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This could be cash or real estate or stocks and bonds or machinery and equipment or accounts receivable or other moneys due to you. It could also include inventory which is product that you have produced but not yet sold. So to summarize assets are usually either cash something that you have bought something that you have made and that you expect to sell or something that is owed to you. Clearly then if you want to make your balance sheet you must have a list of your assets and how much each is worth. The rub lies in the worth or valuation of the assets. "Hmm you think I bought this asset ten years ago at 10 grand I added 5 grand in improvements to it it would cost me 20 grand to replace it and I could get about 18 grand on the open market for it so what value should I put down for it?" Clever question my dear reader! Well as you may have assumed we accountants have put a great deal of thought into these issues and we continue to think about and tweak the ways we value things to this very day.
This usually presents less of a challenge than the valuation of assets because most long term assets like loans have explicit terms that spell out exactly how much you owe on them at any given moment in time. How Equity Is Valued Depending upon the type on entity (Corporation S-Corp LLC. etc.) that you use the equity portion of the balance sheet can use different terms but really there are two kinds of equity: capital that you put into the company (stock contributed capital etc.) and the earnings of the company (retained earnings). The capital that you contribute is usually pretty straightforward.
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So what is the purpose of a balance sheet? First business owners use balance sheets in order to analyze the strength and capabilities of their business. For example is the business ready to expand? Or should the business take immediate steps to strengthen cash reserves? Also balance sheets describe trends especially in the area of accounts receivables and payables. For instance is debt in payables being paid and is debt in receivables being received in a reasonable amount of time. Finally balance sheets are examined by banks investors and vendors to determine the amount of credit they will give the entity.