The U.S. hit the debt ceiling-- again.
So what will this mean for you? Here are the answers to 10 questions you might be too embarrassed to ask.
1. What is the debt ceiling?
The debt ceiling is a limit on how much money the federal government can borrow. The government borrows money all the time to fund ongoing operations and pay off prior debts. Since it was created nearly 97 years ago, the debt ceiling has grown from $15 billion to $17 trillion.
2. Has this happened before?
Raising the debt ceiling is pretty routine; Congress has voted to raise the debt ceiling 19 times since 1993. Actually crossing the debt deadline has happened three times in the past three years, forcing the government to move money around to avoid hitting the ceiling.
3. How's it going to affect my loans?
It won't. The debt ceiling applies to government borrowing; the only impact on consumers would be if Congress did not raise the limit, and the U.S. was forced to default on payments. That would have a broad catastrophic impact on the U.S. economy.
4.Will this impact my check if I work for the government?
5. Will my interest rates go up on my student loans, mortgage or credit cards?
Probably not. Studies have shown a small, short-term increase in borrowing costs for the federal government as the deadline approaches, so it's possible that broader interest rates tied to Treasury bills could also be affected. But unless the nation actually goes into default, consumers probably won't notice.
6. Will this hurt the dollar's value?
U.S. borrowing is financed in large part by foreign investors seeking stability in the dollar. If the Treasury is unable to pay bondholders back, the dollar could take an immediate hit as investors look for safer alternatives.
7. Will people who are getting help from the government be affected?
8. Will it affect my tax return?
No. IRS Commissioner John Koskinen told reporters Wednesday that there have been no contingency plans to delay tax refunds to conserve cash.
9. How is this going to impact my pension funds, Medicaid or Social Security?
It won't. Unless, of course, we actually default. Then the Treasury would be forced to decide which obligations it would pay. Treasury officials have not said what they would do in that scenario.
10. What happened when the debt limit deadline hit?
Not much. The Treasury Department has wiggle room to move money around to avoid defaulting on payments. That process began Friday, while Congress continues to talk about how to raise the limit. But Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew says that will only work for a few weeks at most.