Yes, Government Shutdowns Can Affect You, Too (Even if You Don’t Work for the Government)


Not agreeing with your roommate on how to split the shared expenses is a personal budgeting fail. When the president and U.S. Congress can’t come to a consensus on a budget, the government shuts down.

That’s what happened on December 22, 2018, leaving 380,000 federal workers on unpaid leave and 420,000 others working without pay. As we near the three-week mark, some of those workers are deferring bill payments, missing rent and filing for unemployment benefits, The Wall Street Journal reports.

But even for those of us who aren’t on the federal government’s payroll, a shutdown can still affect our money—especially if it continues. Here’s how.

1. Your travel plans could be ruined.

If you’re heading to the airport soon, be prepared to wait. While TSA officers are generally considered “essential” employees by the federal government—and have, so far, been getting paid, though that may change if the shutdown continues—many TSA officers are starting to call in sick during the shutdown, causing longer security lines at airports across the nation.

Worse news for those flying to any national parks or federally funded museums: Many, like the National Zoo and Smithsonian initially remained opened, but closed indefinitely on January 2. Even for the national parks that do remain open, you may still want to reschedule your visit. Without janitorial service or park staff, toilets are overflowing and visitors are doing dangerous off-road driving, forcing some, like Joshua Tree and Yosemite, to close over safety concerns.

2. It’ll be harder to launch or grow a small business (or sample new beer).

If you’re an entrepreneur looking to secure new funding, you may want to work with the Small Business Administration (SBA). This government agency works with banks and credit unions to offer small business owners loans to launch and grow their business.

Usually. During a government shutdown, the SBA’s loan guarantees are frozen, meaning business owners will have to find funding elsewhere or put their plans on hold.

And if you’re a brewmaster, vintner or distiller looking to launch your latest craft brew, local wine or artisan whiskey, it’s not just funding you could miss out on. The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau is closed during the government shutdown, which means a halt on the release of any new beers, wines and liquors into the U.S. market.

3. Your company or employer may get squeezed by lower consumer spending.

When a government shutdown continues for a while, consumers gradually start spending less, especially in areas with a lot of government workers and contractors. (While most government employees will receive retroactive pay when the government reopens, government contractors including small businesses, janitors and security guards, will not.)

During the 2013 shutdown, retail store traffic dropped an average of 7.3 percent each week compared with the same period a year earlier. If you own a business or work for a company that depends on consumer spending, this can directly affect your earnings, too.

There are additional obstacles for U.S. companies and employers who are concurrently dealing with the impact of Trump’s tariffs. Farmers, auto suppliers and manufacturing companies whose products or production materials are affected by the tariffs will have to wait until the Commerce Department and Agriculture Department reopen to apply for subsidies and exemptions.

4. A raise or new job could be harder to come by.

If the shutdown persists and business owners see loan funds dry up while experiencing lower sales, more layoffs and hiring freezes may be on the horizon. If you were looking for a new job in 2019—or a raise to keep you at your current employer—a prolonged shutdown could affect your plans.

Related: 9 Side Hustles for 2019 That Don’t Require a Lot of Talent or Ramp-Up Time

5. Some investing opportunities could be put on hold.

If you’ve been excited to see how startups like Lyft, Uber and Airbnb will fare during their rumored 2019 initial public offerings (that’s when a private company starts selling shares to the public for the first time), you’ll have to wait a little longer. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is one of the agencies affected by the shutdown, so all the new public offerings are on hold, as no one is working to push through new IPO registrations or provide feedback on confidential filings.

Just one caveat, because, well, we have to: Investing in popular IPOs is riskier than investing in standard stocks (since there's less information to go on) and doesn't provide broad diversification like investing in funds. Like with any other investment, make sure you’re prepared for the risk and any money invested fits with your overall strategy.