5 Tips For Reading A Balance Sheet


Reading The Balance Sheet

A balance sheet, also known as a "statement of financial position", reveals a company's assets, liabilities and owners' equity (net worth). The balance sheet, together with the income statement and cash flow statement, make up the cornerstone of any company's financial statements. If you are a shareholder of a company, it is important that you understand how the balance sheet is structured, how to analyze it and how to read it.

1. The Balance Sheet Equation

The main formula behind balance sheets is: Assets = Liabilities + Shareholders' Equity

This means that assets, or the means used to operate the company, are balanced by a company's financial obligations along with the equity investment brought into the company and its retained earnings. The total assets must equal the liabilities plus the equity of the company.

2. Know The Current Assets

Current assets have a life span of one year or less, meaning they can be converted easily into cash. Such assets classes include cash and cash equivalents, accounts receivable and inventory. Cash, the most fundamental of current assets, also includes non-restricted bank accounts and checks. Cash equivalents are very safe assets that can be readily converted into cash; U.S. Treasuries are one such example. Accounts receivables consist of the short-term obligations owed to the company by its clients. Companies often sell products or services to customers on credit; these obligations are held in the current assets account until they are paid off by the clients.

3. Know The Non-Current Assets

Non-current assets are assets that are not turned into cash easily, are expected to be turned into cash within a year and/or have a life-span of more than a year. They can refer to tangible assets such as machinery, computers, buildings and land. Non-current assets also can be intangible assets, such as goodwill, patents or copyright. While these assets are not physical in nature, they are often the resources that can make or break a company - the value of a brand name, for instance, should not be underestimated. Depreciation is calculated and deducted from most of these assets, which represents the economic cost of the asset over its useful life.

4. Learn The Different Liabilities

On the other side of the balance sheet are the liabilities. These are the financial obligations a company owes to outside parties. Like assets, they can be both current and long-term. Long-term liabilities are debts and other non-debt financial obligations, which are due after a period of at least one year from the date of the balance sheet. Current liabilities are the company's liabilities which will come due, or must be paid, within one year. This is includes both shorter term borrowings, such as accounts payables, along with the current portion of longer term borrowing, such as the latest interest payment on a 10-year loan.

5. Learn about Shareholders' Equity

Shareholders' equity is the initial amount of money invested into a business. If, at the end of the fiscal year, a company decides to reinvest its net earnings into the company (after taxes), these retained earnings will be transferred from the income statement onto the balance sheet into the shareholder's equity account. This account represents a company's total net worth. In order for the balance sheet to balance, total assets on one side have to equal total liabilities plus shareholders' equity on the other.

6. Analyze With Ratios

Financial ratio analysis uses formulas to gain insight into the company and its operations. For the balance sheet, using financial ratios (like the debt-to-equity ratio) can show you a better idea of the company's financial condition along with its operational efficiency. It is important to note that some ratios will need information from more than one financial statement, such as from the balance sheet and the income statement.
  1. No results found.
Related Articles
  1. Investing

    Retained Earnings

    Learn more about this calculation and why companies include it on the balance sheet.
  2. Investing

    Cash Flow From Operating Activities

    Cash flow from operating activities is a section of the Statement of Cash Flows that is included in a company’s financial statements after the balance sheet and income statements.
  3. Investing

    Cash Flow Statement: Analyzing Cash Flow From Financing Activities

    The financing activity in the cash flow statement measures the flow of cash between a firm and its owners and creditors.
  4. Investing

    What Is A Cash Flow Statement?

    Learn how the CFS relates to the balance sheet and income statement as a part of a company's financial reports.
  5. Investing

    What Is The Difference Between A Cash Flow Statement And An Income Statement?

    A firm’s cash flow statement measures the sources and uses of its cash. The income statement shows how it is financially performing.
  6. Investing

    The Essentials Of Corporate Cash Flow

    Tune out the accounting noise and see whether a company is generating the stuff it needs to sustain itself.
Hot Definitions
  1. Perkins Loan

    A loan program that provides low-interest student loans to undergraduate and graduate students who demonstrate exceptional ...
  2. Wealth Management

    A high-level professional service that combines financial/investment advice, accounting/tax services, retirement planning ...
  3. Assets Under Management - AUM

    The market value of assets that an investment company manages on behalf of investors. Assets under management (AUM) is looked ...
  4. Subprime Auto Loan

    A type of auto loan approved for people with substandard credit scores or limited credit histories. There is no official ...
  5. Racketeering

    A fraudulent service built to serve a problem that wouldn't otherwise exist without the influence of the enterprise offering ...
  6. Federal Debt

    The total amount of money that the United States federal government owes to creditors. The government's creditors include ...
Trading Center