#SWAAYthenarrative
BETA
Close

Rags To Riches: How To Best Use Your Tax Refund

Career

It’s that time of year again… tax season! For many, this means an exciting tax refund. While it can be tempting to take this cash windfall and splurge on a shopping spree, you may want to reconsider. There are a number of great ways to use this influx of cash to improve your financial situation. Below are some smart uses for your tax refund you may want to consider:


Pay Off Debt

One of the best ways to use your tax refund is to put it towards debt repayment. Consider putting it towards the highest interest debt you owe, as this will save you the most money in the long run.

Top Up Your Emergency Fund

If you’ve recently had to dip into your emergency fund (or haven’t even started one), your tax refund can be a great way to top it back up again. Remember, it is generally recommended that you have at least 3-6 months’ worth of savings in your emergency fund!

Invest

Whether a Roth IRA, stocks, bonds, or mutual funds, your investment options are nearly endless. The opportunity to earn even more money can be a great use of your tax refund. If you’re new to investing and not sure what options make the most sense for you, consider talking a financial planner or investment advisor.

Put It Towards Your Children’s Future

If you have children, you can do them a huge favor by using your tax refund to set up a 529 College Savings Plan.

"There are people who have money and people who are rich"

-Coco Chanel

Make Home Improvements

Try to limit your spending to needed improvements, such as a new roof or more energy efficient windows. Also consider whether you’ll see an ROI on your investment. For instance, kitchen and bathroom improvements tend to have the highest returns on investment. Remember, your home is an investment, and at the end of the day, if you are going to be spending money on it, you want to ensure you are increasing your property value.

Save

Don’t feel like you necessarily need to do anything exciting with the money! Simply putting it in your savings account is still a responsible use of the money. However, don’t do this if you have more pressing financial matters to attend to such as multiple debts owed, as you want to avoid paying more interest than necessary on those debts.

Donate to Charity

Rather than several smaller charitable contributions throughout the year, you may find it more manageable to earmark your tax refund as a yearly lump sum contribution to your favorite charity.

While these options may not feel as “fun” as a last-minute weekend getaway or new handbag, your future self will thank you for making responsible financial decisions. Of course, if your plan all along was to use your tax refund for a big expense you’ve been considering for a long time, there’s nothing wrong with that! Just try to avoid blowing it on impulse purchases and first consider whether any of the above options make more sense for your financial well-being. Happy tax season!

Our newsletter that womansplains the week
4min read
Lifestyle

Going Makeupless To The Office May Be Costing You More Than Just Money

Women have come a long way in redefining beauty to be more inclusive of different body types, skin colors and hair styles, but society's beauty standards still remain as high as we have always known them to be. In the workplace, professionalism is directly linked to the appearance of both men and women, but for women, the expectations and requirements needed to fit the part are far stricter. Unlike men, there exists a direct correlation between beauty and respect that women are forced to acknowledge, and in turn comply with, in order to succeed.


Before stepping foot into the workforce, women who choose to opt out of conventional beauty and grooming regiments are immediately at a disadvantage. A recent Forbes article analyzing the attractiveness bias at work cited a comprehensive academic review for its study on the benefits attractive adults receive in the labor market. A summary of the review stated, "'Physically attractive individuals are more likely to be interviewed for jobs and hired, they are more likely to advance rapidly in their careers through frequent promotions, and they earn higher wages than unattractive individuals.'" With attractiveness and success so tightly woven together, women often find themselves adhering to beauty standards they don't agree with in order to secure their careers.

Complying with modern beauty standards may be what gets your foot in the door in the corporate world, but once you're in, you are expected to maintain your appearance or risk being perceived as unprofessional. While it may not seem like a big deal, this double standard has become a hurdle for businesswomen who are forced to fit this mold in order to earn respect that men receive regardless of their grooming habits. Liz Elting, Founder and CEO of the Elizabeth Elting Foundation, is all too familiar with conforming to the beauty culture in order to command respect, and has fought throughout the course of her entrepreneurial journey to override this gender bias.

As an internationally-recognized women's advocate, Elting has made it her mission to help women succeed on their own, but she admits that little progress can be made until women reclaim their power and change the narrative surrounding beauty and success. In 2016, sociologists Jaclyn Wong and Andrew Penner conducted a study on the positive association between physical attractiveness and income. Their results concluded that "attractive individuals earn roughly 20 percent more than people of average attractiveness," not including controlling for grooming. The data also proves that grooming accounts entirely for the attractiveness premium for women as opposed to only half for men. With empirical proof that financial success in directly linked to women's' appearance, Elting's desire to have women regain control and put an end to beauty standards in the workplace is necessary now more than ever.

Although the concepts of beauty and attractiveness are subjective, the consensus as to what is deemed beautiful, for women, is heavily dependent upon how much effort she makes towards looking her best. According to Elting, men do not need to strive to maintain their appearance in order to earn respect like women do, because while we appreciate a sharp-dressed man in an Armani suit who exudes power and influence, that same man can show up to at a casual office in a t-shirt and jeans and still be perceived in the same light, whereas women will not. "Men don't have to demonstrate that they're allowed to be in public the way women do. It's a running joke; show up to work without makeup, and everyone asks if you're sick or have insomnia," says Elting. The pressure to look our best in order to be treated better has also seeped into other areas of women's lives in which we sometimes feel pressured to make ourselves up in situations where it isn't required such as running out to the supermarket.

So, how do women begin the process of overriding this bias? Based on personal experience, Elting believes that women must step up and be forceful. With sexism so rampant in workplace, respect for women is sometimes hard to come across and even harder to earn. "I was frequently assumed to be my co-founder's secretary or assistant instead of the person who owned the other half of the company. And even in business meetings where everyone knew that, I would still be asked to be the one to take notes or get coffee," she recalls. In effort to change this dynamic, Elting was left to claim her authority through self-assertion and powering over her peers when her contributions were being ignored. What she was then faced with was the alternate stereotype of the bitchy executive. She admits that teetering between the caregiver role or the bitch boss on a power trip is frustrating and offensive that these are the two options businesswomen are left with.

Despite the challenges that come with standing your ground, women need to reclaim their power for themselves and each other. "I decided early on that I wanted to focus on being respected rather than being liked. As a boss, as a CEO, and in my personal life, I stuck my feet in the ground, said what I wanted to say, and demanded what I needed – to hell with what people think," said Elting. In order for women to opt out of ridiculous beauty standards, we have to own all the negative responses that come with it and let it make us stronger– and we don't have to do it alone. For men who support our fight, much can be achieved by pushing back and policing themselves and each other when women are being disrespected. It isn't about chivalry, but respecting women's right to advocate for ourselves and take up space.

For Elting, her hope is to see makeup and grooming standards become an optional choice each individual makes rather than a rule imposed on us as a form of control. While she states she would never tell anyone to stop wearing makeup or dressing in a way that makes them feel confident, the slumping shoulders of a woman resigned to being belittled looks far worse than going without under-eye concealer. Her advice to women is, "If you want to navigate beauty culture as an entrepreneur, the best thing you can be is strong in the face of it. It's exactly the thing they don't want you to do. That means not being afraid to be a bossy, bitchy, abrasive, difficult woman – because that's what a leader is."