Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

6 Ways to Make the Most of Your COVID-19 Stimulus Check

By Maurie Backman – Apr 27, 2020 at 8:03AM

You’re reading a free article with opinions that may differ from The Motley Fool’s Premium Investing Services. Become a Motley Fool member today to get instant access to our top analyst recommendations, in-depth research, investing resources, and more. Learn More

Sitting on $1,200? Here's how to put that cash to good use.

COVID-19 has been hurting the U.S. economy since cases started multiplying rapidly in March. Since then, millions of Americans have lost their jobs, while countless businesses have had to close their doors, perhaps for good.

Thankfully, Americans are getting some relief. In late March, the CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) Act was signed into law, and with it came a host of provisions designed to help people get through this very dark time. Perhaps the most talked-about feature of the CARES Act is its $1,200 stimulus payment -- a payment that's already started hitting Americans' bank accounts.

Hundred-dollar bill showing Benjamin Franklin wearing a mask


Single tax filers with an adjusted gross income of $75,000 or less can receive a $1,200 stimulus payment in full, but past that point, it starts to phase out. Married couples filing jointly will get a full stimulus payment provided their adjusted gross income is $150,000 or less. And there's an extra $500 on the table per child under the age of 17.

If you're sitting on your stimulus money, or expect to receive it in the not-so-distant future, it's imperative that you put it to good use. Here are just some of the things you might do with your stimulus if you don't need that cash to pay for basics, like food and household supplies.

1. Build or boost an emergency fund

The COVID-19 crisis has already resulted in widespread job loss, and we don't know if things will get worse before they get better. As such, it's important to have a healthy savings cushion so that if your job lands on the chopping block, you have a means of paying your bills. Ideally, you should aim to have three to six months' worth of living expenses tucked away in savings, so if you're not there yet, use your stimulus to get closer to that goal.

2. Pay off costly debt

If you're carrying a credit card balance, the sooner you pay it off, the less it will cost you in accrued interest. If you're good on emergency savings, consider using some of that money to knock out credit card debt. Doing so may, incidentally, help boost your credit score as well.

3. Pad your retirement savings

There's lucrative tax savings to be reaped when you save for retirement in an IRA or 401(k). If you're not already maxing out your contributions, think about using your stimulus money to fund your retirement plan. If you invest that $1,200 at an average annual 7% return (a reasonable assumption for a stock-heavy portfolio) and you're 35 years away from retirement, you'll ultimately boost your nest egg by nearly $13,000.

4. Buy the right insurance

If you've skimped on your life insurance, homeowners insurance, or health insurance in the past, now's your opportunity to lock in better coverage. You may not be eligible to change your health plan right now, but if that's the case, hang onto that money so you have more options when your next enrollment window opens. And if you don't have life insurance in place, prioritize it -- especially if you have a spouse and kids.

5. Invest in your career

Being stuck at home means you may have an opportunity to spend more time focusing on your career -- so why not invest in the tools needed to further it? Take a class to broaden your horizons, or pay for a course that teaches you a skill you're lacking. You might even choose to upgrade your laptop so you can work more efficiently.

6. Be charitable

Giving away a $1,200 check is a big ask. But if you don't need that money, you might consider using some of it to help those less fortunate. Support a charity whose work you admire, or help a local food bank stock up on supplies. Donate a meal to healthcare workers in your area, or give an out-of-work friend a no-interest loan. There are so many ways you can give back, and doing so will give you something to feel good about.

Many Americans need their stimulus cash to pay their immediate bills. If you're not one of them, be strategic with that money. After all, it's not every day that $1,200 lands in your lap, and while the circumstances leading up to that payment are, of course, unfortunate, you should still take the opportunity to make the most of that windfall.

The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

Invest Smarter with The Motley Fool

Join Over 1 Million Premium Members Receiving…

  • New Stock Picks Each Month
  • Detailed Analysis of Companies
  • Model Portfolios
  • Live Streaming During Market Hours
  • And Much More
Get Started Now

Related Articles

Motley Fool Returns

Motley Fool Stock Advisor

Market-beating stocks from our award-winning analyst team.

Stock Advisor Returns
S&P 500 Returns

Calculated by average return of all stock recommendations since inception of the Stock Advisor service in February of 2002. Returns as of 09/28/2022.

Discounted offers are only available to new members. Stock Advisor list price is $199 per year.

Premium Investing Services

Invest better with The Motley Fool. Get stock recommendations, portfolio guidance, and more from The Motley Fool's premium services.