What Is Owner's Equity? | Definition And Calculation

Jasmine Black
5 min read
What Is Owner's Equity? | Definition And Calculation

When thinking about their company's financial value, many startup founders focus solely on their profits and losses. But as they seek additional funding rounds and investments, their ownership stake may become diluted, even if profits are skyrocketing. Does this matter? 

Well, actually, yes. With fewer stakes in their own companies, founders often experience less decision making power and control over their startup's future. It can be both frustrating and concerning to watch the venture you created go in a new direction without your say.  

That's why owner's equity is an important metric to factor in when calculating your financial health.

In a nutshell, it's a measure of financial stability and how much stake owners have relative to assets and liabilities. When you understand what owner's equity is and how to use it, you prepare to overcome funding challenges without compromising on your long-term vision.

We've put together this guide to help you understand what owner's equity is, why it matters, and how to calculate it for your business.

Owner's Equity 101

Keeping track of owner's equity allows you to monitor the true value of your business along with its potential for growth. To use this metric to your advantage, you should first know how to define it and what main components factor into it.

Definition Of Owner's Equity

Owners' equity is the residual claim on a company's assets after you've paid off all debts and liabilities. In other words, it's how much your business would be worth after paying off anything you owe — including to investors. It's your piece of the pie — the real share of the company you own.

Owner's equity can provide valuable insights into the long-term growth potential of your company. The metric also helps you assess your ownership position. When this number is in the green, you have positive equity. 

This means your assets are doing a great job outweighing liabilities, showing your business is on solid ground. However, if it's in the red, you have negative equity, which is a friendly nudge to check on potential financial hiccups.

The following are a few key insights about owner's equity that every business owner should keep in mind:

  • Investment-equity dynamics: Owner's equity begins with your initial investment and later capital contributions. Keep an accurate account of these investments, as they form the foundation of your financial equity value.
  • Influence of business performance: The financial outcomes of your business — your profits, revenues, expenses, and losses — directly affect owner's equity. This direct correlation underscores the impact of business operations on your financial stake.
  • Effect of owner withdrawals: Withdrawals by the owner, whether in cash or assets, reduce owner's equity. It's important to accurately record these transactions because they represent a direct claim against your stake in the business.
  • Balance sheet calculations: Owner's equity, one of the primary equity accounts, is typically detailed on the right-hand side of your balance sheet. It offers insights into the financial state and history of your company. We'll go through the components of this section below.

Components Of Owner's Equity

Owner's equity isn't just a lump sum. It's made up of different pieces that together tell the story of your company's financial ownership.

The main ingredients? Common stock, retained earnings, and additional paid-in capital. Sometimes, you might also factor treasury stocks, preferred stock, and accumulated other comprehensive income into the mix.

Common Stock

Common stock is the seed money of your corporation. It's the funds shareholders pumped in when they first bought their shares. These investors usually get a say in company decisions (thanks to voting rights) and might even enjoy dividends, though that's not always a given. The money from common stock is a key slice of your owner's equity pie, marking the cash your business has raised through selling shares.

Retained Earnings

The lifeblood of your business's growth and financial well-being, retained earnings are the profits that your company chooses to reinvest rather than distribute as dividends to shareholders. These earnings accumulate over time, becoming a critical factor in your company's ability to fund operations, expand, and prosper.

Additional Paid-In Capital

Also known as paid-up capital, this is the extra funding from shareholders over and above the par value, or base value, of the shares. It's a sign of their extra vote of confidence in your business. This capital is a versatile tool.

It helps fund everything from day-to-day operations to big-picture growth plans. Think of it as a testament to how much your investors believe in what you're building.

How To Calculate Owner's Equity

Calculating owner's equity might seem like a task for financial wizards only, but it's actually a pretty straightforward two-step process.

First, you need to gather information on your total assets and total liabilities. Then, you use these two numbers to figure out your owner's equity. To perform the calculation, use the following basic owner's equity formula:

  • Owner's equity = assets - liabilities

This owner's equity equation highlights the relationship between what your business owns (assets), what it owes (liabilities), and what's left over for the owners (total owner's equity).

Gather The Necessary Information

Before diving into calculations, you need to play a bit of financial detective. This means rounding up all the relevant info about your company's assets, liabilities, and equity transactions.

Total Assets

Total assets are everything of value that your business owns. There are three categories for these assets: current assets, fixed assets, and intangible assets:

  • Current assets: These are your liquid assets. They include cash, accounts receivable, inventory, and other items you can convert into cash within a year. Think of them as your most readily accessible resources to meet immediate financial obligations.
  • Fixed assets: These are bigger, heftier items such as buildings and machinery as well as long-term investments, including stocks and bonds. They’re not as easily converted to cash, but they provide long-term value and are essential for business operations.
  • Intangible assets: This category includes non-physical assets like brand equity, trademarks, patents, and intellectual property. They may not have a physical presence but still hold significant value for your business.

When adding up total assets, you’ll want to list each one with its current fair market value. For fixed assets, you'll want to use the net book value. That's the original cost minus any decline in value due to age — or accumulated depreciation. The following are a few key points to remember:

  • Asset liquidity: How quickly you can turn an asset into cash affects its role in your total assets. Cash is like the sprinter of the asset world, while real estate and heavy machinery are more like marathon runners.
  • Depreciation: For big-ticket items like equipment and buildings, depreciation is your reality check. As these assets age, they're not as shiny and valuable as they once were. This loss in value needs to be recorded, and methods like straight-line and declining balance help figure out just how much they've aged.
  • Amortization: Then there’s amortization, the cousin of depreciation. This one’s for the intangible assets like patents and copyrights. It involves spreading the cost of these assets over their useful life. This must also be reflected on your financial statements to accurately calculate owner's equity.

Total Liabilities

Total liability is all the debts and IOUs your business has racked up. This includes loans, accounts payable, mortgages, and other financial promises you’ve made. There are two main types of liabilities, which differ by accounting period:

  • Short-term liabilities: These are typically the smaller debts, such as accounts payable, wages payable, and taxes owed. Their defining factor is that they are due within a year.
  • Long-term liabilities: This often includes the bigger commitments like long-term loans and mortgages. These debts have a longer repayment period, stretching beyond the current year.

Accurately calculating and managing your business's liabilities helps you maintain financial health and stability. It also allows you to understand how much debt your business has taken on and whether you can handle payment obligations on time.

Subtract Total Liabilities From Total Assets

Once you have the total figures for both assets and liabilities, you're ready to calculate your owner's equity using the formula.

Interpret The Results

Now that you have a number for owner's equity, it's time to analyze it. This figure offers many nuanced insights into your business, including about:

  • Health and stability: Does your owner's equity greatly exceed your liabilities? That's your green flag waving high, showing your business is financially fit and stable. It's a vital gauge for stakeholders to assess your business's ability to meet its financial obligations and its operational efficiency.
  • Risks and challenges: Negative owner's equity points to potential financial challenges. This situation may arise from excessive debt, dwindling asset values, or inefficient revenue management. If your owner's equity figure is negative, it's time for a reevaluation of your financial strategies.
  • Growth and performance: Tracking owner's equity over time is an excellent performance indicator, as it reflects the growth and progress of your business. Steadily increasing owner's equity indicates healthy financial management and potential for future expansion.
  • Capital dynamics: Fluctuations in owner's equity provide insights into how you manage capital within your business. An uptick may result from fresh capital injections, profit retention, or asset appreciation. In contrast, a downturn might signal increased owner withdrawals, heightened liabilities, or asset depreciation.
  • Potential strategic moves: The structure of your owner's equity — the interplay between contributed capital and retained earnings — can steer strategic business decisions. A substantial pool of retained earnings might encourage bolder business ventures, whereas a reliance on external capital could suggest a more cautious approach to financial management.

Unlock Confident Financial Decision Making

Whether you are sole proprietor or run a large corporation, understanding owner's equity is an important part of managing your business finances. It's a clear indicator of where your business stands and a guide for future financial decisions. By keeping track of owner's equity, you're not just observing figures. You're also unlocking valuable information that can help you with debt management, risk mitigation, and strategic growth planning.

Remember that no metric or accounting equation works in isolation. This means you should review your statement of owner's equity alongside other financial insights — think income statements, cash flow statements, profitability analysis — to get a holistic view of your business's financial health. When all these pieces come together, you'll have a transparent picture of your business's performance and be able to make confident financial decisions.

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