By Michelle Spita
Happy Tax Day, that time-honored tradition when most Americans are scrambling last minute to file their taxes. Americans usually use their tax refunds for lavish vacations and pricey, unnecessary purchases, and sure, one could make the argument that the spike of cash hitting the market is good for the economy. But here’s a thought: what if we lived in a world where people instead donated their tax refunds to charities?
For example, many experts believe that the quickest way to mitigate climate change is to check the growth in world population by making contraception more readily available in the parts of the world where it is needed most. The biggest barrier to making contraception available is cost, and the price to provide contraception to women in the developing world is estimated to be around $8 billion. But in 2016 alone, US consumers spent approximately $2 billion on Halloween decorations and costumes.
What if, this Tax Day, we committed ourselves to spending our money, including our refund money, to economically empower women around the world? Here are a few ideas on how.
- Donate to organizations that support women. There are a plethora of organizations that support women economically and could benefit from a financial donation. The Global Impact Women & Girls Fund accepts donations that go to four of the most prominent.
- Bank with a Community Development Fund Institution. CDFIs are financial institutions that provide credit and financial services to under-served markets and populations, primarily in the US but also in the UK. A CDFI could be a community development bank, credit union, loan fund, venture capital fund or micro-enterprise development loan fund. These institutions act just like banks, often offer better rates than traditional banks, and are committed to building thriving local communities through women- and minority-owned business investment.
- Invest in female entrepreneurs. Investors historically are seven times more likely to finance a business owned by a man than by a woman. You can use your tax refund to counterbalance that statistic by becoming an investor in women-owned businesses yourself. There are plenty of resources for smaller social-impact investors, everything from crowdfunding sites to venture capital funds to investment funds to boot camps that teach you to be an angel investor. At Kiva, you can even become a micro-lender for as little as $25.
- Invest in yourself!
Most of us know about the gender pay gap, but there’s also a gender investment gap – which means that women on average have a lot less money invested than men do. And that leads to a retirement investment gap, which can be dangerous for women as they face retirement age. Don’t let it happen to you. This Tax Day, use your refund to invest in your company 401k, in a women-focused investment service such as Ellevest.com, or start using a micro-investing app such as Acorns. With investing, every little bit counts, so don’t wait!