Baylor Consumerism Expert Shares Five Tips to Make the Most of Your Stimulus Check
If emergency savings is low, begin there, professor says
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by Cerenity Austin, student news writer, Baylor University Media and Public Relations
WACO, Texas (April 13, 2021) — With President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act, citizens nationwide received a second round of stimulus checks in the form of $1,400 per person and an additional $1,400 per dependent.
The Rescue Plan also brought increased child tax credits and unemployment benefits.
James Roberts, Ph.D., The Ben H. Williams Professor of Marketing in the Hankamer School of Business, is an internationally recognized expert on consumerism and the author of “Shiny Objects: Why We Spend Money We Don’t Have in Search of Happiness We Can't Buy.” He said the latest round of stimulus funds offer consumers bright opportunities, but he also cautioned against pitfalls in uncertain times.
Roberts said that people should first consider building up their emergency savings funds – a step, he said, more Americans seem to be taking during this time of pandemic and economic fluctuation .
“Over the last 20 years or so, Americans have not saved much. However, in the first nine months of the pandemic, the U.S. savings rate increased by a whopping 100 percent. By some estimates we are at a national savings rate that hovers around 20 percent – which is incredible,” Roberts said.
Roberts shared a few tips on how to get the best value for your stimulus check and prepare for times ahead:
1. Enhance your savings.
Save a portion of your stimulus check for the inevitable rainy days ahead. Start with $1,000 to your short-term emergency fund. If possible, every family should have a $2,500 emergency fund. This provides peace of mind and avoids having to borrow from friends or family, or even worse, max out your credit cards or take out a “payday” loan, which I strongly advised against.
2. Invest in experiences.
Given that a lot of Americans have significantly increased their savings and lowered their credit card debt, I say people should splurge a little on something for themselves or their families with the remaining $400. Remember, experiences bring more lasting happiness than buying stuff. Good mental health is critical to our well-being.
3. Start early.
Don’t forget that the $1,400 stimulus check is only a small part of the money that may come your way. The child tax credits are a great opportunity to save for your children’s college. The earlier you start saving, the better. This is the beauty of compounding interest.
4. Save while unemployed
I suggest any extra boost you might get in your unemployment check be saved for the days ahead. Don’t let money burn a hole in your pocket.
5. Plan ahead.
Every family’s goal should be to set aside six months in living expenses so if you do lose your job, it doesn’t put you and your family into an immediate financial death spiral.
ABOUT DR. JAMES ROBERTS
James Roberts, Ph.D., is The Ben H. Williams Professor of Marketing in Baylor University’s Hankamer School of Business. He is a nationally recognized expert on consumer behavior and has been quoted extensively in the media and has appeared on the CBS Early Show, ABC World News Tonight, ABC Good Morning America, NBC The Today Show, Yahoo.com’s “The Daily Ticker,” and has been quoted and/or featured in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, National Public Radio, USA TODAY, TIME, FOX News, The Doctors on CBS, US News & World Report, Cosmopolitan, Glamour, and many other media.
His books include “Shiny Objects: Why We Spend Money We Don’t Have in Search of Happiness We Can't Buy” and “Too Much of a Good Thing: Are You Addicted to your Smartphone?”
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