It’s Tax Season: Think about finances and lending a hand

Original Source: United Way

By Brian Gallagher

Depending on whether you like to get things done right away or are a procrastinator, tax season could be in full swing or fast approaching. You’re gathering your W2s, trying to understand investment documents, and – if you’re lucky – thinking about what to do with your refund.

For many people, however, these are luxuries. Low-income Americans are more likely to be thinking about paying the rent or picking up an extra shift. Their ability to save and invest is limited at best.  When I visit communities around the U.S. and the world, I meet people who need help to improve their financial situations.  Sometimes that means finding a training program that leads to a raise or a better-paying job. Other times, it means finding new ways to save for a car just to get to that job.  Perspective matters.

Tax season is a particularly good time for all of us to think about how we can improve our finances – and help others do so as well. And at United Way – where we believe that every person in every community deserves to have the opportunity to succeed – we’re hard at work making financial stability a reality for more people.  As we announced this week, United Way works with a range of partners to help families improve their finances. We partner with H&R Block on MyFreeTaxes, which helps individuals making $64,000 or less prepare and file their federal and states taxes for free. We also work with the Sun Trust Foundation to make it easy for families to find tips and strategies to manage their money with MySmartMoney. And we offer free financial coaching in conjunction with Wells Fargo.  Each of these initiatives aims to lessen the financial burden and make it easier for families to plan ahead.  

Families and individuals should be able to work towards better careers as well. It’s a lot easier to save when you have more money coming in. That’s why United Way is increasingly building coalitions to better connect workers with good-paying jobs and helping them get the job training they need. I’ve talked about cross-sector job partnerships a lot recently, and the need for these kinds of coalitions only continues to surge.  United Ways around the world work to provide all people with the essential building blocks of life. That means ensuring individuals can access quality health care and education. It also means ensuring they have the financial tools and abilities to achieve the lives they seek.  

We’re proud of our results to date. Since 2009, MyFreeTaxes has helped millions of America taxpayers receive more than $10 billion in tax refunds and save more than $2 billion in tax preparation fees. Internationally, 13,000 children in Indonesia have started to save after participating in a financial education initiative. And, just recently, the Dallas Morning News reported that the United Way of Metropolitan Dallas is far ahead of schedule towards its goal of putting 250,000 people on the path to financial stability.

This tax season, I encourage all of us to take a minute to do two things. First, step back and think about your own finances. Then, think about your wider community and see how you can support others who might need a hand with their finances. Helping others is a tremendously rewarding experience that helps to build stronger communities that benefit us all.  I know for a fact that your local United Way is eager to help.