At more than 32.5 million strong, small businesses account for 99.9% of all American businesses. To help support these small but mighty drivers of the American economy—which collectively employ more than 45% of the nation’s labor force—the Small Business Administration offers a variety of business loans to help them grow and succeed.
Of course, small business owners have plenty of options for funding beyond the SBA. From personal loans and business credit cards to a line of credit at a large bank, there is no shortage of options for an infusion of cash. But when it comes to some of the most competitive loans with lower interest rates for large loan amounts, SBA loans are among the most highly sought after.
The SBA, a government agency founded to help spur small business economic activity, disburses funding by partnering with private financial institutions such as banks or credit unions. It acts as a guarantor for the loan, ranging from a portion to the total borrowing amount. This makes it possible for institutional lenders to offer borrowers favorable financing options because they carry a low risk of losing their investment if the business fails.
In other words, by backing the debt that a small business takes on, the SBA lowers the barriers that often stand in the way of being approved for a bank loan.
Today, a small business owner may apply for one of several SBA loan options, depending on their business situation and need. The majority of for-profit businesses qualify for SBA funding.
To better understand the funding available, Ruby used information from the SBA, Congressional Research Service, and other industry sources to compare the agency’s top three most popular small business loan programs and their benefits. The analysis includes maximum loan amounts, loan count and values in the fiscal years of 2021 and 2022, demographics of loan recipients, typical loan uses, and other notable factors.
Smith Collection/Gado // Getty Images
Named after its section number under the Small Business Act, the 7(a) loan is the SBA’s flagship loan program and also the most popular. In 2022, the agency issued 47,678 7(a) loans with a total value of $25.7 billion. Historically, white male business owners have comprised the majority of loan recipients and, since 2017, minority- and women-owned businesses have only seen modest gains. In 2022, minority-owned business owners were approved for 32% of 7(a) loan capital (up from 30% five years ago), and majority women-owned businesses captured 15% (up from 14% five years ago).
Capped at $5 million per borrower, 7(a) loans have an interest rate between 6% to 10%. There are several requirements that a small business owner needs to meet for approval, including proof that you’ve exhausted alternative funding sources, built up reasonable equity in the business, and have a good personal credit score.
In addition to providing capital for long- and short-term business operations, the loan is primarily for owners who plan to make significant purchases such as equipment, real estate, or land; expand or acquire another business; invest in constructing or renovating an office building; or refinance debt. The loan can finance all or one of these funding needs, so it’s a good option for borrowers who need to fund multiple kinds of growth. Put another way, borrowers don’t need to apply for multiple loans at different rates for different purposes.
The 7(a) loan is also an appealing option for owners planning to purchase real estate. The loan offers a longer repayment period of up to 25 years, which can be ideal for real estate investing, which usually takes years, or even decades, to pay off.
Astrid Riecken For The Washington Post // Getty Images
The 504 loan program offers long-term financing at a fixed rate for assets promoting business growth or job creation. These loans are unique because they represent partnerships between a nonprofit Certified Development Company—a community-based business regulating nonprofits while promoting economic development—and a standard lender. The SBA regulates CDCs, which administer the SBA part of a loan.
504s may be used to “purchase or renovate capital assets (land, buildings, equipment), and [r]efinancing [is] permitted,” according to the SBA. Generally speaking, qualifying for these loans is straightforward. An individual business can typically borrow up to $5 million in 504 loans (though some projects qualify for as much as $5.5 million); fixed interest rates for 504 loans range from 6.47-6.54%, depending on the loan maturity.
Unlike 7(a) loans, businesses must access 504 loans via the CDC and only use the money to finance fixed assets, which are items needed to operate the business over time, such as company vehicles, machinery, or a building. 504 loans usually feature interest rates below prevailing market rates.
In the fiscal year 2022, the SBA approved 9,254 loans with a value of $9.2 billion in total. Minority-owned businesses captured 24% of the 504 loans and 27% of loan dollars; majority women-owned businesses captured 12% of the 504 loans and 10% of loan dollars.
Paul Chinn/The San Francisco Chronicle // Getty Images
Microloans represent some of the easiest SBA loans to get for small businesses, but are the smallest loans it offers with a cap of $50,000. The average microloan amount is $13,000, and the purpose of these smaller funding packages is to help a small business keep its doors open through “marketing, management, and technical assistance to microloan borrowers and potential borrowers,” according to the SBA. Interest rates range from 8% to 13%.
A microloan may be appropriate for an owner of a new or existing business that needs a boost to achieve shorter-term goals such as launching or expanding operations. Unlike other SBA offerings, these microloans are also the most friendly to startups, as an applicant does not have to present the financial history of the business—having two years of industry experience, collateral, and a solid business plan are among the criteria instead.
Another requirement for SBA microloans is “good character,” measured by whether an applicant has a history of theft and fraud, among other crimes. (However, a criminal record does not automatically disqualify someone—it just might take more work to win over lenders). Interestingly, research suggests that, contrary to the popular assumption about the character traits of successful business owners, having an extroverted or neurotic personality traits does not make them more likely to secure a SBA microloan. A 2021 quantitative study of 177 small business owners found no strong correlation between successful microloan approvals and extrovert traits such as being sociable, talkative, and assertive, which are often associated with successful startup founders and business owners.
While the least popular loans compared to 7(a) or 504 loans, microloans disburse the most money to women- and minority-owned small businesses. Data from 2022 is not yet available as of publication, but the Congressional Research Service data shows that in 2021, SBA approved 4,510 loans valued at $74.6 million; 61% of loans and 41% of loan dollars were awarded to minority-owned small businesses, and 48% of loans and 41% of loan dollars were awarded to women-owned businesses.
This story originally appeared on Ruby and was produced and
distributed in partnership with Stacker Studio.
These 5 charts show the ups and downs of the US stock market over 10 years
The U.S. stock market is a complicated beast, and with recent events like the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve seen some volatility in the last few years. Stocks dipped quite a bit during the pandemic but have recovered since.
To get an idea of how the stock market has fared in the last 10 years, watch trends of major market indices—or certain groups of companies’ stocks that give a sample of how the entire market is performing. Perhaps the most well-known market index is the S&P 500, a group of the 500 largest companies on the U.S. stock market.
While the S&P 500 is widely regarded as the best indicator of how the stock market is faring, other market indices can give you a different view based on the type of companies they track. Dow Jones, for instance, follows 30 of the largest companies in the country from various industries. The NASDAQ includes all stocks on the NASDAQ market, largely comprised of tech companies.
By watching the performance of these and other market indices, investors can get a good idea of how the U.S. stock market as a whole has performed over time. Olive Invest examined historical equities data from S&P Dow Jones, NASDAQ, and other data sources to see how the stock market has fared over the last decade.
How stocks have performed over the last decade
This chart shows a significant increase in stock index values from the last decade, despite a brief drop in 2020 during the pandemic. At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, there was a steep drop-off in index values. However, they bounced back by the end of 2020 into 2021.
Index values have held relatively steady growth across the last 10 years. The NASDAQ, S&P 500, and Dow Jones Industrial Average have all doubled in value since 2012.
This chart measures the Chicago Board Options Exchange volatility index (VIX index), designed to show how current events and uncertainty affect stock prices. Essentially, the more fluctuation you see here, the more uncertainty investors and the public have about the future, which can significantly impact the market and even help project market crises.
Unsurprisingly, the most significant spike in volatility from the last decade was in March 2020, at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. The last two years have shown a reduction in volatility since this spike, but in general, there is more uncertainty than 10 years prior.
Rates of return since 2000
The S&P 500’s annual return on investment is a critical indicator of the stock market’s performance. The average return since the S&P 500’s establishment is 11%.
There are a few notable data points here—perhaps the most prominent of which is the Great Recession in 2008. That financial crisis resulted in the most significant drop in the S&P 500 return of the last 20 years. Since the recession, however, the rate of return has been above average almost every year.
S&P stocks by sector
The S&P 500 tracks the top 500 U.S. companies on the stock market. Knowing what types of businesses make up the majority of the index is essential to understanding which sectors have the most success.
In 2022, Information Technology made up 26.4% of the S&P 500—an industry high in the last 20 years. Similarly, health care is gaining ground in the previous few years, though it is still short of its historical high.
The financial sector has seen a downturn in the last decade—though this may change with the reclassification of major shares next year.
Number of publicly traded companies declines
In the last 20 years, there has been a significant drop in how many publicly traded domestic companies are on the U.S. stock market as more companies exit the market and there are fewer IPOs.
The last decade, however, has been far more stable. Experts suggest the change is connected to natural fluctuations and changing dynamics in the market’s major industries. McKinsey attributes a significant portion of the drop-off to acquisitions.
Still, there have been fewer IPOs in the last several years, which can be a disappointment for new investors trying to get in on the ground floor.
This story originally appeared on Olive Invest and was produced and
distributed in partnership with Stacker Studio.
2023 brings more demand for cloud, web dev, and IT skills for a slew of lucrative tech jobs
Recruitment company Randstad published 2023 lists for Canada’s most in-demand tech jobs and skills.
Today’s businesses continue embracing digital transformation through automation, cloud systems, and remote work arrangements into 2023.
Still, skill shortages and employee attrition plague the Canadian workforce. One constant that remains is the demand for highly skilled IT and tech professionals — which just increased by 25% in 2022.
Recruitment company Randstad recently released roundups of Canada’s most in-demand tech skills and IT and tech jobs for 2023. The good news is prospective workers have ample fields, industries, and salary ranges to consider as they peruse the job market.
And we’re not just talking about the IT industry. Randstad reminds us that tech professionals are sought after in pretty much every industry, especially banking, administration consulting, employment agencies, and software publishers.
Randstad cites data, security, business system, and quality assurance analysts in their list. These roles require not only technical skills like Microsoft Azure and experience with cloud technology, but also project management skills earned through previous tenures or certifications like the project management professional (PMP) or certified scrummaster (CSM).
Other in-demand jobs listed include cloud architect and network engineer, positions calling for significant expertise in Java, Python, and cloud technology, on top of other technical and soft skills.
We also see an increase in average salaries for 2023, jumping from $51,900 to $154,300 in 2022 to $74,000 to $130,600 in 2023. But tech professionals seeking the highest salaries should gravitate toward developer/programmer roles, a position that also made Randstad’s more general best jobs in 2023 list. Notably, the full-stack developer role topped Randstad’s highest-paid jobs list, fetching as high as $130,000.
Randstad also shares a long list of highly sought-after technical skills, from C# and Java to Linux and API.
While years of professional experience would certainly help today’s prospective candidate, it’s not always a deal breaker. McKinsey reminds us of a curious phenomenon in the tech industry — 44% of tech professionals transitioned from a non-IT role. That’s because companies indeed want qualified candidates with skills, but also seek enthusiastic, hardworking professionals interested in learning and growing with the field’s constant innovations.
Another notable finding was Ranstad’s certification recommendations. These aren’t suitable for beginner tech professionals; rather, they’re a way for an entry-level, associate, or executive professional to easily highlight their prowess on their resumes, like the certified information security manager (CISM) certification.
Peter Bendor-Samuel, CEO of research firm Everest Group, described the tech demand to Forbes as a result of consistent investment in software-driven operating platforms despite reduced discretionary spending.
Companies are cutting out the fluff — but people who can create and improve technology, security, and cloud computing solutions and systems are certainly not fluff.
DX Journal covers the impact of digital transformation (DX) initiatives worldwide across multiple industries.
Americans spend $179 on fuel each month—here’s how to spend less
Owning a vehicle comes with a whole host of costs—from insurance and maintenance to parking and tolls. And if the past year has proven anything, it’s that another cost associated with vehicle use—namely fuel—can fluctuate wildly, putting further strain on your bank account for an already costly necessity.
CoPilot looked into the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Consumer Expenditure Surveys to see how much Americans spend on fuel for their vehicles and used sources from insurance companies, transportation fleet managers, and government agencies to determine some ways to lower that expenditure.
On average, Americans spent $179 per month (or $2,148 annually) on gasoline, other fuels, and motor oils in 2021, accounting for around 3% of overall annual expenses. In terms of finding decisive ways to cut that cost, one front-of-mind idea might be to consider an electric vehicle. EVs are gaining in popularity, the major automakers are investing heavily in an electric future, and the government incentivizes most EV buyers.
While switching to a car with better fuel economy, such as a hybrid or fully electric vehicle, can lead to big reductions in monthly fuel expenses, hybrids and EVs often cost more than their gasoline-only counterparts, and the fuel savings may not offset that difference for a number of years. What’s more, the infrastructure EVs depend on for charging remains in something of a developmental stage, making them a limited alternative to gas-powered vehicles—at least for now.
There are approximately 250 million cars and trucks on U.S. roadways; less than 1% are electric. So for those either not in the market for a new vehicle or simply content to stick with the reliability of gasoline-powered travel, the following list offers a wide range of suggestions, best practices, and easy lifestyle adjustments that can reduce the monthly costs associated with fueling a personal vehicle.
Wealthy households spend more than twice as much on gasoline
Even as gas prices were at their highest since 2014 (adjusted for inflation), spending on fuel in 2021 increased from 2019 levels by only $54 per year on average. And while the drastic reduction in driving brought on during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 had a great impact on fuel spending that year, it does not seem to have extended to significantly changed habits in the following year—driving in 2021 dropped by only 1% when compared with 2019 levels.
Though average spending on fuel in 2021 was high, the lack of an even more dramatic increase due to high gas prices can be attributed mainly to the steady rise in the fuel efficiency of vehicles over the past decade.
Another important consideration raised by this is whether or not the burden of those fuel expenses is felt equally across income levels. Bureau of Labor Statistics data suggests it does not. For those in the lowest income quintile, spending on fuel represented 3.6% of total expenses. The burden decreased for each subsequent income bracket; in the highest quintile, it represented just 2.4% of total costs.
While this disparity might seem minimal when considering the upper limit of the lower quintile’s household earnings is just over $27,000, and the lower limit (or floor) of the highest quintile is $141,000, that 1.2% difference comes starkly into focus.
So while the increase in the fuel economy of newer cars seems to have a relative equalizing force on fuel expenses when taken on average, income disparity implies that those in lower income quintiles do not reap the benefits of those improvements in automotive engineering.
Consider alternative forms of transportation
From their walkability to the accessibility and affordability of public transit, urban areas such as cities offer residents, especially those living in city centers, alternatives to using personal vehicles to get around. This isn’t just beneficial to their health and that of the environment; it also helps people reduce fuel costs.
Overall, those who live in urban areas spent $3,303 less on transportation than those in rural areas in 2021. Fuel expenses accounted for roughly 13% of transportation costs, meaning even those who owned cars in urban areas spent on average $39 less per month on fuel than those in rural settings.
This is not to say, however, that rural or micropolitan areas cannot take advantage of alternative forms of transportation. Small towns across the U.S. have begun to see the value in investing in bike-share programs, using its infrastructure funding to add bike-protected lanes on their streets. This is especially true in smaller college towns, where foot and bike traffic tends to be high.
So whether it’s via bike, scooter, or sneakers, tackling short-distance trips by means other than your vehicle can translate to more cash in your pocket.
Keep a close eye on how you’re using your vehicle’s features
The data is clear: Sensible driving makes a meaningful impact on the efficiency of your car.
Frequent braking and acceleration, fast driving, and A/C overuse are a few habits that can increase the overall cost of travel in your vehicle. Using A/C during hot weather can reduce fuel economy by more than 25%, according to the Department of Energy. Parking your car in shade, rolling down your windows at low speeds, and preemptively letting hot air out of the cabin as you begin your journey are a few ways to decrease the impact of heat and make your car more comfortable A/C-free.
The power of a car’s acceleration is something many, if not most, drivers love, and many car buyers put a particular value on speed capability when making their decision. For most vehicles, however, speeding also comes at a cost. For every 5 mph above 50, the cost per gallon of gas increases, depending on your vehicle’s make, model, and year.
Suppose you are driving a 2020 Ford F-150 4WD (incidentally, the bestselling truck in the U.S. since the late 1970s); the difference between going 65 mph and 80 mph is approximately $1 per gallon of gas—meaning what it costs you per 100 miles to hit the highway at 80 is equivalent to the price of an additional gallon of gas or more. Considering the average person drives 13,476 miles per year, keeping to the lower speed (on average) translates into more than $440 in fuel savings.
Coupled with the 15%-30% decrease in fuel economy brought on by frequent braking and acceleration, maintaining steady speeds, accelerating and braking gently, using cruise control, and leaving ample space between your car and the one in front of you can cut your fuel costs while also keeping you safer on the road.
Properly maintain your vehicle
In addition to benefiting its life span, properly maintaining and organizing your vehicle can lead to a small but mighty decrease in monthly fuel expenses.
Keeping your tires inflated to recommended levels, reducing excess weight, and using the recommended grade of motor oil all benefit fuel economy, according to the DOE.
Moreover, and as per basic physics, your car’s fuel use is greatly impacted by aerodynamics; so, while it might seem handy to keep that cargo pod on your roof, or that bicycle rack on your bumper, it can decrease your car’s efficiency by as much as 8% when you’re just tooling around town and as much as 25% on the interstate.
T. Schneider // Shutterstock
Purchase fuel with purpose
An ongoing myth is that premium fuels will make your car more efficient. While they won’t hurt your vehicle’s performance, premium fuel makes no difference for most cars.
There are ways to get more out of your gas purchases through grocery store, gas station, and credit card reward and money-back programs. If you know your habits well enough, you’ll be able to make such programs worthwhile. As per capita gas consumption has hovered in the 350-450 gallon range over the past 20 years, using such programs can translate to big savings.
One of the more effective ways to minimize the price of gas is by using apps and services that, when combined with a little forward planning, allow you to chart out your gas refuels at stations you know will have favorable prices.
Gas prices can fluctuate wildly within a relatively small area. Apps like GasBuddy are built specifically to help you plan around gas price variance and minimize its impact on long trips or high monthly usage. Most navigation tools like Waze or Google Maps also come with built-in gas price features as well.
Avoid driving altogether
This might seem a rather extreme recommendation, but even if you don’t live near public transit, there are still ways you can reduce the time you spend driving and, therefore, the amount you spend on driving.
Carpooling even a few times a week can lead to many positives, including a decreased carbon footprint and lower fuel expenses. Moreover, carpooling is often supported by corporate incentive programs, so it’s worth looking into at your place of work.
Other options to reduce your reliance on a personal vehicle include riding a bike or e-bike, walking when possible, reducing the number of cars in your household, and coordinating your errands to minimize individual car usage. These alternatives can make a substantive difference not only for your budget but for your health and well-being as well.
Finally, the easiest way to lower your spending on fuel is to spend no money on fuel whatsoever. If you’re able to consider ditching your car entirely, the widespread availability of ride-share and taxi services and car rental agencies can help fill your personal transportation needs when and if they arise.
This story originally appeared on CoPilot and was produced and
distributed in partnership with Stacker Studio.
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