Flat screen TV.
A new Jacuzzi.
Taking the kids to Disney World.
When some people heard they’d be getting an extra $300 or more this year from Uncle Sam, they likely weren’t thinking how great it would be to tuck the money away in their savings account or pay off credit card debt.
Yet, financial advisers said tax rebate-happy consumers should think twice before they load up at the check-out counter when the checks arrive.
“In looking at the rebates that are going to be going out, you are definitely talking middle America, and I think people should really look at paying off debt and saving that money,” said Dierdra Cox, a community development officer for JP Morgan Chase Bank in Chattanooga.
While she would love to see consumers do the right thing with the money, she said she doubts they will.
“I think this whole stimulus package is designed to keep money flowing,” Ms. Cox said. “I think people will go out and spend the money, but I pray that people stop and take a look at where they are in their lives first.”
A survey conducted by the National Retail Federation found that many families will do both, dividing their $300 and up rebate checks between spending and paying off debt. The survey found that 40.6 percent of rebate checks will go back into the economy, meaning a $42.9 billion boost for the economy.
“Many Americans will be wisely using their rebate checks to save, spend and pay down debt, so the overall result will be positive for the U.S. economy,” said Phil Rist, vice president of BIGresearch, the company that conducted the survey, in a release.
Staff Photo by Gillian Bolsover -- Annie Fuller helps Erick Mohr fill out a tax return at Liberty Tax on East Brainerd Road. People must have filed their 2007 tax returns to receive the tax rebates as part of the economic stimulus plan.
Consumers really ought to be paying down debt with a windfall like the rebates, said Jim Graham, a financial planner with Evergreen Consultants Inc. Many times, however, paying off debt now may just lead to consumers accumulating more debt later, he said.
“If they pay off debt, they are probably going to go out and buy something else later on,” he said. “If they are inclined to be in debt, they are probably going to stay in debt.”
Dan Stevens, a debt counselor at Consumer Credit Counseling Services of Chattanooga, works daily with people who have large debts, and said some people will evaluate their finances and decide to use their check to pay down the IOUs.
“I believe some of them will, because by the time they come into us, they are getting pretty desperate,” he said. “You’ve got to believe that what we do here makes a difference.”
Ms. Cox said people with debt would do much better if they paid off their creditors and began saving and preparing themselves for home ownership, something she said would be an invaluable use of those funds.
“I think it’s time for us to start saving for a rainy day, because for a lot of folks the rainy day has come and gone, and it’s still here for some,” she said.
Staff writer Joan Garrett contributed to this story.