May 6, 2021

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Programming note

On the Margins will be on hiatus for the rest of May, returning in June. And now, the newsletter.


Over the past year, we’ve talked a lot about the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). We talked about how accountants thrive in this kind of situation. We talked about the definition of “small business.” We talked about whether accountants should charge for PPP services. We talked about the fraud. I even talked about its very shallow connection to a long-dead polygamist.

It was a lot of fun. And now it’s all over:

The Paycheck Protection Program has run out of money for most borrowers before its planned May 31 end, the Small Business Administration said.

Going forward, the program will only accept new applications from community financial institutions, which typically serve minority borrowers, as about $8 billion in funding was set aside for such businesses.

The SBA will continue to fund outstanding approved PPP applications from other lenders but won’t accept any new applicants.

I have mixed feelings. PPP no doubt helped millions of people hold on to their livelihoods during the pandemic. Still, it’s hard to watch that much money being handed out without truly knowing whether or not it’s doing us any good.

Yes, businesses have been saved, but if they weren’t, would those people have gone on to create new, better businesses? And sure, jobs have been saved, but if they weren’t, would those people have gone on to—like many others—start new businesses, or find better jobs? It’s not an insignificant or irrelevant thing to think about.

There are valid reasons that many businesses didn’t take out a PPP loan or, even if they did, decided not to use the money. But what PPP made clear is that the priority is existing businesses and their employees, not microbusinesses (until it was already too late), not the businesses to come, and certainly not workers, in general. It was about preservation, not creation. I’m not saying that it’s right or wrong, just that it’s a choice that was made. It’s over now, but we’ll be living with it for a while, maybe for good.

Business comfortable

We’ve talked, at length, about the relaxation of pandemic work attire over the past year. Early on in this fever dream come to life, I wrote:

For the people who are wondering if they can jump on a Zoom call in a dress shirt and sweats, there’s good news: No one is going to judge you! There’s a pandemic outside! We’re all fine if you’re business on top and couch potato on the bottom.

Yep, the pandemic leveled the playing field by demonstrating that many people could crush it at work while dressed like a hobo. Still, not everyone was convinced that we’d “get to the point where people are going to wear yoga pants to the office.” Even if, as I pointed out at the time, people were already wearing yoga pants to the office.

And, oh look, as people start taking in-person meetings, they are in no hurry to leave the house dressing much different:

Another person who works at a hedge fund recalled having his first in-person professional meeting since the pandemic. He wore athletic pants – a “business comfortable” attire he is not eager to abandon.

“It was very casual and I went in Lulus,” he said, referring to Lululemon-brand trousers.

Whether “business comfortable” catches on in the post-pandemic workplace remains to be seen. Problem is, it’s just as subject-to-interpretation as every other “business X” dress code that’s ever existed. Don’t act surprised when people show up in their imported Pajamas Suits.

Suspect financial advice

“I’m still a dude on the internet,” says a dude on the internet who gives financial advice on TikTok. And sure, many young people “don’t want to sit through a 30-minute or an hour or full-day seminar on finance,” and maybe you can get a grasp on personal finance in 500 seven-second videos. But building wealth itself, for the vast majority of people, does take time. A lot of time. Like, a lifetime. And that is unlikely to change, so verifying the info is still a good idea:

The best thing to do when considering advice seen on TikTok, experts say, is to double-check everything with a reputable source, such as a financial adviser or accountant, before acting.

Just so long as it’s not a TikTok accountant.

Fresh from Gusto


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Caleb Newquist Caleb is Editor-at-Large at Gusto. In 2009, he became the founding editor of Going Concern, the one-of-a-kind voice on the accounting profession, serving in the role for 9 years. Prior to Going Concern, Caleb worked as a CPA for nearly 6 years in New York and Denver. He lives in Denver with his wife, two daughters, and two cats.
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