Stimulus Checks Immediate New Yorkers to Select Between Saving, Splurging

Last week when the $ 600 payments from that big federal coffin were being transferred to our bank accounts in the sky, I took to the streets and asked 100 New Yorkers how they were going to spend their stimulus checks.

“Mine will pay the bills,” said Ebony Butts, a retiree waiting for the ferry to Staten Island.

I asked how she spent the $ 1,200 stimulus check she received that summer.


That was by far the most common answer. Runner-up?

“Rental fee!” said Rachael Carron, who was taking a coffee break in Manhattan’s Bryant Park.

The dog walker Rachael Carron will use the money on the rent and say, “All rich dogs have left town.”


Anne Kadet for the Wall Street Journal

Ms. Carron, who lives on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, has worked as a dog walker. She said she really enjoyed the work, “but all the rich dogs have left town.”

Yes, many New Yorkers will use their stimulus checks to keep up with spending. While the national unemployment rate has fallen to 6.7% from its high of 14.7% last April, the city’s rate is still over 12%. Stout, a global investment bank and financial advisory firm, estimates that almost 18% of New York state renting households lagged behind rent in the first week of December.

But even locals who feel relatively red resist the temptation to blow their checks on fun things, said Shannon McLay, executive director and founder of the Financial Gym, a Manhattan-based counseling service. In general, people spontaneously spend on indulgences, then use expected government payments like tax refunds or stimulus payments to reduce debt.

But she sees a shift. Last summer those who were able to hoard their stimulus payments did. “It was right at the beginning of what everyone knew there was going to be a recession,” she said. Now people are more optimistic about the economy and their jobs. Several customers have scheduled their second travel stimulus check in 2021.

For some New Yorkers, the difference between the way they did their first stimulus check and their plans for the second tells a little story about how their financial situation evolved.

Robert Goldberg, who lives in Brooklyn’s East Flatbush neighborhood, said when he received his first stimulus check this summer he was also receiving $ 600 a week in unemployment benefits and felt flush enough to play new video games to keep busy at home stay. Now that he’s back to work as a courier, his income has dropped. He’ll spend his second stimulus check on rent.

Manhattan psychotherapist Nan Nally-Seif used her first stimulus check to pay bills, but is more comfortable these days after giving up the lease on the Midtown office she had rented since 1991 – most of her clients are delighted to meet at Zoom. She plans to put the $ 600 check into savings this winter.

Few said they thought about investing the money. Brian Fredericks, a 24-year-old consultant who lives in Manhattan’s financial district, issued his check for $ 1,200 last summer to buy airline and cruise stocks that have doubled since then. But he doesn’t plan to repeat it. “All prices have recovered. I can’t recommend anything, ”he said.

Delivery driver Shannon Hayes plans to invest his stimulus check in airline stocks.


Anne Kadet for the Wall Street Journal

Shannon Hayes, meanwhile, said that after his first stimulus check for child support, he is planning his first foray into the stock market with the second. The pandemic first made him reflect on his long-term financial future. “I also need something to leave my children with,” said the 44-year-old delivery worker who lives in Brownsville, Brooklyn.

Unlike Mr. Fredericks, Mr. Hayes is still bullish about airline stocks. “I think there will be a big boom when it all opens up and everyone flies,” he said.

Some people said they were not at all comfortable receiving a check.

John Gurrin, a teacher in the South Bronx, said the payments felt like a distraction from real problems. “It should make people restless,” he said. “It doesn’t feel honest.” He plans to keep his money in the bank.


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Ariella Suchow, a 33-year-old Battery Park City resident, wants to buy something for her apartment. “But it feels so horrible to do a stimulus check on something like a new carpet,” she said. “It horrifies me.” She plans to pass her payment on to some less fortunate family members.

This is very classy, ​​but my favorite responses came from those who happily admitted enjoying indulgences, ranging from staying in Miami to getting new clothes on so they could look their best on Zoom.

Ryan Wood, audio engineer in Lower Manhattan, said that while his wife made too much to get a stimulus check this summer, his wife received one they’d spent on a Southwest-inspired Wayfair chair. “This thing isn’t comfortable, but it looks good, so we kept it,” he said, smiling wryly. “It still looks good and makes peace in a troubled time.”

I met Martha Izaguirre, a paralegal from Brooklyn who was buying a Maltese Shih Tzu puppy named Princess. Manny Melendez, a Queens mechanic planning on doing books, and Julie Ann Lucas, a 64-year-old Bronx administrator who bought a laptop this summer to write a screenplay. The first draft is ready. “It’s about a woman who is looking for her long-lost siblings and her mother,” she said.

And then there’s Neysi Guzman, a legal secretary from Washington Heights, who said she definitely needed a treat. “It was a stressful year. I need something, ”she said. “Maybe a bottle with something. Maybe three. But I should also save a little. You don’t know what to expect in 2021! “

Write to Anne Kadet at [email protected]

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