Are Business Owners Risk-Takers? Not When It Comes to Their Finances

Are Business Owners Risk-Takers?Are entrepreneurs financial risk-takers? Conventional wisdom says yes, but a recent research report from the Kauffman Foundation, Business Owners, Financial Risk, and Wealth, suggests otherwise.

Author Tami Gurley-Calvez studied 1989 to 2007 data from the Federal Reserve Board, Survey of Consumer Finances (SCF) to research three questions:

1.) Are business owners generally more or less financially conservative than their non-business-owning counterparts?

2.) Do business owners accumulate more wealth?

3.) Do business owners hold a smaller share of their financial assets in risky stock holdings?

While entrepreneurs are typically portrayed as financial risk-takers, Gurley-Calvez found that when it comes to saving and borrowing, they are actually more conservative than non-business owners. For instance, 45 percent of business owners said it was important to them to save for retirement; just 32 percent of non-business owners said the same. In addition, business owners were focused on saving for the long term; they were more likely than non-business owners to say their savings horizon was five or more years in the future.

Finally, whether investing, saving or borrowing, business owners were more thorough than non-business owners in investigating their financial options. Ninety-one percent said they spent a “moderate” amount of time or more shopping for the best investment or borrowing terms; just 82 percent of non-business owners said the same.

Business owners accumulate more wealth over time than non-business owners. But although business owners showed more willingness to assume above-average risk in return for financial gain, in reality, both business owners and non-business owners invested similar shares of their portfolios in safe assets.

Business owners were less likely to say that an important reason for saving is having liquid cash available. However, they were substantially more likely than non-business owners to say they could borrow $3,000 from family or friends if needed.

They are also more likely to borrow from other sources. In the past five years, 84 percent of business owners had applied for a loan, compared to just 64 percent of non-business owners. And only 23 percent of them had been declined, compared to 31 percent of non-business owners.

Gurley-Calvez thinks perhaps the reason business owners aren’t so concerned with liquidity is that they have “a stronger financial safety net.” Compared to non-business owners, business owners seem to have more financial resources available to them—meaning that what others perceive as “risky” does not seem that way to them.

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Rieva Lesonsky Rieva Lesonsky is a Columnist for Small Business Trends covering employment, retail trends and women in business. She is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media company that helps entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses. Visit her blog, SmallBizDaily, to get the scoop on business trends and free TrendCast reports.

4 Reactions
  1. If I had to sum it up I would say that business owners are better overall risk managers.

  2. When it comes to finances, the best thing that a small business owner can do is to work with a bank that specializes in helping small businesses. Those types of banks will have a good understanding of your needs and will able to provide you with helpful financial insight.

  3. Business owners may take fewer risks, but are more thorough in investigating options when looking for ways to finance, uncovering the means to reinvest and grow their businesses in addition to mananging their personal portfolios.