Americans say financial stability relies on second stimulus checks, survey finds

Young woman sitting at home, drinking coffee and reading on her laptop about the latest stimulus check for AmericansImage: Young woman sitting at home, drinking coffee and reading on her laptop about the latest stimulus check for Americans

In a Nutshell

The financial situation for many Americans across all income groups, even households making more than $150,000 a year, is precarious. Many people already have plans for their stimulus check, mostly involving paying for necessities and saving.

Editorial Note: Credit Karma receives compensation from third-party advertisers, but that doesn’t affect our editors’ opinions. Our marketing partners don’t review, approve or endorse our editorial content. It’s accurate to the best of our knowledge when posted.
Advertiser Disclosure

We think it's important for you to understand how we make money. It's pretty simple, actually. The offers for financial products you see on our platform come from companies who pay us. The money we make helps us give you access to free credit scores and reports and helps us create our other great tools and educational materials.

Compensation may factor into how and where products appear on our platform (and in what order). But since we generally make money when you find an offer you like and get, we try to show you offers we think are a good match for you. That's why we provide features like your Approval Odds and savings estimates.

Of course, the offers on our platform don't represent all financial products out there, but our goal is to show you as many great options as we can.

Many Americans have been anxiously awaiting a second round of economic impact payments — known as stimulus checks — for months.

A recent Credit Karma/Qualtrics survey found that 54% of Americans who received first-round stimulus checks felt that it helped them make ends meet. And 55% of those surveyed feel that their financial stability is reliant on receiving a second check.

COVID-19 has affected everyone to some extent, but it’s perhaps worse than many realize. Even survey respondents with household incomes above $150,000/year said they’re struggling, with 40% saying that this second check is necessary to their financial stability.

With checks beginning to arrive in the mail and in bank accounts via direct deposit, people have already made plans for the money. Many will use their second EIP, or economic impact payment, to pay for necessities like rent and groceries, and some hope to save at least part of the check for future use.

We’ll go over some key findings from our survey and provide some guidance on what to do if you haven’t received your check yet.

Key survey findings

54% of respondents who received the first stimulus check felt it was essential to helping them survive, and 55% said they’re counting on the second round of checks to ensure their financial stability.
Similar to reported use of the first stimulus checks, more than half of respondents are planning to use the second round of funds for necessities like rent, utilities and groceries. Though only 26% of people were able to put money from the first check into their savings, up to 33% of Americans are hoping they’ll be able to save at least part of their second check.
Individuals with household incomes of $150,000 or more per year were overall less reliant on stimulus checks for survival, but a shocking 45% of this group still said they needed the first check to help make ends meet and 40% agreed that the second check is essential to their financial stability.

The second economic impact payment is on its way, and people need it

The IRS began sending checks in the last week of December, with the process expected to continue into the early weeks of January. The agency is sending payments via direct deposit first; paper checks and debit cards will follow.

Our survey found that 80% of respondents received a stimulus check in the first round. Of that group, 76% got their EIP as a direct deposit, 23% received a paper check, and 1% got their funds via a debit card or other means.

Over half (54%) of those surveyed felt that the first stimulus check helped them make ends meet, and 55% believe that the second check is vital to their financial stability.

What’s in the second coronavirus stimulus package of 2020?

Most people plan to use their stimulus checks for necessities

Similar to reported use of the first round of stimulus payments, more than half of those surveyed plan to use their second stimulus check to pay for necessities like rent, utilities or groceries. Other popular options include saving at least part of the payment and paying down debt. The least popular option was using the money for nonessentials like electronics or exercise equipment.

Use First round Second round
Paying for necessities 54% 53%
Savings 26% 33%
Paying down debt 26% 28%
Nonessentials 12% 13%

More people might be building up their savings to give themselves a buffer to handle future expenses.

More people may be worse off financially than we thought

COVID-19 has affected everyone in the United States to some degree, but this survey uncovered one surprising takeaway: Americans with household incomes above $150,000/year are also struggling.

The survey asked people in different income groups to rate how they felt about the following statement: “My financial stability depends on another round of stimulus checks.”

Here are the responses broken out by group.

Household income per year Percent in agreement: “My financial stability depends on another round of stimulus checks.”
All respondents 55%
<$25,000 73%
$25,000–$49,999 61%
$50,000–$99,999 46%
$100,000–$149,999 38%
>$149,999 40%

The dependence on stimulus checks for survival appears to decrease as household income increases. People in the lowest income brackets are more likely to report that they’re hurting financially, potentially because they’re more likely to have jobs in industries deeply affected by COVID-19 restrictions.

However, the rate of people even in the highest brackets who say they require EIPs for stability could be an indication of an underlying fragility in the American economy.


What’s next?

If you haven’t received your stimulus payment yet, check its status

To see where your check is, you’ll need to visit the IRS website and use the Get My Payment tool. After entering your Social Security number, date of birth and address, you’ll be directed to a page with your information.

If you need more help, the IRS has also provided an FAQ page for the second round of stimulus checks and also for using the Get My Payment tool.

What to do with your check

You know your financial situation best, so you’ll know what makes the most sense for you.

If you find yourself in the fortunate position of having extra money left over after taking care of necessities, you’ll probably want to find a balance between paying down debt and saving in case of an emergency or a continued need to help cover basic expenses during the pandemic.

If you don’t already have one, it’s a good time to start an emergency fund — especially with the uncertainty of the pandemic and whether Congress will pass another stimulus bill.


Methodology

On behalf of Credit Karma, Qualtrics conducted a nationally representative online survey in December 2020 and January 2021 among 1,025 American adults to understand how economic impact payments are used.


About the author: Gaby Lapera is a researcher and writer at Credit Karma and a personal finance expert. She also spends time working on investing and science communication. Gaby graduated with a master's … Read more.