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How to Use Financial Windfall of Stimulus Checks, Tax Refunds

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Stimulus checks and tax refunds can be used to build people's emergency funds. (Evgenia Parajanian/Adobe Stock)
Stimulus checks and tax refunds can be used to build people's emergency funds. (Evgenia Parajanian/Adobe Stock)
 By Eric Tegethoff - Producer, Contact
March 18, 2021

SPOKANE, Wash. -- With stimulus checks hitting bank accounts and tax refunds on the horizon for some, financial experts are advising people to make a plan for what to do with the influx of cash.

Jon Maroni, marketing director for Canopy Credit Union in Spokane, said obviously, the necessities such as groceries come first.

If folks have that covered, he suggested people should build up their rainy-day accounts, which should be enough to cover the bare essentials such as rent and utilities for three months.

"A majority of households, and I'm guessing this number has increased, cannot afford a $400-$500 expense without accessing some form of credit," Maroni explained. "And so, this could be, if your base-level expenses are already taken care of, the opportunity to really develop that emergency fund."

The $1,400 stimulus checks hit bank accounts as early as Wednesday. Payments phase out for individuals making more than 80,000 dollars a year or married couples jointly making 160,000 dollars.

In the first round last year, 3.5 million Washingtonians received stimulus payments, totaling $6 billion.

Maroni pointed out people should also pay down their debts with stimulus money and tax refunds.

If that's not an issue, they can contribute to their retirement fund.

If they're really fortunate, folks can donate that money to nonprofits or someone in need.

Maroni also advised people not to judge someone for how they spend their stimulus checks. They could have been recently evicted or struggling with food insecurity.

"Remember that they have experienced not knowing where their next meal is going to come from," Maroni observed. "So when you have money, you spend it on those things, because if your experience has been 'I don't know how long I'm going to have this money for,' that really, really changes how you handle finances when you get a windfall."

Maroni added if folks aren't sure what to do with the money coming in, they can reach out to their local financial institution for individual advice.

His credit union offers free coaching for members and people in the community.

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