A balance sheet – financial position statement is one of the most important financial statements. Other important financial statements include the income statement, cash flow statement and statement of changes in equity.
A balance sheet is the financial position of the company at a given point in time. It is often called a “snapshot” of the company’s financial position.
How to think about a balance sheet (financial position statement)
A good way to compare the balance sheet statement, income statement and cash-flow statement is to think of a river leading to a dam. The income statement and a cash-flow statement record the movement of money over a specific period of time. It is similar to recording the volume flowing down a river over a specific period. The balance sheet – financial position statement is the dam. Everything collects there.
Therefore, by looking at the balance sheet we can see how everything comes together at a given point in time. If the company is reporting strong cash-flow in the statement of cash-flows, then that cash must be collecting somewhere, in the balance sheet. Provided a balance sheet is constructed honestly and correctly, it is a wonderful source of information about the company. Like a dam, any poisonous material or waste, gets washed down into the balance sheet. Therefore, paying careful attention to the balance sheet (financial position statement) allows to evaluate important information about the company.
Understanding the balance sheet (financial position statement)
To understand the balance sheet (financial position statement), one first needs to understand the difference between assets and liabilities. A simple explanation is as follows: if you take an unpaid vacation or are between jobs for a while, assets will or will have the potential of adding money to your bank account every month. Liabilities, however, will deduct money from your bank.
For example, if you own a fully paid-off house, which is currently empty, this is an asset. You may choose to earn money from this asset by renting it out. Therefore, even if you are not working, you will have rental income generated from your asset. However, if you leased an expensive car and lost your job, the bank will still deduct money from your bank account every month. Therefore, this is a liability. Alternatively, if the car is fully paid-off, it is an asset and you could generate income from it.
We also can define assets and liabilities more formally.
Assets are any tangible or intangible economic resources that a company or individual possesses and which can be used to cover the individual’s or company’s debt. For example, in the case of an individual, retirement savings and stocks are examples of assets. In the case of a company, fully owned equipment and buildings are examples of assets.
As represented on the balance sheet, current assets are assets which are excepted to be converted into cash within 12 months and non-current assets are assets which are expected to be converted into cash at some point in the future which is longer than 12 months.
Liability is a legal obligation to settle debt which arises as a result of a past transaction or event. A liability should, by law, be settled at a specified future period or over a specified period and, possibly, at specified intervals.
As represented on the balance sheet, current liabilities are debts which must be settled within 12 months and non-current liabilities are debts which must be settled at some point in the future which is longer than 12 months.
An example of personal liability can be a personal loan that must be repaid to the bank. Company liability examples include accrued expenses such as wages as well as long-term loans.