The Bible says, “There is treasure to be desired and oil in the dwelling of the wise; but a foolish man spendeth it up.” This idea is often expressed colloquially as “the fool and his money are soon parted.”
Today, Trump started sending his $1200+ stimulus checks in response to the current economic shutdown. Contrary to many Facebook memes, this is your money. You won’t owe taxes (at least income taxes) on the amount you received. Therefore, you can spend the total of your stimulus money just like cash.
But what should you buy? If you’re reading this while you’re waiting in line at the food bank. Buy food. In fact, Forbes is already reporting that most people planned to buy food. The data is showing that much of the money is being spent on food via grocery stores and take-out restaurants.
Use it to protect your family – think Maslow’s hierarchy: Food, Shelter, Water/Electric/Gas.
But many have taken to social media to describe the splurge purchases made possible by the American taxpayers. On Twitter, plans are being made by stimulated shoppers for new shoes, video games, and other nonessentials. Nintendo Switch video game consoles are flying off the shelves. (Some of this was already happening due to shelter-in-place orders.) But Apple also revealed its latest model iPhone, just as checks began arriving in people’s bank accounts. A coincidence? Doubtful. Apple knows this money will, as my father would say, “burn a hole in my pocket.”
Even as unemployment rates rise to 15%, the majority of folks are still gainfully employed and able to move forward with some semblance of stability. How then should we spend?
Here are 5 ideas:
- Buy Yourself Some Breathing Room
You need to create a cushion in case things get worse. Do you have three to six months of savings? If not, start by giving yourself some room to breathe by spending at least $1,000 as a “baby emergency fund” in either your savings account or a new money market account.
- Buy TERM Life Insurance
If you died tomorrow – would your family be taken care of? Protect them by buying a 10-year renewable policy with a payout of at least 10 times your salary. Get two policies – one for you and one for your wife. I use Thrivent Financial (Link – not an affiliate link) remember to buy term only, not “whole-life” or some other bundle.
- Buy Back Your Own Money
Consumer debt and its interest rates eat away at your future earnings. High interest debts like payday loans and credit cards are going to cost you more the longer you hold on to them. If you use your stimulus check to pay some of these off, you will actually be increasing the value of your stimulus check by killing off interest before you accrue it. If you had a $2,000 credit card debt averaging at 18% APR, you would save yourself over $300 in interest over the next year by paying it off now!
- Double Down on Investments
The silver lining to broad-based market turmoil is that you will be able to acquire some investments at a discount relative to what you would have paid when the market was up. Remember that when investing, you’re in it for the long term gains. Put your extra into mutual funds or your retirement. If you don’t have a retirement account, now you have an excellent excuse to start one!
- Invest in Personal Development
No, I don’t mean to waste this on tuition at some brick-and-mortar indoctrination center. Here’s how to spend money on personal development:
a. Develop your soul by daily prayer (I use a prayerbook, buy one here.)
b. Develop your mind by buying a handful of books related to your career or generally to productivity. Some of my favorites are Purple Cow by Seth Godin and The E-Myth Revisited by Michael Gerber.
The best way to grow is to put yourself out there. Invest in yourself by starting a website – use wordpress or squarespace and start publishing. Go buy a lapel mic for your cell phone and start recording videos of yourself teaching or sharing what you know or love. (I have this mic.) Then upload them to YouTube.
c. Develop your body by spending money on food that heals. I’m a big fan of Dr. Gary Taubes and his advocacy for low-carb diets. Sign up for an online training program with diet and fitness help that works for you. (I bought this one last year) I didn’t join a gym, but I did lose 50 lbs.