Basic Financial Terms

The word 'terminology' refers to the language used in a specific field. For example, health, science, and finance all have their own terminology. Knowing the specific terminology of a subject is crucial to understanding industry reports and discussing relevant issues with your peers. Read on for an introduction to basic financial terms in business.

Basic Financial Terms Basic Financial Terms

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Table of contents

    Basic financial terms in business

    Revenue, costs, profit and loss, the average rate of return, and break-even are basic financial terms you can find in most companies' documents and financial reports.

    Let’s take a closer look at each of them:

    Revenue and costs

    Revenue includes the total sales of a business’s products and services, calculated by multiplying the price per unit by the number of units sold.

    Here's the formula for calculating revenue:

    Total revenue = Price X Number of units sold

    Revenue = Price × Number of units sold

    Check out our explanation on Revenue to explore this topic in more detail!

    Total costs are all the costs spent on producing a company’s output.

    Total costs consist of variable costs and fixed costs:

    • Variable costs are costs that change as the number of goods or services a business produces changes. For example, wages (the amount employees are paid per hour), packaging, utilities, and raw materials are variable costs.

    • Fixed costs are costs that a company must pay each month regardless of how much it produces. Rent, salaries, insurance, interests, depreciation, and property taxes are common examples of fixed costs.

    To learn more about the differences between fixed and variable costs, take a look at our explanation on Costs!

    Here's the formula for calculating total costs:

    Total costs = (Variable costs per unit X quantity) + fixed costs

    Salary vs wage per hour: Salaries are considered fixed costs, as salaried employees get paid the same no matter how the business is doing. On the other hand, variable labour costs can come from workers who work per hour and receive wages depending on the business' needs.

    A doughnut shop sells its doughnuts at £2 apiece. The variable cost per doughnut is 30p. The shop spends £1,000 on fixed costs per week.

    Calculate:

    a. The total revenue of the doughnut shop per month.

    b. The total costs if the shop sells 800 doughnuts per week.

    Answer:

    a. Total revenue = Price x Number of units sold

    Revenue for the doughnut shop per week is £2 X 800 = £1,600

    b. Total costs = (variable costs per unit x quantity) + fixed costs

    Total costs for the doughnut shop per week is (£0.30 X 800) + 1,000 = £1,240

    Profit and loss

    Profit (or loss) is the difference between the business’s revenue and total costs.

    Profit occurs when a business’s revenue is greater than the total cost. By contrast, a loss happens when the total costs exceed total revenues.

    A surplus of revenue is vital to business growth, as the extra funds can be used to purchase new machinery, more raw materials or hire more employees. Repeated losses can bring about a shortage of capital and result in business failure.

    Here's the formula for calculating profit:

    Loss or Profit = Revenue - Total costs

    Continuing with the example above, the doughnut shop makes £1,320 in revenue per week. Suppose the total cost for running the business is £1,120. How much profit does the company make?

    Answer:

    Profit = Total revenue - Total costs

    The doughnut shop has made a profit: £1,320 - £1,120 = £200 per week.

    The average rate of return

    Investment in machinery, workforce, inventory, etc. is vital to a business’s growth. How can a business decide when to make an investment?

    A good investment is one that brings the company more financial gain than if it had put the money elsewhere. For example, if a business knows it can get 1% interest from its bank account, any investment that generates more than 1% in profit is considered a good investment.

    The average rate of return (ARR) is a calculation that helps a business compare different investment options. It compares the average annual profit of an investment with its initial costs.

    Here are two steps to calculate the average rate of return:

    Step 1: Calculate the annual profit of a company:

    Average annual profit = total profitnumber of years

    Step 2: Calculate the average rate of return of the investment:

    Average rate of rate (%) = Average annual profitcost of investment x 100

    A company has to choose between two investment projects A and B. The initial cost of investment is £100,000. The following table breaks down the estimated annual profit for each project in 5 years. Can you tell which one the company will choose to invest in?

    Year

    Project A

    Project B

    Estimated annual profit (£)

    Estimated annual profit (£)

    1

    20,000

    0

    2

    20,000

    0

    3

    40,000

    70,000

    4

    40,000

    80,000

    5

    50,000

    80,000

    Total profit

    170,000

    230,000

    Average annual profit

    170,000/5 = 34,000

    230,000/5 = 46,000

    Average rate of return

    34,000/100,000 = 34%

    46,000/100,000 = 46%

    Project B is more profitable since 46% > 34%.

    Basic Financial Terms: Break-even

    Break-even is the point where revenue equals total costs. The business makes neither a profit nor a loss.

    The output at which the company needs to sell to reach the break-even point (BEP) is called the break-even level of output.

    To determine the point of break-even, we often use a break-even analysis. The break-even analysis calculates how many sales the company has to make to cover the fixed and variable costs of production.

    To learn more, take a look at our explanation Break-even analysis!

    Here's the formula for calculating the break-even point:

    Break-even point = fixed costs(price per unit - variable costs per unit) = fixed costscontribution margin per unit

    A company with lower fixed costs will have a lower break-even point, assuming the variable costs do not exceed revenue.

    An item is sold for £50. The total fixed cost is £1,000 and variable costs are £10 per unit.

    Calculate:

    a. The contribution margin per unit.

    b. The break-even point of sales.

    Answer:

    a. The contribution margin per unit = selling price per unit - variable cost per unit = £50 - £10 = £40

    b. The break-even point = fixed costs/contribution margin per unit = 1,000/40 = 25 (units)

    At the fixed cost of £1000, the company needs to make 25 units to reach the break-even point.

    Break-even graph

    The break-even graph represents the break-even point visually.

    Basic Financial Terms break-even graph StudySmarterFigure 1. Break-even graph, StudySmarter

    Looking at Figure 1:

    • The break-even point is the intersection of the total cost and revenue.

    • Loss is depicted below the break-even point (the space between revenue and the total cost line).

    • Profit is depicted above the break-even point (the space between revenue and total cost line).

    Check out our Break-even analysis charts explanation for more information!

    Margin of safety

    The margin of safety is the number of sales that a business makes before the break-even point.

    Here's the formula for calculating the margin of safety:

    Margin of safety = Actual sales - Breakeven sales

    Supposing a business has a break-even point of 75 products and it has sold 100, the margin of safety is 100 - 75 = 25 (products)

    Interpretation: The company can make a profit on its remaining 25 units sold - sales could fall by 25 units before the break-even point is reached.

    Financial statements

    Financial statements are documents that give a picture of how well the company is doing financially. It includes three main documents: balance sheet, income statement, and cash flow statement.

    Balance sheet

    A balance sheet gives information on what a company owns (assets) and owes (liabilities) at the end of a certain period.

    A balance sheet might include the following components:

    Balance Sheet
    ASSETSLIABILITIES
    Current AssetsEquity
    Fixed AssetsLong-term Liabilities
    Current Liabilities

    Assets are what a company owns. There are fixed assets and current assets:

    • Fixed assets are assets that will not be sold in the near future such as machinery, buildings, land, and equipment.

    • Current assets are assets used in production or covering business immediate expenses. Some examples include cash, inventory, and accounts receivable.

    Liabilities are what a company owes to others. They can be divided into short-term and long-term liabilities:

    • Short-term (current) liabilities are debts that have to be paid back within a year. For example, accounts payable, overdrafts, dividends, etc.

    • Long-term liabilities are debts that will be paid back over many years. For example, mortgages, bank loans, etc.

    Equity represents ownership of a company. It is the deduction of liabilities from assets.

    Equity = Liabilities - Assets

    Suppose your company is worth £35,000 but you have £10,000 in debt, the equity is £25,000.

    Here's an example of what a balance sheet might look like:

    balance sheet example, StudySmarterFigure 2. Balance sheet example, StudySmarter

    Accounts receivable vs accounts payable in finance

    Accounts receivable is the money that the customer owes to the company. It appears on the balance sheet under the current assets.

    Accounts payable, on the other hand, is the money that the company owes to the supplier. It appears on the balance sheet under the current liabilities.

    Both accounts receivable and accounts payable are money not yet paid.

    An apple juice company buys fresh apples from a farm with a promise to pay back another day, this transaction will appear as accounts payable on the company's balance sheet. Suppose a client makes an order of apple juice from this company, the transaction will be recorded as accounts receivable.

    Income statement

    An income statement gives the financial picture of a company over a period of time. It reveals the business's loss or profit by comparing the total revenue with the total expenses.

    An example of an income statement:

    Company A Income Statement in quarter 1 of 2022
    Sales revenue750,000
    Cost of sales400,000
    Gross profit350,000
    Overhead costs90,000
    Operating profit260,000
    Tax and interests80,000
    Net profit180,000

    Company A earned a total of £750,000 in the first quarter of 2022. Its gross profit is calculated as sales revenues minus the cost of sales, which was around £350,000. After deducting the overhead costs, taxes and interests, the company was left with a net profit of £180,000. This is the money it could reinvest into the business or distribute to the shareholders.

    Cash flow statement

    A cash flow statement specifies the sources of a company's cash flows.

    Unlike the balance sheet and income statement, the cash flow statement does not include non-cash transactions such as accounts receivable or depreciation.

    Here's a simple version of a company's cash flow statement:

    Statement of cash flow
    Cash flow from operating+ £5,000
    Cash flow from investing- £2,000
    Cash flow from financing- £1,000
    Net cash flow£2,000

    By keeping track of the cash flow, the company can assess its ability to pay off debts or convert non-cash assets into cash.

    Now, let's have a look at the two ways companies can raise capital: equity financing and debt financing.

    Equity financing

    The type of financing with no repayment obligation is equity financing.

    Equity financing involves a company's equity to raise capital for business needs.

    Equity financing does not require the company to repay the money it acquires. However, the owners need to give up part of their company's ownership to the investors.

    A company needs to raise capital to expand its facility. The owner is willing to give up 15% ownership in exchange for an investor's funding. The investor now owns 15% of the company and receives an invoice of business decisions making use of his invested money.

    Debt financing

    A more common type of financing is debt financing.

    Debt financing is the borrowing of money to cover business needs.

    When financed by debt, the owner does not need to give up part of the company's ownership. Also, once the debt is paid off, the relationship between the owner and the lender ends. The lender doesn't get to control the business.

    The main drawback of this approach is that the company is liable to pay its debt along with interests.

    Basic Financial Terms - Key takeaways

    • The basic financial terms include revenue, costs, profits and loss, the average rate of return, and break-even.

    • Revenue is the total sales of a business’s products or services, calculated by multiplying the price per unit by the number of units sold.

    • Total costs are all the costs spent on producing a company’s output, consisting of

      • Variable costs change as the number of goods or services a business produces changes.

      • Fixed costs remain the same regardless of how many units are sold.

    • The average rate of return (ARR) is a financial tool that helps a business compare different investment options, calculated by dividing the average annual profit by the cost of the initial investment.

    • Break-even is the point at which revenue equals total costs.

    • The overall financial performance of a business can be analysed via the financial statements which include the balance sheet, the income statement, and the cash flow statement.

      • The balance sheet gives information on what a company owns and owes to others at a specific point in time.
      • The income statement provides data on a company's revenues, expenses, losses or profits.
      • The cash flow statement specifies where a company's sources of cash inflows are from.
    • There are two ways for a company to raise capital: debt financing and equity financing.
    Frequently Asked Questions about Basic Financial Terms

    What is debt financing?

    Debt financing is the borrowing of money to cover business needs.

    When financed by debt, the owner does not need to give up part of the company's ownership. Also, once the debt is paid off, the relationship between the owner and the lender ends. The lender doesn't get to control the business. 

    What are the types of financial assets?

    There are two types of assets; fixed assets and current assets. Assets are what a company owns. 


    What are fixed and current assets in financing?

    Fixed and current assets in financing are as follows:

    • Fixed assets are assets that will not be sold in the near future such as machinery, buildings, land, and equipment. 

    • Current assets are assets used in production or covering business immediate expenses. Some examples include cash, inventory, and accounts receivable. 

    What is equity financing?

    Equity financing involves a company's equity to raise capital for business needs. 


    Equity financing does not require the company to repay the money it acquires. However, the owners need to give up part of their company's ownership to the investors. 

    What are the types of expenses in financing?

    Some types of expenses are as follows:

    1. Cost of sales

    2. Overhead costs

    3. Tax and interests

    4. Account payables

    5. Overdraft

    1
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