Articles from Max Gulker
In our January brief entitled “Why Can’t Americans Save,” I look at the numerous hurdles that different types of households face on the road to financial wellness. My research revealed that the bottom half of U.S. earners, roughly speaking, simply cannot afford to meet the goals experts put forward for saving, investing and debt.
Americans are living beyond their means more than ever before. In a recent series of articles, The Atlantic Monthly documents “the secret shame of middle class Americans”: spending more, saving less and often unable to come up with even a few hundred extra dollars in the face of a financial emergency.
I’ve discussed some reasons Americans spend more and save less than they should or even plan to. The implicit assumption in these discussions was that they had the option — in other words, that they had the resources to achieve some level of financial wellness. But as my upcoming brief in January shows, that only includes about half the population.
President-Elect Donald Trump rarely made specific mention of small businesses during the campaign. But many of the policies he promised to enact have the potential to effect small business, for better or for worse. Presidents are notorious for breaking campaign promises, but especially in the case of a winner with no track record in government, promises are all we have to go on. So let’s look at some of Trump’s promises as they relate to America’s small businesses.
Take a look at what the candidate is telling supporters about themselves. And think about what your own candidates or party of choice tell you about your own identity and where you fit in. For many people, the decision to take time out of their day to cast a ballot isn’t about tangible personal benefit, nor is it about pure sense of duty. Instead, it’s about who they are and aspire to be.
Politicians love to talk about small business, but often use the topic for a quick photo op and feel-good story about the economy. However, both major presidential candidates are proposing policies that are highly relevant to small business owners. Hillary Clinton focuses on “leveling the playing field” between small and large businesses, while Donald Trump advocates policies intended to help businesses regardless of size. A comparison of these proposals highlights an interesting question: How differently should the government treat small and large businesses?
I received many interesting questions from the audience at my lecture last week, titled “Mom and Pop vs. Big Box – How Small Businesses Compete With Larger Rivals,” but one in particular stood out. One theme of my talk was that small businesses can gather and respond to richer and more detailed information about their local or niche markets and customers than can larger firms. However, an audience member asked if this was changing because of Big Data.
You may be familiar with the common business practice of using financial ratios to assess financial performance. You can use this trick with your personal finances too. With just a few numbers, you can get a basic sense of your own economic and financial wellness, relative to what the experts recommend.
Small businesses are an important part of our economy and communities, but often we incorrectly assume that their small size is necessarily a competitive disadvantage. Numerous articles have proclaimed the end of Main Street, arguing that “mom and pop” shops cannot compete with the low prices and one-stop shopping of big-box chains. Others have touted the benefits of small business to local economies, emphasizing our duty to support small firms in our communities. In both lines of discussion, small businesses are seen as passive entities, handicapped by their size in our large and increasingly global economy.
The common narrative about small business usually goes in one of two directions. First, many predict doom for “mom and pop” firms in America, arguing small businesses must be protected from giants like Walmart, who can charge lower prices.
The second narrative focuses on the benefits these businesses bring to our economy and communities, stressing the need for consumers to “support” small and local business