The word "taxes" can strike fear and nervousness in the heart of many each year, especially within our community. Because Black folks frequently fall victim to systems that are not meant to support us, we often avoid following proper protocols in order to keep our well-earned funds close at hand instead of paying Uncle Sam.

The "Money Coach" Lynnette Khalfani-Cox has built a career helping folks make the most out of their financial situation while encouraging them to strive for complete stability. A best-selling author with books such as Zero Debt: The Ultimate Guide to Financial Freedom and Perfect Credit: 7 Steps to a Great Credit Rating, Khalfani-Cox is dedicated to seeing people of all backgrounds reach their best selves through financial freedom.

Below, she shares some tips on how to completely level up this tax season:

EBONY: First and foremost, why is it important to be in good financial standing?

Lynette Khalfani-Cox: Many Black folks come from situations where there's not a lot of access to financial services or stability. Therefore, it's important for our community to work toward solutions that center boosting this access and promoting financial inclusion. Being in good financial standing helps to bridge wealth gaps that historically cause barriers for our people. That's why it is so important.

It can be scary to get our money right due to apprehension or misunderstanding about where our money goes. This is especially true when it comes to taxes. What are some ways that folks can abandon fear when it comes to proper money management?

There's just so many tools at our disposal to use, especially in the middle of the pandemic. However, I know that credit and debt tend to be two of the biggest areas of financial struggle for African Americans. I believe that keeping on top of your credit health, being proactive and credit monitoring significantly helps to eliminate this fear. Doing so allows you to be constantly aware of your situation.

Having these types of conversations within your respective communities also helps us normalize the importance of properly managing our funds. Whether it's a lump sum in the form of a refund check or a paycheck, we can never have enough savings and it's important to be in that mindset.

What are some tips for people to be encouraged to become financially empowered after they receive their tax refund this year?

I would suggest to people that they understand that small wins have big impact. Oftentimes, we see things on social media and don't recognize that folks are presenting a very carefully, curated image. So don't compare yourself to others. When you see somebody saying, "Oh my gosh, I just bought a new house," understand that you're seeing the end of that story.

Next, understand that wealth building and financial progress is about consistency. Saving and discipline over time really does matter. It's also about the recognition and the acknowledgement that everybody has value and each one of us can have value in what we do, no matter the occupation. Some people might say that they don't have $100 a month to to save. That's okay. Maybe it's $40 a month or $10 a paycheck. The key is to just do that consistently and trust me, it will grow. You will see the results of it. You'll feel so much more inspired by your own ability to establish a plan and stick with it and start to model positive actions towards others in your circle.

Believe me, people watch more what you do rather than what you say you have. If you're telling your girlfriends that your goal is to be better with money, you might suggest alternatives for activities you usually do. Instead of going out to dinner, you might cook a meal together instead to be more cost effective. Applying everyday practical principles like that will help you with your money management. You will start to gain control over your finances and have the satisfaction of checking little things off your list that are usually challenging. Whatever the struggle is, you absolutely can turn things around financially.