Another round of relief checks are arriving for Americans. You may have ever gotten yours this weekend deposited in your bank account. This time, the checks may amount to a few thousand dollars for a family.
The money, designed to stimulate the economy, is a big relief to many Americans.
But what should you do with these stimulus checks? You’ve been stuck inside for close to a year. Buying a new TV or beautifying your flower beds may sound like a good idea!
But there are plenty of things you can do to better your personal finances as well. Let’s take a look at some of them.
Your emergency fund is a pillar of your financial safety. You can read more about how to build an emergency fund here.
An emergency fund should cover a few months of lost income if you lost your job. For starters, we recommend getting $1,000 to be there in a pinch in your emergency fund.
This stimulus check is a great time to jumpstart an emergency fund if you don’t have one. If you’re married, you may be able to put aside at least a month’s worth of income between both stimulus checks.
The future of the economy is still uncertain. Protecting yourself from a potential job loss is smart.
After your first $1,000, focus on building up one to three months of your income in a separate savings account. This provides an even bigger buffer if something serious ever happens.
Paying Off Debt
With the pandemic, some debt payments were delayed. This helped many Americans pay their basic bills while they weren’t working. But those debt deferrals won’t be around forever.
As debt collectors resume payments, it’s likely that your monthly bills will go back up again.
These stimulus checks could pay down debt or you could put it aside for when your payments resume.
If you’re not sure where to start paying off your debt, start with the highest interest rates first. These are likely your credit cards or personal loans.
Investing in Retirement
You can’t use your stimulus check for your work retirement plan. But if you have a Roth IRA or Traditional IRA, you can contribute a little bit extra.
The 2021 limits for contributions to your retirement plan are $6,000 for an individual and $12,000 for married couples.
Your stimulus check can put you closer to these contribution limits than doing it all out of pocket.
You can learn more about contribution limits here. If you’re over the age of 50 or have special circumstances, you may be able to contribute even more.
For some, student loans were suspended or had their interest rates reduced to 0%.
Currently, these rules apply September 30, 2021. Every loan is different. So you’ll have to check both the federal student aid resources as well as talk to your own student loan lender.
If your loans have a 0% interest rate, it could be a great time to pay down the principal with your stimulus checks.
Some Americans are still hopeful that Congress will cancel student loan debt. As of late, there’s little movement on making that a reality. That means that unless the deadline is extended, your loans will be due after September 30, 2021.
Plan accordingly. Make smart moves to pay down your student loans or refinance them to a lower interest rate.
Are You Still Working Full Time?
Obviously, if you’ve lost your job these stimulus checks are a welcomed help. They can go to paying your monthly bills and keeping food on the table.
But if you didn’t lose your job, the stimulus checks may be better saved. If your job is still paying regularly and you imagine it will for the foreseeable future, your stimulus check can jumpstart financial goals.
How Much Stimulus Will You Get?
This round of stimulus will reach about 90% of American households.
Each adult, including dependents, will receive $1,400. Parents will receive $1,400 stimulus payments for each dependent child they have, up to 2 children.
That means a family of 4 could receive $5,600 in stimulus relief.
Adult dependents will also qualify for stimulus payments paid to their caregivers.
If you earn less than $80,000 per year you will qualify for the stimulus payment. Heads of household can earn up to $120,000 per year. And married couples filing jointly are eligible for up to $160,000 in income before stimulus payments are cut off.
The checks will arrive both as direct deposits to your bank account or in the mail as a physical check. However you received your previous stimulus payment is likely how you will receive this one too.
Whatever you decide to do with your stimulus checks, be smart about it! Buying a new car may feel good in the moment, but it’s likely not going to boost your financial outlook.
Make sure you put some of it away for a rainy day or pay down expensive debt. Give yourself some breathing room in your budget by eliminating a large credit card payment or student loan.
The stimulus payments are great to put food on the table and keep the rent paid. But if you have any money left over after the essentials, it’s time to think about your future.