The current ratio is a metric used by the finance industry to assess a company's short-term liquidity. It reflects a company's ability to generate enough cash to pay off all debts should they become due at the same time. While this scenario is highly unlikely, the ability of a business to liquidate assets quickly to meet obligations is indicative of its overall financial health.

Determining the Current Ratio

The current ratio, also known as a liquidity ratio, is a simple concept that requires only two pieces of data to compute: the total current assets and the total current liabilities.

Current assets include only those assets that take the form of cash or cash equivalents, such as stocks or other marketable securities that can be liquidated quickly. Current liabilities consist of only those debts that become due within the next year. By dividing the current assets by the current liabilities, the current ratio reflects the degree to which a company's short-term resources outstrip its debts.

Ideally, a company having a current ratio of 2 would indicate that its assets equal twice its liabilities. While lower ratios may indicate a reduced ability to meet obligations, there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to a good or bad current ratio. Each company's ratio should be compared to those of others in the same industry and with similar business models to establish what level of liquidity is the industry standard.

Calculating the Current Ratio in Excel

For very small businesses, calculating total current assets and total current liabilities may not be an overwhelming endeavor. As businesses grow, however, the number and types of debts and income streams can become greatly diversified. Microsoft Excel provides numerous free accounting templates that help to keep track of cash flow and other profitability metrics, including the liquidity analysis and ratios template.

Once you have determined your asset and liability totals, calculating the current ratio in Excel is very straightforward, even without a template.

First, input your current assets and current liabilities into adjacent cells, say B3 and B4. In cell B5, input the formula "=B3/B4" to divide your assets by your liabilities and the calculation for the current ratio will be displayed.

As an example, let's say that a small business owner named Frank is looking to expand and needs to determine his ability to take on more debt. Before applying for a loan, Frank wants to be sure he is more than able to meet his current obligations. Frank also wants to see how much new debt he can take on without overstretching his ability to cover payments. He doesn't want to rely on additional income that may or may not be generated by the expansion, so it's important to be sure his current assets can handle the increased burden.

After consulting the income statement, Frank determines that his current assets for the year are $150,000, and his current liabilities clock in at $60,000. By dividing the assets of the business by its liabilities, a current ratio of 2.5 is calculated. Since the business has such an excellent ratio already, Frank can take on at least an additional $15,000 in loans to fund the expansion without sacrificing liquidity.