How Raising The Debt Limit Affects MCA
Every few years, particularly during the administration of a divided government, the threat of a default on raising the debt limit of the United States rears up in the political and economic spheres. While both sides tend to play chicken before ultimately settling on a negotiated outcome that they can sell to their bases, the current debt limit crisis feels more serious as the X date of June 1 looms with no settlement in site.
This crisis has a significant effect on various industries, and amongst them is the merchant cash advance business. MCA companies are heavily relied upon by small businesses for immediate financial needs, and understanding what this crisis means for the industry is crucial for getting through it unscathed.
Let’s compare the current landscape to running a business:
When a company opts to increase its debt limit, it essentially seeks to borrow more money, trading liability for an asset. For example, if the company’s equity is worth 100 billion dollars, borrowing doesn’t change this figure as long as the borrowed amount is an idle asset in their account.
The U.S. government should theoretically operate similarly to a regular company, borrowing only what it can pay back, but with the only growing expenses, when the government borrows money and raises the debt ceiling, it doesn’t always have enough funds for repayment.
In addressing its fiscal shortfall, the government operates distinctly from a conventional business. Unlike a company compelled to confront its financial mismanagement head-on, the government possesses the ability to print additional U.S. dollars. However, this course of action inherently devalues the currency.
For the sake of illustration, consider the worth of the dollar as a fixed entity. Suppose every thousand dollars equates to one bar of gold. If we slice this bar of gold into a thousand pieces, each piece represents $1. When the government initiates the printing of more money, it is essentially the government carving that same bar of gold into tinier segments. Meaning, if sliced in 2,000 pieces, the same bar of that once held the value of $1,000 is now $2,000. The total quantity of gold remains constant, regardless of whether it’s divided into 1,000 or 2,000 slices. However, with increased currency in circulation, each dollar—like every slice—holds less value, thereby shrinking everyone’s piece of the proverbial gold bar.
Now that we’ve explained the dangers of wantonly raising the debt limit, how does this affect MCA companies?
The debt limit crisis’s impact on MCAs is pronounced due to the time-value factor of money.
Suppose a mortgage of $100,000, repaid with interest over 30 years, amounts to $300,000. If the value of the dollar reduces significantly over this period – say by 50% – the bank, despite appearing to make a profit, loses money. That’s because the money they receive later has less purchasing power than the same amount ten years prior.
This reality can be acutely felt in periods of high inflation, such as in 2021 and 2022, where inflation neared 9%, and many felt it was closer to 20%. We all feel it during our grocery shops, the prices of experiences, and in other areas of our lives. Here, $100 can only buy what $80 could a couple of years ago, eroding the value of the interest charged.
At Better Accounting Solutions, a number of the MCA businesses we’re working with are concerned with this rapid devaluation of the money they’re funding.
The key factor to consider is the duration for which the capital will be deployed and how it will be recouped. For instance, if you advance $1 million at a 24% factor rate over 24 months and the debt ceiling is raised causing the dollar value to drop, your returns in the second year might be significantly less valuable despite the factor rate. This depreciation means that even though you’re receiving the agreed-upon returns, the funds’ purchasing power is considerably less, translating into a net loss of what would have been 13.5% over the past two years.
However, if you’re giving out (after careful consideration) riskier short-term advances with higher factor rates, daily repayments, and shorter durations, the situation would be different. Here, you’re receiving your return within, say, six months. Even if the dollar’s value decreases by 20% over a year, you’re less affected because your returns are realized in a shorter time and at higher rates, leaving you with a net gain.
Therefore, the debt limit affects MCA providers significantly, whether it’s being covered in the news or not. The devaluation of the dollar, high inflation rates, and other economic consequences of a debt limit crisis can dramatically impact the returns on cash advance businesses, especially those with longer repayment periods. As a player in the finance industry, it’s crucial to consider these elements when making advances or lending money. By factoring in these variables, providers can better protect their interests, minimize risks, and ensure the stability of their operations even during times of economic uncertainty.Last modified: May 22, 2023
David Roitblat is the founder and CEO of Better Accounting Solutions, an accounting firm based in New York City, and a leading authority in specialized accounting for merchant cash advance companies.
To connect with David, email firstname.lastname@example.org.