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What is a Statement of Financial Position?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 16, 2024
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A statement of financial position, also known as a balance sheet, is a financial document that provides an overview of an entity's finances at a given point in time. These statements are commonly used by companies large and small, but they can also be applied to personal finances, for people who want to generate a document that they can use to review their financial situation for the purpose of making budgeting decisions or financial plans. Many accounting software programs have mechanisms to automatically create one.

There are two main areas on a statement of financial position. One covers the assets, everything owned by the person or company, including real estate, cash in hand, contents of bank accounts, and so forth. The other side includes the liabilities, funds owed. A statement usually breaks these sections up into several categories for ease of reference, so that people can quickly look up a topic of particular interest, such as accounts payable or overdue loans.

The liabilities also include the ownership equity or the shareholder equity in the business. The assets should equal the liabilities once the ownership or shareholder equity has been factored in, and if they do not, it is a sign that the financial statement is out of balance. This is in accordance with the accounting equation, which states that assets = liabilities + ownership or shareholder equity. Incidentally, this explains the term "balance sheet," which reflects the idea that the two sections of the sheet should be equal or balanced.

Commonly, a statement of financial position will be generated at the end of every month. Looking up past months can provide information about how a company's finances are progressing, and these documents can also be compared with statements from the same month in prior years. Using this document, decisions can be made about the next steps to take. If, for example, a company has a lot of assets, it may be a sign that it can comfortably expand because it has the available capital to do so.

Companies that are publicly traded must provide public disclosures about their financial health, including statements of financial position. These are provided to shareholders by request and are also commonly published to make them readily accessible to prospective investors. If a company has a website, they might be found on a section of the website that includes documents that the company is required to disclose by law.

SmartCapitalMind is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a SmartCapitalMind researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By SkyWhisperer — On Jun 13, 2011

@hamje32 - As important as it is to know where you’re company is at, I think it’s also useful to have a personal statement of financial position, like having a personal mission statement.

I realize there are a lot of people who don’t want to do this, because they can’t stand to look at their own books, but it’s the only way to get your financial affairs in order.

I do that once a year myself, at the beginning of the year when I plan out my goals. The personal statement of financial position is a necessary part of my investment planning. It helps me to know what debts I need to start aggressively retiring, for example, and what kind of investment strategy I should purse for the coming year. I use sample templates online to build my statement.

By hamje32 — On Jun 11, 2011

@Charred - I’m glad to hear your company is doing well. I work for a publicly traded firm that is not doing so well, and every quarter they publish their quarterly reports which includes a financial statement analysis that interprets the raw numbers.

Releases of those reports create jittery feelings for both employees and investors. Sometimes the analysis will have to explain a statement of changes in financial position like a large write-down of debt or a one-time charge related to an acquisition which creates a lopsided view of the company’s financial position.

Investors and employees will worry, and the company’s public relations will spin, until the next quarter when hopefully the news will be much better.

By Charred — On Jun 10, 2011

I work for a small business so technically we don’t have to provide a financial report to stockholders like a publicly traded company would. However, once a year, the president pulls us together for a company-wide meeting and gives us the statement of financial position for the company.

He covers both high level and detail information, including assets, liabilities, payroll, profit and loss and other investments the company is pursuing.

It’s refreshing to know exactly where the company is at financially-especially when, as in our case, the company is doing well, so that we don’t have to worry about getting laid off in the next week.

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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