of your bills helps ensure those bills get paid on time.

And, when it comes to improving your financial life, paying bills on time can have a pretty significant impact.

For one reason, it helps you avoid paying interest and late-payment fees.

It could also help improve your credit score. That’s because a significant portion of your credit score is based on payment history. In fact, it’s weighted more than any other factor.

Having a good credit score is important because it can help you qualify for the best interest rates on credit cards and loans, including a home mortgage.

4. Putting an Extra 1% Towards Retirement

Even if you think you can always plan for retirement later, the sooner your start, the easier it is, and the more you’ll have when you do retire.

If you’re not yet maxing out your 401k contribution at work (which takes money out of your paycheck before taxes), you may want to increase it by just 1%.

You likely won’t notice the difference in your paycheck. But given the power of compounding interest (when your investments earn returns, those returns get reinvested and start to earn returns as well), that small increase can net more significant gains over time.

You may want to set up a timeline for when you want to bump it up another percentage point after you’ve gotten used to the 1%.

If you don’t have a 401k at work, you may want to look into opening an individual retirement account (IRA), keeping in mind that there are limits on how much you can put into retirement savings each year.

5. Paying in Cash

What is it about plastic that can make your brain think you’re not really spending money?

One way to curb unnecessary or mindless spending is to leave your credit cards at home and only carry the amount of cash you have budgeted to spend that day, or week.

When you can literally see your money going somewhere, you may find yourself becoming much more intentional in the way you spend it.

It can also be more difficult to get into debt when using cash, which could, in turn, pay off later by helping you avoid high interest credit card payments.

6. Creating Multiple Income Streams

You may not be able to snap your fingers and get a raise at work, but it might be possible to increase your income in other ways.

For example, is there a way to turn one of your hobbies, skills, or interests into some extra funds?

Maybe a favorite local business could use some help managing their social media account or designing or writing copy for their website.

Babysitting a neighbor’s kids, cleaning houses, walking dogs, or running errands for an older person are also options.

Or, you might consider taking up a side gig with flexible hours, such as driving, delivering food, helping people with small tasks, or personal shopping through one of the many on-demand service apps.

7. Saying “No” to Monthly Fees

Unless you’re looking very closely at your bank statements each month, you might not even be aware of the fees your bank may be charging every month for your checking and savings accounts.

These could include service fees, maintenance fees, ATM fees (if you go outside their network), minimum balance fees, overdraft/insufficient funds fees, and transaction fees. Over time, those little dinks can make a major dent in your account.

If you notice that you’re getting hit with one or more bank fees, you may want to consider shopping around for a less expensive bank, or switching to an online-only financial institution.

Because online financial institutions typically don’t have the same overhead costs banks with physical branches do, they generally offer low or no fees.

8. Making Savings Automatic

To start a savings routine, consider opening up a high-yield savings account or cash management account, and then setting up automatic, monthly transfers from your checking account into this saving account.

By having a set amount automatically transferred every month, you won’t have to think about (or remember to manually make) this transaction—it’ll just happen.

It’s perfectly okay to start small—even small deposits add up.

Before long you may have enough for an emergency fund (i.e., three- to six-months worth of living expenses just-in-case), a down payment, or another savings goal.

9. Knocking Down Debt

Having too much debt can hurt your chances of achieving financial security.

That’s because when you’re spending a lot of money on interest each month, it can be harder to pay all of your other expenses on time, not to mention grow your savings.

Getting rid of debt can have long-range consequences as well.

If you can lower your credit utilization ratio, which shows the amount of available credit you have, you could improve your credit scores. And that, in turn, could make it easier to qualify for lower-interest loans and credit cards in the future.

While knocking down debt may seem like a mountain to climb, choosing a simple debt reduction strategy may help.

Since credit card debt typically costs the most in interest, you might consider chipping away at these debts first, and then move on to the debt with the next-highest interest rate, and so on.

Another approach is to pay the minimum toward all your accounts, and then pay any extra you can afford toward the debt with the smallest balance. When that debt is wiped out, you can move on to the next smallest balance, and so on.

If you can qualify for a lower interest rate, another option might be to take out a personal loan that consolidates all those high-interest debts into one more manageable payment.

The Takeaway

Making it financially doesn’t necessarily mean bringing in a huge paycheck or coming into a windfall (although those things don’t hurt).

Financial wellness is more about being able to live within your means, while also being able to put some money into savings or investments each month

Making a few incremental changes, such as putting just 1% more of your paycheck into your 401k, or siphoning off an extra $100 into a savings or cash management account each month, can slowly but surely help you build your net worth.

Taking steps to improve your financial well-being can seem overwhelming. But with a SoFi Money® cash management account, you can track all your spending and saving with a single dashboard. It’s also easy to set up automatic transfers to savings accounts for different goals, all while earning competitive interest.

Not a fan of fees? SoFi Money doesn’t have any account fees, monthly fees, or many other common fees. Plus, withdrawing cash is fee-free at 55,000+ ATMs worldwide.

Learn more about how SoFi Money can make it easy to save, spend, and earn all in one place.



SoFi Money®
SoFi Money is a cash management account, which is a brokerage product, offered by SoFi Securities LLC, member FINRA / SIPC .
Neither SoFi nor its affiliates is a bank. SoFi Money Debit Card issued by The Bancorp Bank. SoFi has partnered with Allpoint to provide consumers with ATM access at any of the 55,000+ ATMs within the Allpoint network. Consumers will not be charged a fee when using an in-network ATM, however, third party fees incurred when using out-of-network ATMs are not subject to reimbursement. SoFi’s ATM policies are subject to change at our discretion at any time.
Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

SOMN20150

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