It’s time to prepare for rising cost of borrowing
Higher interest rates can affect consumer behaviorNovember 3rd, 2022
The Federal Reserve is expected to continue raising interest rates to counteract inflation. The prospect of rising rates may seem daunting for small business owners, but the reality so far may have been less worrisome.
Small businesses’ exposure to rising rates may be direct—for example, if you have a loan with a variable rate—or indirect—for example, if your business is affected by changing purchase patterns as consumers react to increased rates.
First, let’s review the specific risks, then I’ll provide some tips for how you can prepare for continuing rate increases.
Here are some interest-related risks that should be understood.
•Direct risk—variable-rate debt: Business owners with variable interest rates on loans or credit will be most affected by any rate increases. Variable interest rates, also known as floating or adjustable rates, fluctuate over time based on economic conditions. Rate hikes may increase your interest payments on any loans, lines of credit, or credit cards with variable rates, and therefore the total you owe on these debts.
•Indirect risk—changing consumer spending: Higher interest rates generally mean consumers cut back on spending, opting to save their money to receive higher rates of return. This behavior typically contributes to lower demand for goods and services. Some businesses will benefit from these value-oriented trends; others will need to take steps to shore up their operations.
•Assess your exposure: Now is the time to determine which risk, if any, is most relevant to your business. Start by reviewing the terms on your business loans, lines of credit, and business credit cards to determine whether your rates are fixed or connect with your lender or banker.
Here are some tips to prepare for rising rates.
•Tackle outstanding debt with variable rates. Higher rates mean it will take longer to pay off debt. To prepare, pay off as much of your loans or lines of credit as possible. If you can’t pay off all debt, try to renegotiate the terms to lock in today’s lower interest rates. Also, consider shifting your business and personal credit card balances to cards or loans with lower rates.
•Shift cash-management strate gies. If you have extra cash on hand, consider moving it into certificates of deposit, money market accounts, savings accounts, or other instruments that are low risk and benefit from rising rates. These vehicles will accumulate more interest as rates rise.
•Assess your plans for financing growth. Higher rates make it more expensive to borrow. As a result, it may be harder to access financing to expand or cover unexpected expenses. Consider seeking fixed-rate loans, such as those backed by the U.S. Small Business Administration or another lender, which will protect you from future interest rate increases.
•Plan ahead for changes in consumer spending. If your industry is likely to be affected by cutbacks in consumer spending, consider bumping up your marketing efforts, such as targeting your most loyal customers and offering special promotions in order to draw traffic.
As you navigate a changing rate environment, it’s even more important than usual to manage your cash flow carefully.
Once you’ve taken these steps to prepare for higher interest rates, remember the potential silver lining. Rates are increasing to slow down inflation and stabilize the economy, both of which are likely to be good for your business in the long run. And while higher rates mean it costs more to borrow money, you’ll also receive higher payouts on interest-bearing assets.