Get Started: Businesses began 2018 optimistic but cautious

By JOYCE M. ROSENBERGMarketsAssociated Press

OPTIMISTIC BUT CAUTIOUS

Small business owners began 2018 as a generally optimistic — if cautious — group.

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That's the finding of two surveys of business owners released last week, one by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and MetLife and the other by the Kauffman Foundation, which does research into entrepreneurship.

The Chamber of Commerce/MetLife survey found that 55 percent of small businesses believe the national economy is in good health, up from 38 percent in the final quarter of 2017. And 90 percent of the 1,000 owners surveyed in January predicted their companies would have a good 2018.

Yet the survey, which questioned companies with at least two owners, showed that the surge in optimism wasn't accompanied by a more relaxed attitude about spending. Just over half said they'd save their companies' profits, while 39 percent said they'd invest earnings back into the business.

The survey is in line with others showing that many small business owners prefer to run their companies conservatively although the economy has been picking up strength.

The Kauffman survey found owners somewhat less ebullient about the economy. It broke their assessments down by company age, with 45 percent of startup owners saying the economy is good to excellent and 61 percent of owners of businesses 5 years old or more giving it a good-to-excellent rating. But more than 80 percent of all the owners surveyed predicted their companies will do well this year.

There were signs of caution among more established business owners — only 43 percent said they're likely to invest at least $10,000 in their companies in the coming year, compared to 59 percent of startup owners. Some of the disparity is likely due to the fact that startups are in more of a growth phase, but it nonetheless does show more caution at older businesses.

The survey questioned 2,165 owners from late January through mid-February.

WITHHOLDING CALCULATOR

The IRS has released a new version of the W-4 form and an updated online calculator to help employees determine how much tax should be withheld from their paychecks. The agency created both following the enactment of the new tax law that has already changed the amount of federal tax withheld from paychecks. You can learn more about the W-4 and calculator and access them at www.irs.gov .

IS YOUR BUSINESS GETTING AWAY FROM YOU?

Business owners often find themselves trying to juggle a lot of problems in their business at once. They can get some help in getting organized at an online seminar sponsored by SCORE, the organization that give free counseling to small companies. It will be held Thursday, March 8 at 1 p.m. Eastern time. Learn more and register at http://bit.ly/2HZIAiq .

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Follow Joyce Rosenberg at www.twitter.com/JoyceMRosenberg . Her work can be found here: https://apnews.com/search/joyce%20rosenberg