Cash flow for beginners

Published 29 June, 2023

Cash flow refers to the movement of money into or out of a business, project, or financial product. It is typically measured over a specific period of time and can be used to determine levels of return, liquidity, profitability, and to evaluate the quality of investments.

Why is it important to monitor your cash flow?

Cash flow is important because it allows us to meet our existing financial obligations and plan for the future. By balancing our incoming and outgoing cash flows, we can ensure the smooth day-to-day operation of our business while creating sufficient reserves to handle sales fluctuations, delayed invoice payments, or unexpected expenses.

Analyzing cash flow will help us identify trends in cash management. This can assist us in reducing the risk of a negative outcome. A cash flow statement should be the foundation of this analysis. It is a financial report that shows how much money enters and leaves our business over a specific period of time. It helps us identify the profitable parts of our business, identify areas of decline, and determine the right time to scale.

What are the methods for calculating cash flow?

The calculation of net cash flow is done using two different methods:

The two methods for calculating cash flow are the Direct Method and the Indirect Method.

The Direct Method measures the actual cash inflows, typically from customers, and cash outflows, such as payments to suppliers. These incoming and outgoing cash flows are then calculated to arrive at the net cash flow. This method of calculating cash flow takes more time as payments and receipts for each cash transaction need to be tracked. The figures used in this method are presented in a straightforward manner. They can be calculated by using the beginning and ending balances of various assets and liabilities accounts and assessing their net decrease or increase.

The indirect cash flow method is calculated by modifying the net income by adding or subtracting differences that result from non-cash transactions. This is done to obtain an accurate cash inflow or outflow. Instead of presenting transactional data like the direct method, the calculation starts with the net income figure found in the company’s income statement and makes adjustments to eliminate the impact of accruals made during the reporting period.

Advantages of the cash flow statement:

The cash flow statement is one of the most important financial statements for businesses. Cash is the lifeblood of any organization, and a company needs to manage its incoming and outgoing cash flows effectively to stay afloat. There are several reasons why the cash flow statement is so crucial:

  • First, it provides a good overview of the company’s expenses as it encompasses all the cash inflows and outflows. This information is useful for management to make decisions on where to reduce costs. It also helps investors and creditors evaluate the financial condition of the company.
  • Another important function of the cash flow statement is that it helps the business maintain an optimal cash balance. Management can use the information in the statement to decide when to invest or repay debts as it shows how much money is available at any given time. The cash flow statement also encourages management to focus on generating financial resources. This is because when a company knows where its money is going, it can take steps to ensure that it increases rather than decreases.

Limitations of the cash flow statement:

The cash flow statement also has several limitations:

It does not replace the income statement as it focuses only on changes in cash. Unlike the income statement, which is important as it provides information on a company’s profitability.

Additionally, the cash flow statement will not present the net income of the company for the reporting period as it does not include non-cash items that are taken into account in the income statement. Therefore, it does not evaluate the profitability of a company as it does not consider all expenses or revenues.

In summary, the cash flow statement is a fundamental financial statement for every business as it provides critical information regarding the company’s incoming and outgoing cash flows.

It shows the beginning and ending cash balances for a specific period and indicates the sources of changes (i.e., operating activities, investing activities, and financing activities). This information allows businesses to forecast future cash needs, make informed investment decisions, and track actual performance against budgeted goals. However, this statement also has its limitations, with one of the main ones being the lack of focus on profitability. Therefore, it should always be used in conjunction with the income statement and balance sheet to obtain a comprehensive financial overview of the company.

Aleksandar Kirilov
Aleksandar Kirilov