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How to Leverage Your Payroll Tax Raise

by Anna Haug

Social Security is a governmental department that provides retirement, disability and medical benefits among others. If you work for an employer, 6.2% of your wages is withheld for the Social Security programs.

If you have a job and pay into Social Security, you'll get a temporary "raise" in 2011.That's because a 2% decrease in your payroll taxes is part of the Tax Hike Prevention Act Congress signed into law at the end of 2010 (msnbc.com Jan 3). You won't see this money in a lump sum. Instead, each paycheck will be a tad more because you can expect to pay a little less in taxes.

No matter what size your "raise," if you don't plan how you'll use that money it will slip away. Here are three ways to leverage that extra cash:

Invest in yourself

If you have credit-card debt, use the extra cash to pay it down. If you don't have any credit-card debt, put the entire 2% in a pre-tax retirement account or Roth IRA, in certificates of deposit/share certificates (CDs), open a high-yield savings account, or invest in a mutual fund. If your employer has a retirement plan, increase your retirement contribution.

Invest in your living situation

Establish an appliance-replacement fund, pay more on your mortgage every month, or put the money aside every paycheck for auto maintenance.

Invest in quality of life

There are many ways to improve your quality of life. Here are some ideas. Start a fund for gift giving so you can celebrate important occasions like quinceañeras, baptisms and weddings and give to charity without worry. Add a line to your budget for family entertainment so you're ready when your favorite music group comes to town. Stash the money to pay the rising costs of health care. Join a fitness club and invest in your personal health and well-being.

Additional Benefits

Two of these ideas have bonuses in that you'll get a percentage back if you invest in a pre-tax retirement account or a health savings account. Others save you money by reducing costs. If you pay down credit card debt, pay more on your mortgage, or upgrade an appliance, you'll wind up paying less in interest or the cost of energy. If you invest in a Roth IRA, besides bringing you more money when you retire, your contributions most likely will be cheaper in today's tax climate than they will be in the future.

Visit your credit union to learn more about what resources they may have with tax preparation, investment options or money management help.

Published 3-7-2011



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