Finance

Paying Off Debt is Top of Mind This Tax Refund Season

Image Credit: Photo by Nicole De Khors from Burst

Though the saying goes, when you come into some cash, you shouldn’t “spend it all in one place” that’s usually what Americans do with their tax refunds. Be it for a home improvement project, paying down debt, or going on vacation, having a chunk of change thrown at you can help fund long-standing plans or simply pay the bills.

Just as the new year began, consumer polling firm CivicScience got the pulse on American adults’ tax refund plans.

Removing those who don’t usually receive tax refunds, we’ll work with these numbers:

Debt is looming in the minds of a third of refund-receivers, followed up by putting the money aside. Home improvement projects are no surprise the 3rd runner up beside the mysterious ‘Other’. This data looks similar to years’ past.

Digging into demographics…

It’s Better Not to Stereotype

Though men are more likely than women to use their refund for home improvement purposes, women are more likely to pay down debt or go on vacation. Surprisingly, though a very small portion of U.S. adults plans to go shopping with their tax refund, they are nearly 3x more likely to be men.

Middle Age = Debt-ridden

Gen Xers are the most likely to be paying off debt with their tax refund, and Millennials are the most likely to use it to take a vacation. What’s interesting is Millennials are more likely to save it than Gen Xers are, as well as more likely to choose to invest it.

People of all Income Brackets Are Paying Off Debt 

Low and middle-income households are the most likely to be paying off debt, as well as put the money aside. No surprises: those in the highest income bracket of $100k+ are the most likely to use their tax refund for a home improvement project and also most likely to invest it. But it should be said that all brackets are paying debt off.

Housing status is a factor as well: clearly, homeowners are 3x more likely to be using their tax refund for home improvement, but renters are more likely to be paying off debt than others are, perhaps why they aren’t homeowners yet, to begin with.

Parental Status

This could be tied to life stage, but parents are the most likely to be choosing to pay off debt this tax return season. Those who are neither a parent or grandparent are the most likely to be taking a trip, likely because they aren’t as tied down.

Happy or Not?

And then there was this nugget: Unhappy people are 2x more likely than happy folks to be paying off debt with their tax refund this year. Happy people, on the other hand, are 5x more likely to use the money to take a vacation. This can only lead us to infer that the more debt you have to pay off (or just that you’re paying off debt at all) has a tremendous effect on your happiness.

We’ll follow up in a couple of months to see if people did indeed use their tax refund as intended, and maybe see if happiness has been impacted as a result.

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