'Start an emergency fund:' Financial coach offers tips on what to do with federal stimulus check

BROWN DEER -- Paying for weekly groceries just got easier for many people in the Milwaukee area who needed a financial boost. Federal stimulus checks were deposited into the bank accounts of millions of Americans Wednesday morning.

Warwees Holt

"I see that the stimulus checks will be a great help," said Warwees Holt, a financial coach with the Social Development Commission. "There's always, you know, the group of people that just don't know what to do."

Holt works with families that were already struggling before the coronavirus pandemic hit.

"My first rule is to always pay yourself. And that means start an emergency fund. It doesn't have to be half the check it could just be $50," said Holt.

The checks provide relief of $1,200 for taxpayers who filed as single and $2,400 for those who filed jointly; the amount of money phases out for people with higher incomes.

After setting aside some rainy-day money, the next priority should be food, medicine and the mortgage.

"Even though there's a moratorium on evictions and foreclosures, pay your mortgage or rent because when we get through this you're still going to need a place to live," Holt said.

Next on the list, Holy says, are car payments -- so there's a way to get back to work when places re-open. Credit card debt should be lower on the list, but people should call to ask what their credit card companies are offering.

"A lot of credit card companies are dispensing with the interest so that the minimum payment will at least keep you current," said Holt.

If you'd like to track the status of your stimulus payment, the Internal Revenue Service has a tool for that. CLICK HERE for more information.