What is Cash?
In finance and accounting, cash refers to money (currency) that is readily available for use. It may be kept in physical form, digital form, or invested in a short-term money market product. In economics, cash refers only to money that is in the physical form.
Cash in Business Operations
Cash is the lifeblood of a business. For a company to cover its operating expenses it needs to have sufficient money on hand to pay its employees, contractors, vendors, and suppliers. Companies also need money to fund capital expenditures and invest in long term growth project.
If companies don’t have enough cash on hand, they may finance their OpEx and CapEx by borrowing money (debt) or by issuing shares (equity).
Financial Modeling and Business Valuation
The intrinsic value of a business is generally considered to be the net present value (NPV) of all its future cash flows. After all, an investor purchases a company to make a return on investment (ROI), and the return comes in the form of cash. Learn more about financial modeling and valuation in CFI’s financial analyst courses.
Image: CFI’s Advanced Amazon Financial Modeling Course
Cash in Financial Statements
Cash plays an important role in the financial statements of a company. On the balance sheet, it appears as the first item at the top, since it’s a company’s most liquid asset. Companies often include “equivalents” in this category, which are money market funds and other short term investments that are easily convertible into cash.
To reconcile the changes in cash over a period, accountants prepare a statement of cash flows, which shows all money that was generated and consumed by a business, ending with the net change in money at the bottom.
Below is an example of Amazon’s 2017 balance sheet, where can see the amount recorded on the very first line of the statement.
Learn more in CFI’s Free Accounting Courses.
Money in Economics
In economics, cash refers to money in the physical form, which includes all types of legal tender such as bills and coins. It is used as a reserve for making payments and is an important part of macroeconomic policies, including the money supply.
Thank you for reading CFI’s guide on what cash is. To help you prepare for a career as a world-class financial analyst, these additional resources will be helpful: