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How the Next Government Shutdown May Affect Your Small Business

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.

When Texas business owners Veronica and Craig Bradley put together an application for a loan from the U.S. Small Business Administration, they detailed the risks big and small that could derail their startup brewery.

The couple filled a page with hypothetical unexpected events that could prevent Vector Brewing from making a profit, going so far as to include their own deaths, according to Veronica Bradley.

“The one thing we didn’t account for was a government shutdown,” she said. “Who thinks that’s going to happen?”

A partial government shutdown started Dec. 22, days before the Bradleys planned to submit an application for a $1 million SBA loan to fund the construction and operation of Vector Brewing in Lake Highlands, Texas. The SBA went dark during the 35-day shutdown, delaying SBA funding for many small business owners like the Bradleys.

The federal government reopened a record 35 days later on Jan. 25 after the House and the Senate passed a stopgap spending bill to restore operations until Feb. 15. If that deadline rolls around without a permanent funding agreement, the government could fall into a second shutdown that would impact small businesses still recovering from the first.

Negotiators in Congress have reached a tentative deal that would evade another shutdown, but it’s not yet set in stone. And although the recent shutdown was the longest in U.S. history, it was far from being the first one. There have been 21 stoppages in government funding since 1976, with three shutdowns occurring in 2018 alone.

The Bradleys aren’t waiting for the other shoe to drop — they have a contingency plan. They learned valuable lessons the first time around and are better prepared for another shutdown. We’ll help you understand the widespread impact of the shutdown and help you make your own plans for any unforeseen circumstances.

Effects of the shutdown

The partial government shutdown directly impacted 21% of business owners, creating delays and interrupting regular operations.

In addition to the suspension of SBA loan approvals, federal data services were inaccessible. The E-Verify system was suspended during the shutdown, which meant business owners could not use the platform to confirm the employment eligibility of new workers. Private-sector entities that experienced business shortages during the shutdown will likely never recoup that lost income; about $3 billion in lost GDP growth will not be recovered either.

Small government contractors were hit hard – 41,000 small business contractors lost $2.3 billion in revenue, according to data from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “It is really eye opening, down to the nickel and penny of what some of these small business owners lost,” said Tom Sullivan, vice president of small business policy for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

What would a second shutdown mean for small businesses?

Two back-to-back shutdowns could deal a major blow to small business owners who depend on the federal government, not just for data services or the loans it guarantees, but also for important federal permits. The Bradleys are among numerous brewery owners waiting for permits from the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau needed to brew and sell beer. The timing of a possible second shutdown would be another huge hit, as it could limit the scope of the IRS as tax season nears.

The threat of a second shutdown is on Bradley’s mind every time she writes a check. Until the SBA loan comes through — she and her husband were finally able to apply in late January — the Bradleys must pay business expenses out of pocket. The brewery isn’t open yet, but the Bradleys’ landlord, attorney, financial advisor, contractors and architects are waiting for payment, Bradley said.

“This has been a very scary balancing game,” she said.

Before the shutdown, her banker told her to expect to receive funding in eight to 12 weeks. Now, the SBA doesn’t know how long it will be until the loan is funded, she said.

The Bradleys’ home state of Texas is second only to California in suffering the effects of the partial government shutdown, according to research from ValuePenguin (ValuePenguin is an affiliate of LendingTree, MagnifyMoney’s parent company). Since 2010, the SBA has issued more than $177 billion in 7(a) loans, the most common SBA loan for small business owners, with the most money going to entrepreneurs in California, Texas, New York, Florida and Ohio, per ValuePenguin. SBA loans typically range in size from $500 to $5 million. The SBA does not loan directly to business owners, instead guaranteeing loans issued by partner lenders such as banks, community development organizations and microlending institutions. Backing from the SBA reduces risk for lenders and helps business owners qualify for financing with favorable interest rates and repayment terms.

As those banks waited for SBA approvals, the money slowed, which has business owners like Bradley wondering if another government shutdown could impact business owners who rely on any type of bank financing, not just SBA loans solely. If SBA loans are off the table, she said competition could increase for other small business loans or lines of credit. A lack of access to capital has long been a complaint of small business owners.

“Everyone who wanted to go the SBA route is going to have to clamor for other sources of income,” or else wait, potentially stifling growth, she said. “This affects everyone.”

Alternative lenders are an option

Bernardo Martinez is U.S. managing director of Funding Circle, one of many online lenders serving as an alternative to brick-and-mortar banks that have long dominated small business lending. Although he is not expecting banks to retract from business lending, a pause would create an opportunity for alternative lenders like Funding Circle to serve more business owners.

When traditional financing is out of reach for any reason, alternative business lenders can provide funding solutions for small business owners. Funding Circle had strong loan originations in January, Martinez said, but the company isn’t crediting the shutdown.

“In January, we saw a good volume month,” he said. “But I do not believe we can pinpoint specifically to the shutdown.”

Like Funding Circle, many online business lenders could provide faster time to funding than traditional banks with less stringent eligibility requirements. These lenders consider factors such as customer reviews and current cash flow when approving borrowers, but rates are typically higher than other types of business loans.

Although Martinez said Funding Circle isn’t planning to target business owners affected by a government shutdown, online small business lender QuickBridge has a video on its homepage discussing the benefits of alternative lenders during unforeseen circumstances, including the government shutdown.

At Funding Circle, “that will create an opportunity, but right now we’re not thinking about it or seeing it in the market,” Martinez said.

How to prepare for the next shutdown – or any business interruption

As the possibility of another shutdown looms, Bradley is weighing her financing options for the brewery. Before deciding to pursue an SBA loan, Bradley and her husband considered bringing on investors or using online crowdfunding platforms to raise money. If their SBA loan is delayed a second time, they might return to their original strategy.

“If it stays shut down for a week, I see it staying shut down for another month,” she said. “If the government shuts down for another 30 days we can’t wait.”

Bradley is putting together materials to present to investors and considering asking her bank for a small business loan to tide them over until more financing comes through, she said. It’s important for small business owners to have a back-up plan if things go wrong, she said, even if it’s not ideal.

How to handle the unexpected

Keep communication open.
Like any relationship, you need open communication with the people you do business with, Bradley said. If you’re facing financial trouble or other issues within your business, you should inform your vendors, advisors and anyone else who interacts with your company.

Vendor relationships became imperative during the shutdown for business owners who needed to catch a break, said Sullivan at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Bradley was able to work out a deal with her landlord and contractors after explaining the delay in SBA funding. Being upfront helps you maintain credibility and trustworthiness as a business owner, she said.

Track your spending.
Keep track of every penny you spend, Bradley said, especially when you’re in distress. You should keep your personal and business finances separate so you can clearly see how much you’re putting into the business. When it’s time to apply for financing, you’ll likely need to explain your business spending to be approved for a loan, she said.

Understand your financial needs.
If you need to apply for business financing to get you through a rough period, you should know the specific expenses that you need to cover, Martinez said. That way, you would be able to borrow the exact amount you need, rather than estimating too high or too low. You would have a better chance of finding the right lender if you know exactly what you need, he said.

Read the fine print.
Keep your financial documents in order so you could apply for financing at a moment’s notice. Be sure to understand each lender’s terms and conditions before applying, Martinez said, especially if you’re looking for financing from an alternative lending institution. Each lender has its own pricing structure, and you may want to talk to the lender directly to understand what’s required of borrowers, Martinez said.

Stash money in an emergency fund.
You should generally have three to six months’ worth of expenses saved in case of emergency — that would give you a financial cushion to fall back on during any kind of business interruption, such as a government shutdown. It could also be a good idea have a line of credit or credit card available as well if you don’t have enough in your emergency account.

“Whether it’s a wildfire, a flood or a government shutdown, there’s an opportunity there for small business owners to rethink their cash flow and think very seriously about creating reserve funds,” Sullivan said.

If the federal government shuts down again, even if the closure lasts a few days, the repercussions for small business owners could be monumental. You should prepare as best you can to minimize the impact on your operation.

“Those 35 days it was shut down put us at least three months behind,” Bradley said. “It’s crazy.”

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

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Survey: Millennials Are Underestimating Retirement Savings Needs

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone and is not intended to be a source of investment advice. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.

For many savers, a cozy retirement can seem like a distant dream rather than a realistic future. Costs of living continue to rise, while it’s becoming harder for many to keep up with saving. More and more senior citizens are working into retirement, and millennials may be underestimating just how much they’d need to save for retirement in the first place.

MagnifyMoney commissioned a survey of 800 full-time workers to get a better look at their understanding of their own retirement savings needs. The results show that while millennials may be underestimating the real costs of retirement, so are baby boomers. Furthermore, some baby boomers indicated that no amount of money would make them comfortable enough to retire.

Key findings

  • 73% of full-time working Americans believe $1 million is enough to get them through retirement if they stop working at age 66. There was widespread agreement on this across all age groups.
    • $1 million in retirement savings is a general rule of thumb to follow, although an individual’s actual retirement savings should be more specific based on projected spending in retirement.

  • Meanwhile, nearly 1 in 5 millennials said having $500,000 in their retirement savings account would make them comfortable enough to stop working tomorrow. Another 14% of millennials would retire after amassing $750,000.
    • Millennials aren’t alone in believing less than $1 million is enough. Across all age groups, 20% of respondents said that $500,000 in retirement savings was enough. The next largest cohort — 17.4% of respondents — said $1 million in retirement savings was enough.
  • Interestingly, more than 1 in 5 baby boomers responded similarly to millennials, saying just $500,000 would get them through retirement if they stopped working tomorrow. Another 15% of boomers said $750,000 would be enough to retire.
  • Some baby boomer respondents offered a bleaker outlook: More than a quarter of Americans ages 54-73 reported that no amount of money would make them comfortable enough to retire.
    • Boomers were almost twice as likely to say that no amount of money would make them comfortable enough to stop working compared to younger Americans. 14.4% of millennials and 15.2% of Gen X-ers had the same sentiment.
    • Boomers may be less willing to stop working than other age cohorts because they believe they need to save more before they stop working, or because some feel you can never really have enough money saved for retirement.
  • More than 1 in 10 Americans have lofty goals for their retirement savings. Just under 12% of our respondents want to accumulate at least $3 million before ending their career.

How much should I save for retirement?

Saving for retirement is not an exact science. Shooting for a $1 million nest egg is a common rule of thumb — and most survey respondents agree that $1 million would be enough.

However, the amount of retirement savings you need depends on your estimated expenses in retirement. Your exact number could be more or less than $1 million, depending on how much you expect to spend on housing, discretionary costs or lingering debts.

For example, $1 million in savings would fund a 20-year retirement where you’re limited to $50,000 in annual spending. If you anticipate a 30-year retirement, $1 million in savings would only cover around $33,000 in annual spending.

How much you should have saved for retirement also depends largely on your age. For example, it’s unlikely that at 30 years old, you’ll already have $1 million set aside unless you’re extremely blessed. You’ll have to build up your savings as you go and as your income, hopefully, increases with age.

Fidelity offers a different take on savings guidelines by age. According to Fidelity, by age 30 you should have 1x your annual salary saved, growing to 3x your annual salary saved by age 40, 6x by 50, and 8x by 60.

How do I save for retirement?

If you think you’ve underestimated how much you truly need to save for retirement, there’s still time to get your savings on track.

A common retirement savings tool is the 25x rule, which dictates you need to have 25 times your annual retirement expenses saved. Core to this rule is the assumption that you’ll need to cover 25 years of retirement. So if you calculate an estimated $70,000 in annual spending in retirement, for example, following the 25x rule would indicate a nest egg goal of $1.75 million.

That’s a far cry from the mere $500,000 that 20% of our respondents indicated would be adequate for retirement. If you stuck to that goal, by the 25x rule, your annual spending in retirement would be cut down to $20,000.

It’s best to throw your retirement savings into an investment account, rather than a high-yield savings account. Over time, investing can post returns around 8%, well above the 2% savings APYs we see today. Retirement savings are more than just your 401(k), too: individual retirement accounts, or IRAs, allow you to save on your own, whether instead of or in addition to your 401(k).

If you’re an investing beginner, there are a ton of resources out there to help you get started. Robo-advisors and online brokerages offer an easily navigable investing experience that allow you to set your own goals and preferences.

Methodology

MagnifyMoney by LendingTree commissioned Qualtrics to conduct an online survey of 816 full-time American workers. The survey was fielded October 1-3, 2019.

We define millennials as those aged 23 to 38, Gen X as those 39 to 53 and Boomers as those aged 54 to 73. Members of Gen Z (ages 18 to 22) and the Silent Generation (ages 74 and up) were also surveyed, and their responses are included within the overall total percentages. However, they were excluded from the age breakdowns due to the lower sample size among respondents in those age groups.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

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Survey: For 36% of Americans, Economy Informs 2020 Presidential Preference

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.

The presidential election will dominate headlines throughout 2020, with voters and pundits alike obsessively following polls, reading coverage and watching debates to get a feel for who’s leading in the race for the White House. In addition, they’ll be closely watching another key indicator for the race: the performance of the U.S. economy.

MagnifyMoney commissioned a survey of 1,000 Americans to gauge how people think about the relationship between the economy and the 2020 presidential election. Our survey found that nearly four in ten respondents said monitoring the economy helps them decide which candidate to support, and believe the results of an election can be at least somewhat predicted by the performance of the economy.

Key findings

  • About 41% of respondents believe the outcome of a presidential election can be predicted based on U.S. economic performance in the 12 months leading up to the election.
    • Around 36% said monitoring the stock market and the economy helps them decide which presidential candidate to support.
  • Republicans are more confident than Democrats about three key aspects of the economy over the next 12 months: that the stock market will continue to rise, jobs will continue to be added to the economy and the overall economy will continue to grow.
  • Nearly 1 in 3 respondents think the 2020 presidential campaign will positively impact the economy — while about 18% believe the economy will be negatively impacted.
    • Investors are almost twice as likely as non-investors to believe the campaign will positively benefit the economy, and six-figure earners are also more likely to agree with this proposition.
  • Like many topics in politics, the potential economic impact of re-electing Donald Trump is a polarizing subject.
    • When asked which 2020 presidential candidate made them most optimistic about the future of the U.S. economy, the most-cited candidate was Donald Trump, with 33% of respondents overall.
    • When asked which candidate made them most pessimistic about the future of the U.S. economy, Trump was yet again the most cited candidate, by 35% respondents overall.

How could the state of the U.S. economy impact the election?

Our survey found that about 4 in 10 respondents think you can at least somewhat predict the outcome of the presidential election based on U.S. economic performance in the year leading up to the election. Meanwhile, 37% say that they do not think that economic performance could predict the election’s outcome, while nearly 22% were not sure.

Republicans were more likely than Democrats to say that economic performance could at least somewhat predict the 2020 election, 53% versus 43%. Meanwhile, 50% of millennials think that the state of the economy could at least somewhat predict the 2020 election, compared to 40% of Gen Xers and 32% of baby boomers.

Our survey asked whether people monitor the stock market and economic performance when deciding which presidential candidate to support. We found that the majority of people (64%) do not track such metrics when deciding who to support, while approximately 21% do somewhat and 15% do a great deal. The results didn’t differ greatly when considering party affiliation: 40% of Democrats and 42% of Republicans follow these metrics at least somewhat when determining who to vote for.

How could the election impact the U.S. economy?

While our survey revealed that many people think that economic conditions can help predict the outcome of the 2020 election, we also asked respondents how they think the election will impact the economy once the polls close and the next president is selected.

Overall, people feel very differently about how the 2020 election results will impact the economy, with 31% of respondents saying it will positively affect it, 18% saying it will negatively affect it, 42% saying they are unsure how it will affect it and 9% saying it will not affect it at all.

Those results look somewhat different when party affiliation is taken into account: 41% of Republicans said the outcome of the election will positively impact the economy, compared to just 32% of Democrats. Meanwhile, Democrats were more likely to say that the election would have a negative impact on the economy, 19% compared to 14% of Republicans.

Different generations also had different thoughts on how the election’s results might affect the economy, with millennials (39%) most likely to say they think it will have a positive impact, followed by Gen Xers (28%) and baby boomers (24%). In contrast, Gen Xers were the generation most likely to say the election will have a negative economic impact (20%), followed by millennials (18%) and baby boomers (15%).

Our survey also revealed how people think the stock market will react to a President Trump re-election. Overall, 31% of respondents think that the stock market will fall if Trump is re-elected, 26% think the market would rise, 28% are unsure of how the market would react and 16% think it won’t change. Not surprisingly, 50% of Democrats think the stock market will fall with a Trump re-election, while 52% of Republicans think it will rise.

How could the election impact investor confidence?

Everything from a CEO’s tweets to global trade deals has the potential to rattle an investor’s confidence — and our survey found that the 2020 election is no exception.

Interestingly, we found that overall, 37% of people avoid investing their money during election years. That includes 41% of Democrats and 39% of Republicans, as well as a whopping 56% of millennials, 29% of Gen Xers and 13% of baby boomers.

One reason for the lack of investment during election years could be chalked up to overall uneasiness about the state of the economy in general. When looking at the 2020 election in particular, many respondents aren’t too confident in many metrics that measure the health of the economy.

Overall, 28% of those surveyed are at least somewhat unconfident that the stock market will continue to rise, 30% are at least somewhat unconfident that the U.S. will continue adding jobs in the next 12 months and 29% are at least somewhat unconfident that the overall U.S. economy will continue to grow over the next 12 months.

When looking at confidence levels regarding the overall future of the economy, our survey found that Democrats are much more pessimistic than their Republican counterparts: 38% of Democrats were at least somewhat unconfident that the overall U.S. economy will continue to grow over the next 12 months, compared to just 19% of Republicans who feel the same way.

When looking at how the economy is now versus how it was on the night of the election in 2016, different political parties have very different viewpoints. Only 16% of Democrats think that the economy is in a better position now, compared to a whopping 68% of Republicans.

When asked which presidential candidate made them the most optimistic about the future U.S. economy and which one made them the most pessimistic, the most popular candidate was the same for both: Donald Trump. Overall, 33% of respondents said that Trump was the candidate that made them the most optimistic about the economic future, followed by Joe Biden (17%), Bernie Sanders (14%) and Elizabeth Warren (12%).

Meanwhile, 35% of respondents said that Trump was the candidate that made them the most pessimistic about the future of the U.S. economy, followed by Sanders and Biden (both at 14%) and then Warren (11%).

Methodology

MagnifyMoney commissioned Qualtrics to conduct an online survey of 1,048 Americans, with the sample base proportioned to represent the general population. The survey was fielded October 1-3, 2019.

In the survey, generations are defined as:

  • Millennials are ages 23 to 38
  • Generation Xers are ages 39 to 54
  • Baby boomers are ages 55 to 73

Members of Generation Z (ages 18 to 22) and the Silent Generation (ages 74 and older) were also surveyed, and their responses are included within the total percentages among all respondents. However, their responses are excluded from the charts and age breakdowns due to the smaller population size among our survey sample.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.