Stimulus checks could be financial literacy learning tool for families

DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- While some people desperately need every dime of their stimulus check just to survive, there are others who may not.

Many minimum wage workers were considered "essential'" and risked exposure to keep their jobs.

And if they have no savings in the bank or no money in a 401k, stimulus money may present a unique opportunity to learn to invest and save.

Rosa Williams, a substitute teacher in Durham, plans to do just that.

"There is a lot of programs out there. I'm trying to get informed," said Williams. "The first step I want to do is, how can I build or rebuild my credit."

Williams is now teaching at Healthy Start Academy in Durham. But three years ago, her husband got brain cancer and she had to quit her job she recalled saying, "I needed to take care of him at home. He wasn't able to move half of his body."

He died at 36 and she was left with two small children and a mountain of medical debt.

Since she was able to continue working during the pandemic and stay caught up on her bills, she wants to use her stimulus check to ensure a better financial future. And she knows where she's starting.

"Savings is something very important. You should save, at least have in your savings account at least $1,000," said Williams.

Brad McRae agrees.

"Savings should definitely come first because life will happen, emergency situations will come up," said McRae, a manager at the Cary office of Edward Jones.

The ten-year veteran financial advisor grew up in the Triangle. But his family didn't save or invest.

Now he does both and says those who can afford it may want to use some of their stimulus to also learn to invest, even on a small scale.

"They can propel their wealth building by investing in an incremental or systematic way," said McRae.

Once she consults the free credit counselor she's found, Williams is thinking about investing some of her stimulus in her 401k and maybe even in microstocks, which she has been researching online.

"With the microstocks, I'm able to use whatever little bit I have and multiply it and invest it because the microstock is for those to invest with was just as little as $20," she added.

She knows that no investment guarantees a return and it is possible to lose all of it. But, she has also learned that many investments have proven that over time, they will earn more than a savings account.

And for folks like Williams, this may be the chance of a lifetime to become more financially literate, McRae noted. "This is a great time for people to seize the opportunity because they may not see it again in the foreseeable future."

Williams says she hopes her efforts will also help her lead her children to financial literacy and ensure their futures as well as hers.
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