: How are older Americans spending their stimulus checks?


After such a dreary year, Jackie, whose 80th birthday is this month, plans to spend her latest stimulus check on something fun — like lessons on using social media. 

The former journalist said she wants to get better at Instagram, including how to post stories and reels. Adapting to the iPhone was a learning curve, but she fell in love with the camera capabilities it had. Now she uses her blog and social media to document the lives of others, including their photographs and interviews. Along with these lessons, she said she’ll spend a portion of her stimulus check on lipstick and some clothes. 

“I am going to use part of the money for fun,” she said. “As a low-income senior, I spend a great deal of time managing cash flow very carefully. I don’t always do things I’d like to do.” 

See: Live positive, age positive: The secret to wealth and health as you grow older

The past year has been difficult for everyone, but especially those who are older or immunocompromised and were told by health officials to stay home and socially distanced from their family, friends or co-workers. Some have been stuck in the house for an entire year, barely seeing anyone in person and using delivery services for most of their needs. 

“They’ve lived a very full life and weathered many hardships, but never anything this confusing and scary,” said Melody Juge, founder of Life Income Management.

The third wave of stimulus checks, which amount to as much as $1,400 per eligible individual, is one way to bring some hope to the near-term.

Juge’s clients are holding on to this extra money for now. “Once people are in retirement, they’re very cautious,” she said. “The reality hits them that the only income they have is their Social Security or pension income or annuity income and any reserved investments they have are there to last them for decades.” They may also not yet feel comfortable spending on travel, what with the uncertainty of policies in foreign countries. “They’re planning for when the coast is clear,” she said. 

Karen, who will be 74 in April, said she’ll use this money primarily to pay the bills, but she might use some of it to go away locally this year. Last year she took a trip with a friend to Harrison State Park to see the lakes. She’s also taken online classes on chess, yoga and painting, chatted on the phone and Zoom with family and friends and has watched “a lot” of Netflix.

“I never considered myself retired, but I guess I am,” she said. “I have limited income. I know the money is supposed to stimulate the economy and everything. Maybe I’ll spend a little on Amazon.” 

Also see: To age and retire well, try to have a plastic mind and a rubber soul 

Some Americans have more concrete plans for the money. 

DeAnna, 70, said she and her husband will spend some of their stimulus check money on a new television. After all, for most of the past year, they’ve spent a lot of time watching TV. Before the pandemic, she played music at nursing homes and her husband bowled twice a week. “Our regular activities have completely stopped,” she said. 

They haven’t lost hope for the future. The couple intends to earmark some of their stimulus check for a trip back to Michigan, where they’re from, to visit family and friends. If COVID-19 persists, they won’t travel, she said. “To have that stimulus check come in and let us feel we can take this trip without having to dip into savings quite as much — and knowing this will help my son and daughter-in-law and everyone in our family — this check means a lot to a lot of people who are around us who we love,” she said. 

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