Where’s My Stimulus Check?
The first round of stimulus checks have started hitting bank accounts, but you haven’t gotten yours yet. Is it still coming? Or do you even qualify for the $1400?
It’s estimated that nine million fewer households will receive a payment this time, so first, let’s see if you fall into that category.
Hurry Up and Wait
Right now, the 2020 filing season is getting underway and the Internal Revenue Service is still processing millions of tax returns from 2019.
Eventually, the IRS will post answers to your questions at their irs.gov site, but you don’t want to wait, and that’s understandable.
Some of the things that could delay — or completely nix — your payment is the amount of money you earn. Individuals making $75,000 will qualify for the full $1400, but the amount will be adjusted downward if you earn closer to $80,000, and phased out completely for anyone making $80,000 and above.
Married couples who file jointly and make $150,000 will receive the full payment, and their dependents will also receive the $1400 check.
To determine the taxpayer’s eligibility, the IRS will look at 2020 returns. If you haven’t filed yet, they’ll go by your 2019 tax return.
If you filed electronically and used direct deposit for your refund, you should be at the head of the line for the stimulus payment. You may even see a “payment pending” if you check your online banking information. It may also arrive in the form of a check or a pre-paid debit card.
The IRS tracking tool, Get My Payment, is now live, so you can see the status of your payment. You’ll need to enter your SS#, date of birth, street address and zip code to access that information. The IRS updates this site only once a day (usually between 3:30 AM and 6:00AM), so if you check again in the afternoon or evening it will not give you a different result.
If you receive Social Security retirement, survivor or disability benefits, or Supplemental Security Income, Railroad Retirement or veteran’s benefits, you’ll also be among the first wave to receive the stimulus, even if you aren’t required to file taxes. (1)
What’s the Hold-Up?
That’s a little harder to be specific, but a few of the things that could be slowing down your payment are:
Did you file your 2020 returns already, and do you owe the IRS money? You may well have used a form of electronic payment for anything you owed, but the IRS can’t use that same information to make a direct-deposit without your specific okay. Without that, you may be waiting for a paper check to arrive, and given the state of the postal service these days, you could be waiting a while.
You may not have filed a return for 2019 or 2020. Millions of people aren’t required to file their taxes because they don’t make enough, but the IRS needs a return on file for you. If they don’t know you — or your dependents — exist, they can’t send you your stimulus.
Have you moved since you last filed taxes? Again, if the IRS doesn’t have your address or banking information on file, you may be looking at a delay.
In some cases, if you’re preparing a tax return for a relative or spouse who died in 2020 or even 2021, you may qualify for the Recover Rebate Credit, as long as they didn’t already receive the first round of stimulus money but were eligible.
Look for the Recovery Rebate Credit on line 30 of 2020’s 1040 tax returns. (2)
I Got the Money, Now What Should I do With it?
One thing you need to do is make sure you’re current with any student loan, medical, or credit card debt, because unlike the first round of stimulus checks, this payment isn’t protected. Although a debt collector can’t just intercept your government money, they can sue you and most likely put a lien on your bank account. (3)
But let’s assume you’re in good standing with your creditors. If you have outstanding student debt, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to put a good chunk of your windfall toward paying down your loan. Currently, the federal government has put a pandemic-related forbearance on student loans through September. You’re not required to make payments, and you aren’t racking up interest charges, so whatever payments you make now will go toward paying down the principal and save you some interest later on. (4)
But if you’re working on loan forgiveness or even debt cancellation, you’ll probably want to put your $1400 elsewhere.
Where is This Elsewhere You Mentioned?
Almost everyone has some degree of credit card debt, and chances are, you’re no different. If you have anything less than a stellar credit score, you’re probably also paying some pretty high interest rates.
Take a look at your credit cards, select the one that carries the biggest debt (and highest APR), and cut them a check. If you’re lucky enough that your stimulus check pays off that debt, put that monthly payment toward your other cards.
Are you a homeowner? Does your home need some repairs? You’re probably not going to be able to afford a remodel with your stimulus money, but if your house needs some minor repair work, this might be the time to pull the trigger. Same with your car. (5)
What Should I do Instead?
The Federal Reserve Board estimates 40% of Americans don’t have enough ready cash to cover a $400 emergency, and this past year has put a strain on just about everyone’s finances. The $1400 might be a nice start to rebuilding your emergency funds, and if you don’t have one, then you definitely should consider starting an emergency cash reserve with your check.
Or, if you are able to access emergency funds without a problem, consider putting this $1400 toward your retirement, perhaps in your individual retirement account (IRA).
It’s not sexy, but it might be a good idea to stash your cash in your health savings account. You’ll qualify for an extra tax deduction, and help yourself by setting aside for any future health expenses (remember what we said about most Americans not having $400 to cover an unexpected emergency?).
You might consider starting a college fund for your child. It might seem like just a drop in the bucket, but enough such drops will fill the bucket, over time. It may not finance an entire four-year education, but it’s a nice start.
What’s Wrong with a Little Fun?
It’s worth noting a family of four will receive up to $5600 in stimulus money, so if your expenses are covered, you have some emergency funds you can tap when needed, and everyone is vaccinated, why not spend a little of that relief package on a getaway? After the past year, you’ve earned it. (7)
(1) Singletary, Michelle. “Here’s How Soon You May Get Your $1,400 Stimulus Payment and What Could Delay It.” The Washington Post, www.msn.com/en-us/money/personalfinance/here-s-how-soon-you-may-get-your-1400-stimulus-payment-and-what-could-delay-it/ar-BB1ew8rG.
(2) Menton, Jessica. “Stimulus Checks: Can I Get a COVID Relief Payment for a Spouse, Relative Who Died?” USA Today, www.msn.com/en-us/money/markets/stimulus-checks-can-i-get-a-covid-relief-payment-for-a-spouse-relative-who-died/ar-BB1etljy.
(3) Minsky, Adam S. “A Debt Collector Could Take Your Stimulus Check – Here’s What To Do.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 15 Mar. 2021, www.forbes.com/sites/adamminsky/2021/03/15/a-debt-collector-could-take-your-stimulus-check—heres-what-to-do/?sh=253dc9097fb3.
(4) Kumok, Zina. “Should I Use My Stimulus Check To Pay Down My Student Loans?” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 4 Mar. 2021, www.forbes.com/advisor/student-loans/stimulus-check-student-loan/.
(5) Kumok, Zina. “Should I Use My Stimulus Check To Pay Down My Student Loans?” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 4 Mar. 2021, www.forbes.com/advisor/student-loans/stimulus-check-student-loan/.
(6) Bahney, Anna. “40% Of Americans Can’t Cover a $400 Emergency Expense.” CNNMoney, Cable News Network, money.cnn.com/2018/05/22/pf/emergency-expenses-household-finances/index.html.
(7) Gravier, Elizabeth. “A Family of 4 Can Get up to $5,600 with the Third Stimulus-What This Family Wealth Advisor Says to Do with It.” CNBC, CNBC, 11 Mar. 2021, www.cnbc.com/select/how-families-should-spend-third-stimulus-checks/.