How Did You Spend Your Stimulus Check?

by Rob Stoll, CFP®, CFA Financial Advisor & Chief Financial Officer / July 15, 2020
Fee Only Financial Advisor Robert Stoll Deer Park Barrington Chicago

On March 27, 2020 the CARES Act was signed into law, designed to offset the negative impact of COVID-related business shut-downs. A big part of the bill was sending out $1,200 stimulus checks to taxpayers, which most people received by the end of April. So how did you spend your stimulus check?

History of Economic Stimulus Checks

The $1,200 stimulus check was a major part of the government’s effort to offset mandated business closures, which led to massive job layoffs. A family of 4 received upwards of $3,400 in stimulus money, which is a tidy sum!

Therefore, stimulus checks aren’t new. President Bush’s tax cut bill in early 2001 sent “rebate” checks to most taxpayers. And in 2008 the government stepped up with a round of checks for taxpayers as the U.S. economy started to hemorrhage from the global financial crisis.

CARES Act Stimulus Checks

First, the size of the CARES Act checks dwarfed the amounts that were sent in 2001 and 2008. All-told, $275 billion of checks have been sent out as of mid-June. 

There’s been speculation as to how consumers would use this money. Would they save it, spend it, or use it to pay down debt?

A recently-released report on consumer finances sheds some light on the subject. Each month, the Federal Reserve reports total outstanding consumer debt totals, such as credit cards, auto loans, and student loans.

Credit Card Debt Paid off with CARES Act Stimulus Checks 2020

It showed through May, consumers have paid down over $100 billion of credit card debt since the end of February. That’s a huge decrease in such a short period of time. 

With $275 billion of stimulus checks sent out over 35% of those funds were used to pay down credit cards.

In summary, this sort of prudence on the part of the American consumer flies in the face of many who thought the checks would be blown on new TVs.

For our household, we had a well-timed break-down with our heat/AC unit. So our check was spoken for before we could decide what to do with it! 

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Rob Stoll, CFP®, CFA Financial Advisor & Chief Financial Officer

Rob has over 20 years of experience in the financial services industry. Prior to joining Financial Design Studio in Deer Park, he spent nearly 20 years as an investment analyst serving large institutional clients, such as pension funds and endowments. He had also started his own financial planning firm in Barrington which was eventually merged into FDS.