Accounting & Finance

Understanding Debt-to-Income Ratio for Small Business Owners

Running a small business can be challenging, but managing finances is critical to success. One of the most important financial metrics that small business owners should understand is their debt-to-income (DTI) ratio. DTI is a crucial indicator of financial health as it reflects how much debt a business has relative to its income. In this guide, we will explain what DTI ratio is and how small business owners can calculate it to assess their financial standing.

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What is Debt-to-Income Ratio?

Your DTI ratio is the percentage of your monthly debt payments relative to your monthly income. This ratio provides a clear snapshot of your small business's financial health by assessing how much of your income is allocated toward debt obligations. The lower your DTI ratio, the better positioned your business is to handle financial challenges and pursue growth opportunities. Lenders often rely on DTI ratios to evaluate their creditworthiness and determine whether to approve a loan or extend credit. Generally, a DTI ratio of 36% or less is considered ideal, indicating a healthy balance between income and debt. By maintaining a low DTI ratio, you can enhance your business's financial stability and achieve long-term success.

Related Reading: Three Financial Statements You Need to Know

How to Calculate Your Debt-to-Income Ratio?

Calculating your DTI ratio involves two steps. First, add up your total recurring monthly debts (e.g., rent or mortgage, loan payments, lease payments for equipment or vehicles, and any other ongoing debts). Then, determine your total monthly income (before taxes and other deductions). Finally, divide your total monthly debt by your total monthly income and multiply by 100 to get your DTI ratio as a percentage. For example: 

If your small business has a monthly debt payment of $5,000 (for loans, rents, leases etc.) and your total monthly income is $15,000, your DTI ratio would be calculated as follows:

DTI = (Total Monthly Debt / Total Monthly Income) * 100

So, DTI = ($5,000 / $15,000) * 100 = 33.33%

In this example, the DTI ratio is 33.33%, which is less than the recommended maximum of 36%. This indicates a good balance between your income and debt, suggesting that your business is managing its debts effectively. However, remember that each business's circumstances are unique, and what is considered a good DTI might vary depending on other financial considerations and industry norms.

Importance of Debt-to-Income Ratio:

Your DTI ratio is a key indicator of financial responsibility and can help you maintain healthy finances. It also helps lenders decide whether to approve loans or extend credit lines because they have a better understanding of how you manage debt. Keeping a low DTI ratio proves that your business controls its finances and can handle additional debt payments. Additionally, understanding your DTI ratio can help you budget more effectively for the future and plan for any unexpected expenses. Having a solid grasp of your DTI ratio is essential to ensure the long-term success of your business.

  • Gain a comprehensive understanding of your business's financial health, including insights into revenue, expenses, and profitability.
  • Avoid becoming overburdened by excessive debt and vulnerable to financial strain, hindering growth and sustainability.
  • Quickly and accurately assess your business’s cash flow position to ensure smooth operations and timely payments.
  • Make more informed decisions about taking on new debts and repaying existing ones by analyzing interest rates, repayment terms, and potential impact on cash flow.
  • Take advantage of lenders' best terms and favorable loan conditions when the debt-to-income (DTI) ratio is healthy, maximizing your borrowing potential and minimizing financial risks.

Related Reading: 5 Accounts to Help Manage Your Business Finances

Managing Your Debt-to-Income Ratio:

Maintaining a low DTI ratio is important for businesses to stay financially stable and secure funding for future growth opportunities. To manage your DTI ratio, consider the following strategies:

  1. Review your current debt obligations and assess whether they are still necessary. Eliminating unnecessary debts can free up funds and reduce your DTI ratio.
  2. Create a budget that allocates resources efficiently to ensure all of your financial commitments are met. With careful planning, you can make sure that all of your expenses are covered and that you maintain a healthy DTI ratio.
  3. Monitor your expenses closely to ensure you don't overspend and increase your DTI ratio. By keeping an eye on your spending, you can stay within budget and stay financially responsible.
  4. Negotiate with lenders for more favorable terms if possible. Many lenders are willing to work with borrowers to reduce their DTI and arrange better repayment plans.

By understanding your debt-to-income ratio, taking steps to manage it, and negotiating with lenders when necessary, small business owners can ensure that their finances are in good shape and that they remain financially secure. With the right strategies in place, small businesses can reach their goals and achieve long-term success.

Improving your Debt-to-Income Ratio:

Improving your DTI ratio as a small business owner involves strategic planning and careful financial management. Here are some steps to consider:

  • Increase Your Income: Explore ways to expand your business, such as introducing new products or services, expanding into new markets, or investing in marketing efforts to attract more customers. Increased income can lower your DTI ratio as long as your debt does not increase at the same rate.
  • Avoid Taking on More Debt: Be cautious about taking on additional loans or lines of credit, mainly if your DTI ratio is already high. Any new debts will only increase your DTI ratio further.
  • Refinance Existing Debts: Consider refinancing options to secure lower interest rates or extended payment terms. This can reduce your monthly payments and subsequently lower your DTI ratio.
  • Maintain A Budget: Keep a strict budget to monitor your income and expenses. This can help you identify areas for cost-cutting, freeing up more income to pay down debts.
  • Pay Down Debt: Prioritize paying down existing debts to reduce monthly payments. Consider using a debt repayment plan, like the snowball* or avalanche method**, to efficiently reduce your debt.
    • The Snowball Method involves making minimum payments on all your debts, then using any remaining funds to pay off the smallest debt first. Once the smallest debt is paid off, you move on to the next smallest, and so on. This method allows you to gain momentum as you eliminate smaller debts one after the other, which can provide a psychological boost and motivate you to stay on track with your debt repayment plan.

    • The Avalanche Method, on the other hand, involves making minimum payments on all your debts, then using any remaining funds to pay off the debt with the highest interest rate first. This method can save you money over the long run since you're tackling the most costly debts first. However, it might take longer to see progress since these debts are often larger.

Remember, improving your DTI ratio requires a proactive and disciplined approach to managing your finances. It may take time, but the payoff is a stronger financial position and better opportunities for business growth.

Does a High Debt-to-Income Ratio Prevent Lenders from Extending Capital?

While the Debt-to-Income (DTI) ratio is a critical metric in financial analysis, it is not the only important one. DTI ratio offers valuable insights into the financial stability of a business by weighing its income against its debt obligations. However, other metrics like cash flow, liquidity ratios, profitability ratios, and return on investment (ROI) also play a significant role in a comprehensive financial analysis.

Cash flow, for instance, measures the net amount of money moving into and out of business, reflecting its ability to generate cash to meet obligations and fund operations. Liquidity ratios like the current ratio or quick ratio assess a company's ability to meet short-term obligations, offering insights into its solvency. Profitability ratios, such as net profit margin or return on equity (ROE), evaluate a company's ability to generate profits relative to sales, assets, or equity.

When lenders look at a business, they consider the full picture, not just the DTI ratio. They will analyze multiple factors, including liquidity, cash flow, and profitability, to gain insights into a business's financial health and ability to repay loans. Therefore, even if your DTI ratio is high, you may be approved for a loan depending on how other metrics stack.

Explore Your Small Business Lending Options!

As a small business owner, understanding your DTI ratio is essential to maintain financial stability and prepare for growth. By calculating your DTI ratio regularly, tracking your debts and income, and taking proactive steps to improve it, you can ensure that your small business is on solid financial footing and make informed decisions for your future. Now that you know how to calculate and assess your DTI, explore our lending partners to find the best solution for your small business! New call-to-action