Patrice C. Washington has a lot to teach us about money management – and not just because she’s a personal finance columnist. The author and television commentator built up a sizable fortune in real estate, then lost it all in the recession. We recently had the chance to talk to Washington about how she bounced back and what advice she can give us this tax season.
Washington says that one of the first things families should do this tax season is figure out if they qualify for free tax services. She recommends the website myfreetaxes.com to check eligibility. She also cautions against assuming you need a tax professional.
Tax software has evolved so much that it’s “pretty easy” to use, she says. “Unless you have something that’s really unusual,” Washington says you can probably get away with doing your taxes online.
Another tax topic Washington’s passionate about? Making the most out of your refund. The most important thing we can do with our tax refund is plan for it before we receive it.
“Families can do a lot to make the most of their refunds,” she says.
Everyone has different financial goals, of course, but there are questions we can be asking ourselves.
“What do we really want to get accomplished with this refund?” she recommends asking. Whether it’s saving for a specific need or paying down debt, make sure that refund is earmarked.
“We get excited,” she says, when we see that money deposited into our account, “so we blow it right?” Make the most of your money by tempering that excitement with your financial goals.
Washington is a serious inspiration when it comes to money matters. She maintains a positive outlook even after the loss she experienced in the recession.
“I lost everything,” she says. At one point she was sleeping on her brother’s couch. But Washington and her husband looked at what they could have done better and decided to work hard to regain their financial independence.
“We need to take personal responsibility for our personal finance,” Washington said.
She and her husband thought, “If we were stable once we can do this again and do it better.”
One of the biggest financial problems folks come to Washington with is the fear of taking a look at their money reality.
“It’s not usually as bad as they think it is,” she says. People just need to take control and acknowledge that they want to get on the right track for their financial future. “It all starts with a decision.”