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I got two $1,200 stimulus payments last time. Will I receive two $600 checks this time? Will there even be another stimulus?

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Dear Moneyist,

To my surprise, I got two stimulus checks during the first round of economic impact payments. One was deposited into my bank, and the other was an actual physical check. Will I receive two stimulus payments this time around as well? I have friends who received no check whatsoever, and they were furious (understandably) that I received more than one.

Waiting for Round Two

Also see: Trump goes golfing as stimulus, defense spending bills left in the lurch

Dear Waiting,

Don’t you mean round three and four? That would be what you would receive if you were to receive two $600 checks in a second round of stimulus payments. However, I wouldn’t spend that second check quite yet. Firstly, the rollout of the second stimulus program is in limbo as President Trump has threatened not to sign the bill, despite lawmakers agreeing to move ahead with payments.

The Internal Revenue Service, after a year of employees working overtime and working tirelessly to get economic impact payments delivered to millions of Americans, will likely discover their mistake and adjust the payment in your 2020 tax return. Rarely do such windfalls come without a price. Such mistakes are usually rectified manually or by computer. You have been warned.

Some people are upset that they didn’t receive a large enough check or no economic impact payment at all, other taxpayers say they’ve received stimulus checks for dead relatives. This past year has not unfolded in a straight line. One man told me he was “punished” by the government for being responsible because he filed his 2019 taxes early — and received $200.

The Moneyist:My boyfriend’s ex-wife claimed her 2 sons as dependents on her taxes, and received their stimulus checks, but they live with us

You can return the money via check or money order with the notation “2020EIP,” plus the Social Security number or taxpayer I.D. of the check recipient. Those people who received a paper check and did not cash it can write “void” on the back of the check’s endorsement section and mail it back to the IRS, according the IRS directions (see Q41), with an explanation.

People who did not receive a check this year or only a small amount and believe their income will fall below the required threshold for checks next year could still receive a stimulus payment next year. The EIP is technically an advance payment of a tax credit on your 2020 return. The IRS is using 2019 tax returns to gauge people’s incomes; 2018 tax returns are used as a Plan B.


The IRS has sent out 150 million stimulus checks, totalling approximately $290 billion in checks.

The IRS has sent out 150 million stimulus checks, totalling approximately $290 billion in checks. The second round of stimulus payments is currently up in the air, as President Trump surprised lawmakers by refusing to sign the new coronavirus relief bill, arguing that the $600 per person stimulus payments for those earning $75,000 a year or less are not generous enough.

Millions of people are desperate for at least one check. Searches for “stimulus check” made the top 10 news topics on Google
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 as millions of Americans have lost their jobs. A second round of financial-aid checks for taxpayers was one of the few things Republican and Democratic lawmakers agreed upon. The amount has been a subject of contention.

The Moneyist: I earned $100,000 in 2019, but far less in 2020. Why did I not get a stimulus check? How is that fair?

Ahead of November’s presidential election, House Democrats had pared back their version of the new stimulus bill from $3.4 trillion to $2.2 trillion, and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin appeared receptive to a total stimulus package of $1.8 trillion. With the U.S. hitting record daily COVID-19 case counts, more public-health steps like shutdowns may be necessary,

News of a new stimulus could not have come a moment too soon. As a result of the enhanced unemployment benefits and stimulus checks, which were both key parts of the CARES Act in March, Americans’ median checking-account balances increased by 65% on the year in April, according to a JPMorgan Chase Institute
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report published last week.

Nearly one-third of people who received a stimulus check last summer used it to pay bills and, in a Twitter poll
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 of 889,000 people, over 60% said a $600 payment would not be enough. Return the second check, especially if you can afford it. You have been given another opportunity to pull together during the pandemic other than socially distancing and wearing masks.

You can email The Moneyist with any financial and ethical questions related to coronavirus at qfottrell@marketwatch.com

Want to read more?Follow Quentin Fottrell on Twitterand read more of his columns here

Would you like to sign up to an email alert when a new Moneyist column has been published? If so, click on this link.

Hello there, MarketWatchers. Check out the Moneyist private Facebook
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 group where we look for answers to life’s thorniest money issues. Readers write in to me with all sorts of dilemmas. Post your questions, tell me what you want to know more about, or weigh in on the latest Moneyist columns.





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‘I could live on my Social Security and still save money’: This 66-year-old left Chicago for ‘calming’ Costa Rica — where he now plans to live indefinitely

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Editor’s note: This article was first published in September 2019.

A school break changed 66-year-old Martin Farber’s life forever.

In 2007, his daughter — who at the time was attending Illinois State University — decided she wanted to spend a college holiday volunteering in Costa Rica and staying with a local family, he explains. She came home raving about the experience, so, in 2008, Farber — who at the time was living in Evanston, Ill., just outside Chicago, and selling cars — took his first trip there.

“It was a big surprise to me — bumpy roads, dogs barking in the streets,” he says. “I wasn’t enamored at first.”

But as his daughter began traveling there more and eventually moved there for a year, he took additional trips to Costa Rica. It quickly grew on him — in particular, the people. “The Costa Rican people are warm, open and friendly. I felt less invisible in a strange country in a strange town where I didn’t speak the language than I did in Evanston.”

And the more time he spent there, the more it impacted him: “On one of my trips there, I thought: My daughter’s life makes more sense than mine,” he says. “There was nothing wrong with my life, but I felt that my life was out of context with who I’d become. … I would have bills and make money to pay them, but that had ceased to be satisfying,” he recalls. “I knew I needed to change my life — there was no more joy in what I was doing.”

What’s more, when he’d return from his Costa Rica trips, people noticed. “I would come back, and my friends and therapist would say: You seem better after you go,” he says with a laugh.

A view from the hot springs near Martin Farber’s home in Costa Rica.


Martin Farber

So in 2014, he packed up and moved to Orosi — a picturesque, lush small town with waterfalls and hot springs a little over an hour’s drive from San Jose — promising himself he’d stay for two years. It’s been five, and he now plans to stay in Costa Rica indefinitely. (Though Farber notes that, to him, “it’s not a retirement; it’s a chance to lead a new and different life.”)

Here’s what his life is like, from costs to health care to residency to everyday life:

The cost: While many expats spend way more living in Costa Rica, Farber says: “I could live on my Social Security and still save money.” He says “a person can live on $1,200 per month, two people on $2,000.” The key, he says, is to live more like he does and as the Costa Ricans do — in a modest home, eating local food and purchasing local goods.

Indeed, Farber himself spends just $300 a month for rent (he rents a home from a friend who moved recently and gave him a good deal), roughly $225 a month on groceries and just $50 a month total on water and electricity (the temperate climate in Orosi means you rarely need heat or air conditioning). The veteran Volkswagen
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salesman saves money by not owning a car (those over 65 ride municipal buses for free), which can be a significant expense in Costa Rica; for his cellphone, “I pay as I go … roughly $10 may last me a couple weeks or more,” he says, adding that “many people handle there their cellphones this way. You can get them recharged anywhere.”

His major expense is travel: He goes back to the U.S. to visit his mother in Florida several times a year and lately has spent part of the summer in Chicago helping out a friend with a dealership there. He also spends a good amount of money on health care. He says that while flights can be had for as little as $350 roundtrip during offseasons, the cost can be much higher the rest of the year.

In the saddle.


Martin Farber

Health care: Farber, who has permanent resident status in Costa Rica, says he pays about $90 per month to participate in the country’s health-care system — adding that the health care he’s received has been very good. (A 2018 study of health-care quality and access in more than 190 nations ranked Costa Rica No. 62.)

When he developed a detached retina, though, he paid for the procedure out of pocket so that he didn’t have to wait for the required surgery, he says — adding that the entire procedure cost him about $5,000. “I would have had to have waited four days,” he says, if he had not paid to expedite matters. “That might have been fine, but it might not.” And he adds that the quality of care depends on where you get it in the country.

Lifestyle: Though Farber says that he “moved here with no goals and no agenda,” he’s found plenty to do. “I take Spanish lessons two days a week for two hours a day. It’s been great. I never thought I would acquire a usable language in my 60s,” he says. He also rides his bike all around the area, does some writing and belongs to a community group that undertakes projects to improve the area.

And he often simply takes in nature, which he says has been an essential part of why he feels calmer and more relaxed in Costa Rica than in the U.S. “I live at 3,000 feet but in a valley surrounded by coffee fields and lime trees and water. At night, if I open the windows, I can hear the river rushing by,” he says. “It is very calming … hundreds of trees everywhere … you know the Earth is alive.”

The historic Iglesia de San José de Orosi.


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Cons: “I don’t want to overglorify. It’s not without its problems,” Farber says of Costa Rica. “There are social problems and downsides.” He notes that crime and petty theft can be a problem (“I am cautious,” he says of his approach) and seem to have increased since he moved there, and adds that he misses out on some cultural things because of where he lives. And, he says with a laugh, “I can’t order Thai food at 9 at night.” But, he adds: “These are trade-offs — in the afternoon, I get to walk in the coffee fields and see flocks of parrots.”

Residency: To qualify for Costa Rica’s pensionado visa, expats must prove that they have a pension of at least $1,000 coming in each month. (Here are the details of that program.) Once you have lived in Costa Rica for three years, you can apply for permanent residency. Farber used a lawyer to help him figure out the ins and outs of residency options; his entire path to permanent residency took about a year, he says.

The bottom line: “After five years I am still amazed and surprised that I made the decision to lead a life I never thought I would,” he says. And while he may not stay in Orosi forever — “the town doesn’t have an ambulance, [and] I don’t know what it will be like to be 80 there,” he says — he does plan to stay in Costa Rica in no small part because of the people and sense of community. “I have the feeling that life is good here,” he says. “It’s hard sometimes, but we are all in it together.”



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