Stimulus Checks

Lots of people will need to make tradeoffs when deciding how to use their economic hardship payment.

Our planning tool makes that easier.


Late in March, Congress passed the CARES Act which provides economic hardship payments directly to families. Around 60 million households will receive a check amounting to several thousand dollars.

The checks will help households cope with acute emergencies - even relatively small amounts of savings or getting at bit of liquidity at the right moment can be extraordinarily meaningful. Research has shown that just $250 to $750 in liquid savings can help a family weather a financial shock, reducing their likelihood of paying their bills late, missing rent, or needing public benefits.

The hardship payments may be less suited to help families make ends meet for any prolonged period of time. People will be forced to make trade-offs and decide what is the best use for their check. They must decide how to best use their check but also how to make it last. Navigating an immediate financial crisis while also making decisions about a complicated and uncertain future understandably feels overwhelming and stressful.

To make this decision-making process easier, we've created a tool that prompts people to plan ahead for how to use their stimulus checks. Research has shown that simple planning prompts can improve decision-making, especially if they encourage people to make concrete and specific plans to follow-through on their good intentions.

Download the zip file here Download


The tool takes about 10 minutes to complete and will:

  • Ensure that people have done everything to be eligible for a check.
  • Calculate how much people can expect to receive if they have not received their check yet.
  • Create a simple plan and receive a digital copy to keep.
  • Get relevant tips and resources based on stated priorities.

The tool is available for financial institutions, employers, non-profits, and any other service providers to provide to those they serve. Want to use the tool? Offering the planning tool to your members and clients requires very little effort. All that you need to do is:

  • Download the zip file. In the .zip file, you’ll find template emails, blog posts, and social media that you are free to use and tailor.
  • Tailor the templates to be from your organization and distribute.
  • Email us! We want to know how widely the tool is being distributed. You can email Margaret Bolton at

That’s all you need to do!


What if I want to do more or make changes to the email?

Absolutely! You should feel free to make any and all changes to email that you want. If you are interested in doing more, that’s great. Some organizations are doing a lot more to distribute the tool . If you want to do more but aren’t sure how, get in touch and we can see what’s possible. Just email Margaret Bolton from CCL at for more information.

What if I want to know if the planning tool actually helped?

CCL designed the tool to be as light of a lift as possible and to avoid collecting any private and sensitive data. That means that some of the specificity will be lost as it stands right now.

However, you need to do just one thing to see how people use the planning tool and if it’s effective. If you are sending out the email through a marketing tool like Mail Chimp, contact CCL to help you set up a simple “query string.” With that, you will receive a report and clearly see how the planning tool helped your members.

Is is possible to create a white-labelled version of the tool?

Not at this time. We have worked with a couple of organizations to change the look and feel of the tool to match their branding, but those changes take time. The tool won’t be as effective if it’s delivered too late.

What if I am worried about private and sensitive data?

The planning tool does not collect any private and sensitive data at all. Members are provided a summary of their plan through a website that is generated specifically for them at the end of the tool. That website is temporary and does not contain any private or sensitive data.

Are we sure the planning tool will help people?

Great question! Whether the planning tool helps likely depends on how engaged members are with the tool. That said, there is a lot of evidence that has shown that simple planning prompts can improve decision-making. Our friends Todd Rogers, Katy Milkman, and Michael Norton have an excellent review that you can find here:

A planning prompt is a statement that encourages people to make concrete and specific plans to act on their good intentions. The evidence clearly shows that making a plan can increase follow-through. There are five reasons why this is the case.

  • Just asking people if they are going to do something makes them aware of that behavior. Bringing the behavior to top of mind can make it more likely that they will do it.
  • Planning prompts encourage people to develop and implement specific strategies to achieve their goals. Simply asking someone to do something might make them aware of their behavior, but planning prompts are more effective when they go further and guide people to unpack when, where, and how they will fulfill their intentions.
  • People invest effort in developing concrete action plans, meaning they are less likely to forget their intentions. Planning prompts are more effective when they help individuals connect a positive behavior to specific moments – a specific time of day, when a specific event occurs, or when a specific feeling or thought arises.
  • Making a plan represents a commitment and breaking it can cause people to feel discomfort or regret. Planning prompts are more effective when they make that commitment more explicit. Planning prompts can also be more effective by introducing a social component that asks the individual to make that commitment to another person.
  • Planning prompts encourage people to think ahead and make decisions when they are less likely to be tempted. People often make better decisions for themselves in the future than they do in the present. Planning prompts are more effective when they are combined with a commitment device or “Ulysses contract” that makes changing your mind difficult or impossible.