By Mikel Van Cleve, CFP®
Americans are already feeling the devastating economic impact of COVID-19. Restaurants, bars and hotels have closed their doors. Sporting events are cancelled. Major airlines have grounded flights. Many people, especially hourly employees and those in the service industry, have lost their jobs.
In response, the White House and U.S. lawmakers reached an agreement on a two trillion-dollar stimulus package that will provide single tax filers with a check for $1,200 and joint tax filers with a check for $2,400. Parents will see $500 for each qualifying child. These amounts do phase out for individuals with adjusted gross incomes of more than $75,000, with those making more than $99,000 not qualifying at all. The limit for joint filers is double at $150,000 and completely phased out at $198,000.
While the stimulus checks provide Americans with some relief, it won’t pay our bills forever, so it’s smart to have a plan for how to best manage the money so we can make it stretch.
1. Cover your basic needs.
At the end of the day, food, clothing and shelter are our basic necessities. These are the expenses we have to incur to care for ourselves and our families. In addition to your stimulus money, be sure you’ve explored other forms of relief.
For example, check with your financial institution to see if there are opportunities to help alleviate or postpone payments. USAA is encouraging members who’ve been financially impacted to reach out for help.
USAA’s assistance includes:
You should also consider calling service providers to explore potential fee reductions or discounts, and if you owe medical payments, call your providers to see if you’re eligible for reduced service costs. Veterans can consult the VA and local affinity groups, and servicemembers can utilize on-base Military and Financial Readiness centers.
If you’re in a difficult financial position as a result of the pandemic, cut out any unnecessary expenses and explore government or community resources to help you pay for basic necessities. If you need help, do not be embarrassed or ashamed. Leverage available resources in combination with the stimulus to make it go as far as possible.
2. Save where you can
Every person’s financial situation is unique. While some people could be having trouble making monthly payments, others are able to cover their expenses. If you fall into the second category, consider saving some or all the stimulus money. With all the uncertainty, one of the most important things you can do is set money aside in savings and keep it available for when you really need it.
3. Balance your needs with the needs of others.
A third category of Americans has plenty of assets, money set aside in savings, and income still coming in. If you feel financially secure, you may look around and see ways to help your community, whether it’s a local food bank or other organizations that help those in need.
4. Beware of Scammers
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) warns that scammers are already viewing the stimulus as an opportunity to take advantage of people. The FTC offers several tips on its website in the wake of uncertainty:
For more tips on how to safeguard your finances during the current market instability, read Five Ways to Protect Your Financial Wellness During the COVID-19 Pandemic.
This material is for informational purposes and is not investment advice, an indicator of future performance, a solicitation, an offer to buy or sell, or a recommendation for any specific product.
USAA believes the websites and resources used to gather this information are reliable; however, we cannot guarantee the accuracy or timeliness of the information.
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