By Quentin Fottrell, MarketWatch
I have a question about the stimulus checks. I happened to have inherited my mother’s house, so if I don’t qualify, that’s fine. I’m working. I have a coworker who works massive amounts of overtime, and owns 10 homes, nine of which are rented. How did he get a stimulus check?
If you don’t need a stimulus check, and you don’t qualify, leave it at that. You will drive yourself crazy peeking over the office silo wondering why somebody else got one, trying to size up their socioeconomic status like RoboCop. Today, it will be the colleague with 10 homes who is bragging about his/her stimulus check in the office and what they’re going to spend it on. Tomorrow, it will be your neighbor. The day after that, you could be browsing the dark web. It’s a slippery slope.
The economic impact payment does not measure how much is in your bank account. There is no way the government can browse the property records of every single American. It is an advance payment of a tax credit on your 2020 return, and that is used as a guide on how people are faring. If you are earning $75,000 a year as an individual or $150,000 a year as a couple, you qualify. After that there is a sliding scale, which bottoms out at $99,000 for an individual or $198,000 as a couple.
Nearly one-third of people who received a stimulus check last summer used it to pay bills and, in a Twitter poll /zigman2/quotes/203180645/composite TWTR +1.68% of 889,000 people, over 60% said a $600 payment would not be enough to get by on. It’s half of what folks got last time. Another YouGov poll said bills were the No. 1 priority for stimulus-check spending. “It’s alarming to look at how many Americans used these funds to keep a roof over their head and pay for necessities,” said the report by YouGov.
Given that you have a job and can put food on the table and a roof over your head, not qualifying for a check is something to be grateful for. We could all look at people buying televisions, video games, sporting goods and toys at Walmart /zigman2/quotes/207374728/composite WMT -0.45% , Costco /zigman2/quotes/201191698/composite COST -0.12% and Target /zigman2/quotes/207799045/composite TGT -0.54% and get mad when they say, “Thank God for my stimulus!” But there are many more people in the supermarket using the money for food, or writing checks to their electricity company.
We don’t know what is going on with people when we look at them across the office kitchen and think, “How did they get the last cup of coffee in the jar? How is that fair? I could kill for a cup of coffee. I’ve been looking forward to it all morning. They just had a coffee an hour ago.” Maybe your colleague has a spouse at home with a serious illness, who hasn’t worked in 10 years, or is swimming in debt on those 10 houses. Maybe he has a serious illness.
Sometimes (actually, make that often times) the greatest wisdom comes from children. In that spirit, listen to what this little tells her father when he asks to help undo her seat belt. That’s the kind of spirit we need in a deeply polarized America right now. Be careful about coveting other people’s stimulus checks, homes or even their lives. It’s easy to believe we deserve more than our neighbor or, hell, even our identical twin , and how everything is easier for them.
The truth, however, is that we never really know.
<INTERNAL-PAGE URL="/tools/alerts/newsColumn.asp"></INTERNAL-PAGE> <INTERNAL-PAGE URL="/tools/alerts/newsColumn.asp"></INTERNAL-PAGE> <STRONG>Hello there, MarketWatchers. Check out <INTERNET URL="https://www.facebook.com/groups/moneyist/" LOCATION="EXTERNAL">the Moneyist private Facebook</INTERNET><PHRASE TYPE="COMPANY" SIGNIFICANCE="PASSING-MENTION"><SYMBOL COUNTRY="US" TICKER="FB"></SYMBOL></PHRASE> group where we look for answers to life’s thorniest money issues. Readers write in to me with all sorts of dilemmas. Post your questions, tell me what you want to know more about, or weigh in on the latest Moneyist columns.</STRONG>