“The most important investment you can make is in yourself.” — Warren Buffett
Hi! I’m Kelli, and I’m the senior editor at Acorns + CNBC.
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SAVE: File away. Tax season starts today.
Ready or not, here comes tax season. The IRS is now up and running to accept your 2018 returns. Word on the street is that refunds will go out as expected, but tax pros say you have to be extra careful this year. Why? The tax rules and forms have changed. Over the coming weeks, we’ll let you know what those rules are and how they could affect you and your refund.
To get started on the right foot: Keep an eye out for key documents about your wages and investment income like interest and dividends. You might already have some of these documents, and the rest should be headed your way.
Start pulling together receipts and other paperwork you’ll need from any big purchases or expenses you might have made in 2018. That way, you’re ready to file ASAP which puts you in a better position to get your refund fast.
“If you get it in early, you’re earlier in the chain when they start processing refunds,” says Tim Gagnon, an associate professor of accounting at Northeastern University.
“If you get it in early, you’re earlier in the chain when they start processing refunds.” - Tim Gagnon, associate professor of accounting, Northeastern University
Even at the doctor’s office, prices aren’t set in stone. Carolyn McClanahan—who is both a CFP and a medical doctor—recentlythe importance of asking your doctor’s office two simple questions before you pay for a medical device like a brace or a splint: What’s the cash price? And what would I pay under my insurance?
Let’s run the numbers on the price of McClanahan’s splint: She discovered that her insurance company would bill her $76 out of pocket. Her doctor would charge only $28. Or, she could just order it online and wait to have it delivered for $18. That savings of $48 to $58 is a nice payoff for minimal effort.
Asking those questions can be valuable at the pharmacy, too. Just keep in mind that if you choose to pay the cash price for something instead of using your insurance, it won’t apply toward your deductible.
INVEST: Amid market shake-ups, keep calm—and do something. It’s winter, but market bears don’t hibernate. This recent market downturn has been a first for plenty of young investors. Just remember that the advice to “keep calm and carry on” holds true. Even among experienced 401(k) investors, one Legg Mason survey found, almost 1 in 3 has made an emotional decision to sell but wish they would have stayed the course. But “stay the course” doesn’t mean “do nothing.” Instead, use that wise advice to take steps to reinforce your confidence. Here are some things you actively can do to feel good about where you are as the market moves from one of my fellow CFPs: Review your plan. Make sure your portfolio reflects your risk tolerance and goals. A review might provide reassurance you’re on the right path, says Lynn Ballou, a Certified Financial Planner and regional director of EP Wealth Advisors in Lafayette, California. Check in with intent. Schedule regular times where you’ll review your accounts. You don’t have to look every time the market changes direction. There’s little to be gained from constant watching. Boost contributions. Yes, really. “When the market is volatile, if you can add more, add more,” says Ballou. For long-term investors, bumpy markets are an opportunity to nail the first half of “buy low, sell high.” Cheaper prices give you an opportunity to stretch every dollar. “Think about where the market is going. Don’t fret about where you’ve been. Look ahead, not in the rear-view mirror.” - Lynn Ballou, regional director of EP Wealth Advisors in Lafayette, California INSPIRE: Spreading good with donated peanut butter. It doesn’t take much money to do good that has a far-reaching impact. For 15-year-old Eric “Bean” McKay, inspiration came from Lidl-brand creamy peanut butter. Bean loves that peanut butter. The Woodbridge, Virginia teen, who has autism, enjoys his favorite spread three times a day on toasted English muffins. So when it went on sale last fall, his mom stockpiled 72 jars for 78 cents apiece. Fast forward: The supermarket chain caught wind of Bean’s devotion, and earlier this month issued a social media challenge that won Bean a lifetime supply. During the government shutdown, Bean announced he’d offer up some of his winnings to furloughed federal workers. He was inspired by his father who is among those furloughed. His mom, Tracy McKay, told The Washington Post that Bean decided to give away the peanut butter because it was the one thing he could do to give back. “We don’t have any income, but we do have peanut butter, so we should share it,” McKay told the paper. (Come back tomorrow, when I’ll share strategies to help you get your finances back on track after the shutdown if you were among those affected.) ACORNER OF THE WEEK A special shout-out to Kevin Durant : the NBA star and Acorns investor just helped open a new after-school education center in Washington, D.C., to, he says, help low-income students “push their own future forward.” As one fan, “You are changing people's lives in ways that will pay dividends for a very long time.” GROW A LITTLE EVERY DAY A moment of mindfulness “You don’t need to have extraordinary effort to achieve extraordinary results. You just need to do the ordinary, everyday things exceptionally well.” — Warren Buffett