Being a small business owner is about more than strategically chasing your dreams, mission and vision. It is also about understanding how much your success is intertwined with the health of the overall economy.
As a business leader, it is wise to become knowledgeable about the relationship between interest rates and the GDP. This can help you prepare your business for good times and bad, with more confidence about weathering economic storms and ensuring job security for you and your treasured employees.
What Is GDP?
Gross domestic product, also known as GDP, is a measure that shows the value of all the services and goods produced by a country in a particular calendar year. Nominal GDP calculates this output based on current market prices. This equation is typically used to calculate nominal GDP: GDP = C + G + I + NX.
- C = Consumer spending
- G = Government spending
- I = Business capital spending
- NX = Net exports
Inflation and Real GDP
While nominal GDP makes calculations based on current market prices, real GDP takes inflation into account. This means that real GDP provides a more accurate reflection of economic growth or decline than nominal GDP alone. The real GDP formula that more accurately reflects economic growth or decline is as follows: Real GDP = Nominal GDP / Deflator.
In a fictional scenario, this means that if the nominal GDP is $250 million and the interest rate is 2%, you would calculate real GDP this way:
- 250 million / 1.02 = 245.01 million
In this scenario, factoring inflation into the equation would show that the economy actually created $245.01 million in services and goods rather than the $250 million suggested by nominal GDP.
Understanding Interest Rates
Interest rates are fees charged by lenders for use of their capital. This rate is often given as an annual percentage rate, or APR. Interest rates are how lenders make money by charging you to use their assets. A business or individual with good credit is typically seen as low risk and is charged a lower interest rate than those with questionable credit histories.
While interest rates are determined by lenders, they are influenced by what is happening in the overall economy. For instance, in the United States, the Federal Reserve will raise or lower the federal funds rate in order to facilitate higher or lower interest rates to be passed on to the consumer. Someone with good credit will have a higher interest rate when the federal funds rate is high than when it is low.
Real GDP and Interest Rates
Real GDP is part of how the Federal Reserve determines when to raise and lower the federal funds rate. For instance, if inflation is high and nominal GDP is down, then the real GDP will fall substantially. In order to get more money circulating in the economy, the Fed will lower the federal funds rate, which results in lower interest rates for businesses and consumers, prompting a higher velocity of lending and thus injecting more money into the economy — and hopefully raising the real GDP down the road.
When inflation is low and nominal GDP is up, then real GDP increases, signaling plenty of money circulating in the economy. If the Federal Reserve needs to slow down a burst of financial activity, it might raise the federal funds rate, resulting in higher interest rates for you and your customers.
Planning for the Future
Small business owners can keep track of what is happening with nominal GDP, real GDP, the federal funds rate and interest rates in order to plan for a healthy financial future. It's wise to have a financial cushion for your business to help you through down economic times. You might also design a few products or services that will appeal to consumers and meet a need even when the economy is slow.
- MasterClass: Economics 101: What Is Real GDP? Learn How Real GDP Measures and How It Is Calculated
- Investopedia: Real Gross Domestic Product (GDP)
- TheStreet: Real GDP: Definition, Formula and Example
- Investopedia: Interest Rate
- WallStreetMojo: Nominal GDP vs Real GDP | Top 8 Differences (with Infographics)
- U.S. Department of the Treasury. "TIPS in Depth." Accessed Sept. 24, 2020.
- Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System. "Open Market Operations." Accessed Sept. 24, 2020.
Anne Kinsey is an entrepreneur and business pioneer, who has ranked in the top 1% of the direct sales industry, growing a large team and earning the title of Senior Team Manager during her time with Jamberry. She is the nonprofit founder and executive director of Love Powered Life, as well as a Certified Trauma Recovery Coach, certified HRV biofeedback practitioner and freelance writer who has written for publications like Working Mother, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Houston Chronicle and Our Everyday Life. Anne works from her home office in rural North Carolina, where she resides with her husband and three children.