Double the Impact of Your COVID-19 Stimulus Check With Smart Strategies for ‘Windfall’ Management
American Consumer Credit Counseling is advising clients on making the most from their COVID-19 federal assistance; Round Two of stimulus checks is likely coming
Americans can nearly double the impact of their federal stimulus checks with smart financial strategies for managing and maximizing a modest windfall, according to American Consumer Credit Counseling.
The $2.2 trillion CARES Act is delivering payments of up to $1,200 per individual in response to the economic fallout of the global COVID-19 pandemic. The second round of relief with potentially higher payouts is in discussions between the White House and Capitol Hill leaders in Washington. Over 90 million Americans have already received economic stimulus payments from the IRS, with another 60 million expected to receive financial relief soon.
“The great financial tragedy America has experienced means for millions of families, these relief funds must go immediately to help pay for food, medicine, utilities, rent, and mortgage payments,” said Steve Trumble, President and CEO of American Consumer Credit Counseling. “For too many households hit by job loss or the shutdown of a small business, it’s simply not enough to keep them afloat. A second round of federal relief is desperately needed.”
For households where the primary source of income has not been interrupted or has sustained only limited COVID-19 impact, ACCC says the best strategy is to treat stimulus payments as an unexpected “windfall” and prioritize the money’s use for maximum impact.
Smart strategies for putting a lump sum payment to good use include:
- Establish or grow your household emergency fund – “So this is it, the ultimate rainy day. We are experiencing a nationwide economic emergency we could never have imagined,” Trumble said. If you are still able to cover all household expenses with your income, appropriating some or even most of the average $1,200 stimulus payment to an emergency fund is a wise move.
- Set it and forget it. Make an uncomplicated investment – Savings and investment apps such as STASH, Acorns, and Clink make it easy to choose uncomplicated investments through ETFs, bonds, and individual company stocks. Market volatility tied to the COVID-19 crisis is unnerving, but the decline in stock prices also means an excellent opportunity to buy. It takes a sustained return of 8 percent annually to double $1,000 in about nine years.
- Leverage your employer’s 401(k) match – Among employers who match 401(k) contributions, the most common match is 50 cents on the dollar up to 6 percent of an employee’s salary. That means putting an additional $1,000 toward a qualifying matched 401(k) returns $500 almost immediately.
- Invest in your own ability to generate income – If you put $1,000 toward establishing, launching, and marketing a side-hustle, the payoff could double that money and return further multiples very quickly. Essential services such as grocery and meal delivery have unprecedented demand during the COVID-19 crisis. Teaching English online to overseas students is popular because the work is in off-hours. New businesses and side hustles can be easily promoted using a free-to-create Facebook business page and other online resources.
- Pay down high-interest debt – For the biggest and quickest return on your stimulus check, paying down high-interest credit card debt can’t be beaten. The average savings account interest rate today is barely 1 percent. The average credit card interest rate for existing accounts is more than 15 percent and much higher for those borrowers with imperfect credit scores. That means every $100 paid toward reducing debt returns 15 times the yield from a savings account.
Stimulus payments from the CARES Act and other federal assistance under consideration couldn’t be arriving at a better time. The recent ACCC Financial Health Index found that nearly 80 percent of those surveyed have been impacted by the shutdown of entire economic sectors and other effects from COVID-19.
“Income security, financial stability, and household debt levels are all major pressing issues on the minds of American consumers,” Trumble said.
The poll of 430 Americans – aged 25-65 with incomes of $100,000 or less – found that 29 percent have been “significantly impacted” financially by COVID-19, while close to 50 percent have been at least “somewhat impacted.”
Financial counselors at ACCC continue to provide callers with budget counseling and assistance with creditors while providing further support through ConsumerCredit.com and the ACCC Talking Cents blog. Counselors are also directing clients to resources such as the Ready.gov section on financial preparedness, and the downloadable EFFAK (Emergency Financial First Aid Kit) guide.
About American Consumer Credit Counseling
American Consumer Credit Counseling (ACCC) is a nonprofit credit counseling 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to empowering consumers to achieve financial management through credit counseling, debt management, bankruptcy counseling, housing counseling, student loan counseling, and financial education concerning debt solutions. To help consumers reach their goal of debt relief, ACCC provides a range of free consumer personal finance resources on a variety of topics including budgeting, credit and debt management, student loan assistance, youth and money, homeownership, identity theft, senior living, and retirement. Consumers can use ACCC’s worksheets, videos, calculators, and blog articles to make the best possible decisions regarding their financial future. ACCC holds an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau and is a member of the National Foundation for Credit Counseling® (NFCC®). For more information or to access free financial education resources, log on to ConsumerCredit.com or visit http://www.consumercredit.com/financial-education.aspx