How to Use and Maximize Your Stimulus Check
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While millions have already received their stimulus check through direct deposits, others are just now getting them.
Joe Mecca from Coastal Credit Union and I discussed a few things to consider so you can make every dollar go further!
You can watch it right here or read the edited transcript below!
Elle Martinez: Joe, thanks for joining me on this really important mini-series- taking care of your finances during this covid-19 crisis.
I appreciate you coming on and I'm always happy to kind of pick your brain and chat with you about, you know, how to make your finances work for what's going on in your life.
Joe Mecca: Well, thanks for having me. You know, it's always a good time coming on and being able to share what we know and kind of look at different situations and see how we can help people through them the best way possible.
So, yeah, I wish it was a better scenario, but yeah, it's still always a good opportunity to talk about things and the situation that's in front of us and how everybody's adapting.
Elle Martinez: Exactly. And I know we've always been talking about how your finances really reflect what's going on in your life. And especially, like you mentioned, it's not a good situation whether it's directly being affected by Covid or maybe the stay at home and your finances, your hours, your cut or some situation has changed.
You know, we have to adapt our finances because our situations have changed. And so today, I wanted to talk to you about something that a lot of people have either recently received or they're about to receive through the paper, which is the stimulus check.
We're all are trying to make the most out of it because the goal of this mini-series is not just to survive and make it through, but hopefully to get into a better place financially, getting those habits and those systems into place.
How to Maximize Your Stimulus Check
Elle Martinez: So I kind of wanted to talk to you about that. When a family gets a stimulus check, a couple, maybe it's just the two of them, or maybe they have some kids. How can they best use it?
I want to break it down, if you don't mind, into different scenarios, because I think your priorities shift based on where you are.
In the first one are those who are hardest hit, those who are unemployed, or maybe they're down to one income. What are some ways or things to consider using their stimulus check?
Joe Mecca: So I think if you're in that situation, you know, you're you're unemployed or you've seen, you know, you're down to what you've done, just that single income and it might not be half might be the smaller of the two incomes. So I'm assuming no savings in the situations. What I would do is I would focus on those core expenses. Yeah. Your food, your medicine, any of your bills that aren't able to be deferred. Fortunately, we're in a situation right now where lenders and utilities and landlords are all able to be flexible with with collecting money from people. So there is some flexibility with a lot of that. But there are still some bills that simply you can't push off. So focus on those core expenses in the short term. Know make sure that those are covered because you're not paying those. Maybe going to get you into a deeper situation. If, you know, if there is one income, you have to think about things like do you need gas and maintenance and car insurance? Continue to get that person who's earning that income to and from work and do that. So you're going to want to make sure that that's part of whatever your short term budget is as well. And then, you know, so that's that's going to be a priority then, of course, seek help on some of your other expenses. Yeah. What can be deferred? I know we talked about a little bit before, but a lot of lenders are flexible on mortgages right now or auto loans or other types of loans. You know, if you're renting, talk to your landlord. Can they be flexible on rent? Chances are they're getting some relief on the mortgage side, on the back end. So can they be. Can they be flexible with you on the rent for the short term as well? Do you have any loans that can be can be deferred? Are your utilities able to help you restructure? You know, go to a fixed plan or even push your push your payments out a couple months. See if that's something that's available to you as well. So, you know, it's not just about the money that's sitting in your account right now when you get that check. But, you know, mind that you might have otherwise had to pay out that maybe you can get a little bit short term relief.
Elle Martinez: Yeah. And I think you bring up several good points, especially when we're talking about seeking assistance. Being proactive is absolutely going to be key, if you can. We talked about last time when we had the podcast about the federal like the Keres Act, there were some protections there. We also mentioned like four here, North Carolina. They were some state level protections like no evictions and also protecting with foreclosures. So be aware of what's going on. And then also community partners. I know you've guys over at Coastal have been really active. I was just seeing the restaurant worker relief fund is available. They have a waiting list, but still they are processing. They're getting through. They're getting the aid. So, you know, definitely be proactive, see what's available in your industry. And then, of course, make sure you are communicating to all your financial institutions. And like you mentioned, bills, you know, landlords, they can work with you, but you can't hide. Even if you can do a partial payment, something that you can work out together is better than just being silent on that. And then I notice you guys also donated to the United Way, organizations like that, the food pantry, anywhere you can tap in and close that gap between, like your expenses and the income that is coming in. Is absolutely kaso. This is a really good point. Joe, I appreciate that.
Joe Mecca: You know, if somebody goes to our Web site and goes to our we've got a covered 19 landing page, it's hard to miss a big image for our front page. But linked from that page is we assembled the list of community resources. So it's a lot of our community partners and it shows, you know, who they are, links to their Web site and what they're doing to help the public with some relief right now. So and you don't have to be a coastal member to take advantage of any of that. It's out there available for everybody. It is specific to our area. But if you are in North Carolina, particularly in the triangle area and you want to look for some community resources that are available, that is, you know, that is an option that's out there. That list that we've curated for for both our members and the public.
Elle Martinez: Well, that's much appreciated. I think that's kind of the hard part. But do I qualify for. What's out there? So I'm glad you have that resource, because even though you might say it's like local but still gives you ideas, if you're in another area, see what your state has. And also check, I know you've partner up. I've seen you on the news channel a few times. Your interviews. Local news stations also have like resources and you can get briefings and see what the state offers as well. So thanks for mentioning that, Joe. I know another situation that we have is maybe both are still working and might be reduced hours, but they're they're both working. And right now things are okay. But they're ind of worried, like she's one of them, lose ours or lose a job. What are some ways that they can use that stimulus check to kind of ride things through?
Joe Mecca: I think in that situation, it is pretty simple and straightforward. I'm I'm saving it. Oh, yeah. Things might be going OK now. Maybe it's an opportunity to get started on that emergency fund. A lot of people are having to tap into theirs right now. So if you don't have one, maybe go ahead and start that emergency fund. But at the very least, I would say just hold on it if things continue to decline. You may have one income or two incomes currently, but if you don't have any savings set aside, then you might need that later on. You don't know if there is or is not going to be another stimulus down the road or how quickly things are going to open back up or even when they do. You know how some people go back to work. So I would say that, you know, if if you're continuing to work but you don't have any savings, I would go ahead and just just save it. Commit to saving it.
Elle Martinez: Yeah, definitely. And I have a question for you, because I know we all are pretty much on the debt free wagon train trying to reduce unnecessary debt. So save a couple doesn't have like three months saved or whatever, and they get the stimulus check. They put it into savings. Do you think it's a good idea to kind of just pause it mean pay the minimum? Of course, we're not trying to get in the hole. A pause on there like debt free journey to build up the savings to a certain point or. Is it OK to continue like paying down the debt? What would you suggest or things to consider?
Joe Mecca: There's a couple different ways you can go with this. It really gets really depends on on, you know, what your priorities are and really what your opinion is. Personally, I'm going to say save it. I am all for paying down debt, but I don't have a crystal ball and I don't know what's going to happen the next three, six, three, six months. So I'm going to air on the side of caution on this one and say I'm going to save it. And then if things get better quickly. Mm hmm. And you want to then go back and take that stimulus money and throw it toward paying down debt, then absolutely going to do that. But for right now, cash is king and save it.
Elle Martinez: I kind of feel the same way, more cautious just to be on the safe side. And like you said, like if things are going well or even as you're bumping up your savings, you're like, OK, I think we're good. Then you put a little extra because now you have that savings. Now you have that financial cushion. So I was just curious. I know you're you know, you're kind of like me with let's skip the unnecessary debt. But I was just wanting to get your take on that. So we talked about those that are kind of making ends meet and those that right now things are OK, but they don't have any savings. I'd like to talk about maybe a better scenario, if you can say that this situation is both spouses are working there. Their income has not changed and they do have some savings in that situation. What are some ways you would recommend using that stimulus check?
Joe Mecca: Again, I'm still going to say at this time. You know, I would love to say, you know, again, put it put it toward paying down a debt or, you know, and of course, I can't give investment advice, but even investing it. I still think in this situation I'm going to wait to see what happens, even if things feel like they're going well in the short term. There's always the possibility that this is going to continue to drag out and things are going to potentially still get worse. So I'm a little bit optimistic on this. I mean, I think we've kind of you know, we've gotten used to the situation. We're starting to see the light ahead. And I like to think that the recovery is going to be fast on. I'm I'm probably not going to gamble on this one. I think I think a would of it.
Elle Martinez: Yeah. Yeah, I agree. Definitely. You know, saving in and of course, if you can and you're in a good position, maybe taken a portion of that and giving towards the community, you know, a partner or something that can help out your neighbors. I know before this pandemic, one thing we had started was kind of like a unofficial do good fun, you know, savings. Usually we think about, oh, how can we protect ourselves and financial cushion. But it's something, you know, maybe advantage of keeping it temporarily in savings is should something arise with family, friends, neighbors, you're in a position to help out. Kind of like that example given with the air mask on the airplane. Like take care of your finances and then you're in a better position. Help someone else out. If they go through something, you know, volatile or if something changes with their situation, if you're in this position.
Joe Mecca: Absolutely. I would say I would say look to your local charities and give some of that away. Those those community websites that I mentioned a little bit earlier, talking about all the things that they're doing. Yeah, that same resource page talks about their needs as well. You guys out there with me, a little bit of means to give back. There are some great ways to get back there.
Elle Martinez: Yeah. And a lot of these organizations I know, like the food bank, for example, like every dollar, I think it's a ridiculous amount of meals that can come out of every dollar donated. So I saw Coastal has been contributing quite a bit to the community and it's much appreciated. Something else I've noticed that would be helpful for listeners and, you know, coastal members in the area is you guys have got some options. And one of the ways to relief is maybe skipping the payments. You mentioned that it was a nice feature when I logged in. I noticed there is a little notification about that. But can you kind of go over how does that skip a payment work?
Joe Mecca: So you mentioned we do have to skip a pay program, which is the fact that you're seeing it means that we've now automated it, which is which is a huge benefit to members, but it also lets us do our job way more efficiently. So what we've done is we've we've implemented skipper pay inside of online banking and members who have loans that qualify for the skimpily program when they log in online, make presented with the option. Do you want to skim payments on these loans? It's easy all you have to do. Check, check. Yes. Or accept or however it's worded on there. And that's it. It gets processed on the back end. And then your due date on those loans gets advanced by three months out. Nice. Nothing further for you to do. You have to apply for a loan to provide any additional documentation. And there's no credit check on that. It's you've got a loan that qualifies for skip a pay. And if you want to, then we'll push those dates out. So we're doing three months right now on those for the most part, that is auto loans and some personal some personal loans. We're actually working on adding lines of credit to that as well. So that'll make it a little bit more available to people. Credit cards. If members have a credit card with Coastal, that's going to be automated as well. No credit cards a little different because it's not so much a fixed payment. So what we've done that is members who have credit cards with us, we don't have to do anything. We're changing their minimum payment to zero for the next two payment cycles. OK. So their APR statement that they would normally pay in May and a statement that they would pay in June. Those are both be a zero minimum. So that would advance. So if they wanted to skip their next two payments, they could now things like interest still crew and stuff like that. But there's no penalty. It's no credit here for for doing that. Just gives people a little bit more cushion to Brian. What's what's ahead of us?
Elle Martinez: I think anytime you can give people some breathing room in their budget, it's gonna be appreciated. So, guys, if you are looking for a better banking option and you live in the triangle area of North Carolina, please check out Coastal. I've been a member of a coastal for Alanis is say, five plus years, and I've been really happy with their service. Not only are they having competitive rates on their regular accounts, but they are also helping out members and out there in the community. So thank you so much, Joe. I appreciate it.
Joe Mecca: Now, certainly no problem. I was always a pleasure.