The point of the stimulus checks being distributed right now is to provide some financial relief to Americans who are struggling with the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. But if you're fortunate to have adequate cash to get through this time, you might look at the windfall as an opportunity to start investing in individual stocks or to add to your existing portfolio.

Eligible adults are receiving $1,200 from the government, and that's plenty to pick up some shares of solid growth stocks through an online broker that won't charge you commissions. Three high-quality stocks that should have years of growth ahead of them are Nike (NYSE:NKE), Zoetis (NYSE:ZTS), and PayPal Holdings (NASDAQ:PYPL).

Keep in mind that we're in uncertain times when it comes to the economy, and growth stock investing isn't about making a quick buck. Nobody knows where the market is going in the short term, and it wouldn't be surprising to see panic hit again before the crisis is over. But as long as you don't need this money in the next few years, look at these investments as seeds that are planted to come to fruition in the future, and add to the positions as you're able.

 

1. Nike

Nike is a well-managed company that's simply masterful when it comes to promoting and growing its brand. In fact, a recent ranking of the value of consumer brands named Nike as the most valuable apparel brand in the world. No one knows for sure how global consumers will react to the COVID-19 crisis and the resulting economic downturn, but recessions tend to shake out the weakest players, leaving the strongest ones in even better position after a recovery. Moreover, the pandemic may serve to focus attention on health and wellness, values embodied by the Nike swoosh.

Prior to the pandemic, Nike was growing revenue around 10% annually in constant currency, and profit growth was well above that. Earnings per share in the first half of the fiscal year, which ended Nov. 30, rose an impressive 31%, thanks to strong growth in China, expanding margins, and well-managed expenses.

The Nike Swoosh.

Image source: Nike.

But Nike's fiscal third quarter of 2020, which ended Feb. 29, was impressive for the way the company managed through a shutdown of retail and factories in China. Sales in China fell only 4% in constant currency thanks largely to what management called "accelerating strong double-digit approaching triple-digit growth" in digital sales. The company said in its most recent conference call that its experience in navigating the COVID-19 outbreak in China has given it a "playbook for the rest of the world."

A strong brand and growing online business should keep the company sprinting ahead for years to come.

2. Zoetis

It'll take more than a pandemic and a recession to put much of a dent in Zoetis' growth. The leading animal health company sells medicines, vaccines, diagnostics, and biodevices for companion and farm animals. Animal shelters in the U.S. have reported a boom in pet adoptions during the pandemic, and the stay-at-home orders seem to have driven consumers to step up their meat purchases. But the company is also benefiting from long-term global growth in pet ownership and demand for animal protein.

Vet with dog and cat.

Image source: Getty Images.

Industry growth in 2019 was affected by the African swine fever virus in China and slowed to between 3% and 4%, but the company delivered twice that, increasing revenue for the full year by 7.5% and adjusted earnings per share by 16%. Sales in the companion-animal segment, half of total revenue, grew a strong 23% excluding currency effects, helped by the innovation of new products in dermatology and parasiticides and its acquisition of medical and veterinary diagnostics company Abaxis.

Zoetis expects the industry to rebound to growth of 4% to 5% in 2020 and has given guidance of revenue growth between 7.5% and 9.5%, with income growth between 8% and 11%. The company has the potential to grow even faster than that over the long term and survive downturns, making strategic acquisitions to build its pet care portfolio and "precision livestock farming." Zoetis is also advancing a pipeline of new medications, as well as developing integrated offerings of medicines and diagnostics, a strategic goal of its Abaxis purchase.

3. PayPal

PayPal is another high-quality growth business that could multiply your stimulus check. The trend toward electronic payments worldwide is a powerful tailwind to PayPal's results and should continue to be for years.

Strong user growth and increasing payment volumes are generating piles of cash that the company can use to expand via acquisitions. Last year, PayPal added 37 million new users, a 14% increase, and grew total payment volume a whopping 23%. That usage translated into 15% growth of the top line and a 21% increase in GAAP earnings per share.

Man touching smartphone with dollar signs floating up.

Image source: Getty Images.

PayPal is using its ability to generate huge free cash flow -- $3.9 billion in 2019 -- to make strategic deals to strengthen its value to customers and to expand internationally. It recently acquired Honey Science, a bargain-finder tool for consumers that PayPal thinks will make its service more attractive to merchants. It also acquired GoPay, a deal that makes PayPal the first foreign payments platform licensed to provide online payment services in China.

A core business that's growing leaps and bounds and the wherewithal to make several acquisitions a year to add new services make PayPal a great choice as an investment.

Stimulate your financial future

Your $1,200 stimulus check is perfect to get a start on long-term investing in growth stocks. You could divide up the money and make the following three purchases using your choice of no-fee online brokers:

Stock Number of Shares Price Per Share Total Cost
Nike 3 $112.17 $336.51
Zoetis 3 $127.39 $382.17
PayPal 5 $87.90 $439.50
      $1,158.18

Prices at close of trading on April 20, 2020. Data source: Yahoo! Finance.

The move will give you a start on a diversified stock portfolio, progress toward long-term financial goals, and $42 left over to order delivery of chicken tikka masala and naan bread to celebrate tonight.