GOT YOUR STIMULUS CHECK? DON’T BLOW IT

Millions of Americans are getting a financial boon this month in the form of a stimulus check from the U.S. government.

But that money will go fast if you’re not careful, financial experts said.

The money is there to help stave off negative economic effects from the coronavirus pandemic, and was part of Congress’ $1 trillion economic plan to stimulate the economy.

But Thomas Dedrick, a certified financial planner for Raymond James and Associates in Tuscaloosa, said spending your check immediately isn’t a great idea unless you’re using it for important bills like rent or electricity.

“I would warn against that for a few reasons,” Dedrick said. “First off, we’re not quite sure as to how long these conditions are going to last, and if it lasts for awhile having some additional resources will come in handy.”

The stimulus is giving taxpayers who make less than $75,000 a year $1,200 for individuals or $2,400 for married couples filing jointly, and $500 for each dependent child.

While it might sound like a great idea to use that money and pay down credit card debt, there may be better ways to handle those payments, Dedrick said.

“I would reach out to the credit card company and ask if they have any provisions or programs in place to help people through these slow times,” Dedrick said.

Many credit card companies are offering deferred payment plans or reduced interest rates. If you’re out of work, use the funds to at least keep up with the minimum payment on your credit cards. Same goes for student loans, Dedrick said, unless your lender is adjusting your loan payments during the slowdown.

“Naturally, you want to keep your credit score as high as possible, but you can work with the credit card company,” he said. “In most cases they have provisions where there will be no negative marks against your credit as a result of something totally out of your control.”

Utility companies, mortgage lenders and landlords may also be willing to work with customers who are out of work, and it never hurts to call and ask for relief. Keep the people you owe money to informed of your situation. Ignoring the problem is the worst thing you could possibly do.

Now’s not the time to acquire more debt, Dedrick said, because no one knows how long the pandemic will continue.

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