Working Capital Formula

A financial metric used to measure a company's short-term liquidity

Author: Jake Heimowitz
Jake Heimowitz
Jake Heimowitz
IU Kelley School of Business Class of '25. I worked for Wall Street Oasis the summer following my freshman year of college at IU which undoubtedly broadened my understanding of financial research. I've since interned with Oppenheimer & Co as an Equity Research Summer Analyst and am excited to continue my career within finance.
Reviewed By: Hassan Saab
Hassan Saab
Hassan Saab
Investment Banking | Corporate Finance

Prior to becoming a Founder for Curiocity, Hassan worked for Houlihan Lokey as an Investment Banking Analyst focusing on sellside and buyside M&A, restructurings, financings and strategic advisory engagements across industry groups.

Hassan holds a BS from the University of Pennsylvania in Economics.

Last Updated:February 17, 2024

What is The Working Capital Formula?

The formula for calculating the working capital is:

Working Capital = Current Assets (Net Depreciation) - Current Liabilities

The goal of calculating working capital is to ensure that a company has enough money to meet its short-term obligations.

The measure of working capital ensures the organization has adequacy of the current assets to cover current liabilities.

Ensuring this will keep the organization ahead in satisfying or arranging for short-term obligations.

Now that we know what working capital is, let's look at how to calculate it. We'll use the following example:

A company has $100,000 in inventory, $50,000 in accounts receivable, and $20,000 in accounts payable.

Its working capital would then be

$100,000 - $50,000 - $20,000 = $30,000

Key Takeaways

  • Working capital is a financial metric that measures a company's short-term liquidity, calculated by subtracting current liabilities from current assets.
  • Positive working capital means a company has more current assets than liabilities, providing financial flexibility.
  • Negative working capital occurs when current liabilities exceed current assets, indicating potential difficulty in meeting short-term obligations.
  • While crucial for assessing a company's short-term financial health, working capital has limitations. It doesn't consider long-term assets, liabilities, or a company's capital structure.
  • Every business needs working capital for day-to-day expenses. Calculating it accurately is crucial for assessing short-term financial health, making informed investment decisions, and understanding a company's risk profile.

What Is Working Capital?

Working capital is a financial metric used to measure a company's short-term liquidity. It is calculated by subtracting a company's current liabilities from its current assets.

Working capital is important because it measures a company's ability to pay its bills and keep its operations running. A company with a negative working capital tends to have trouble paying its creditors, which could lead to bankruptcy.

Thus, working capital is a critical metric that investors and creditors use to assess a company's financial health. Companies with a strong working capital position are more likely to survive and thrive during economic turmoil.

There are different ways to calculate working capital, but the most common method is subtracting a business's current liabilities from its current assets.

Working capital is important because it can be used to finance the business's day-to-day operations. It is also important because it can be used as a measure of a business's financial health.

There are a variety of ways a company can use its working capital. Some common uses include funding day-to-day operations, investing in new products or services, or repaying short-term debt.

No matter how a company uses its working capital, it's important to keep a close eye on this number. A healthy working capital balance is essential for a company's long-term success.

Positive vs. Negative Working Capital

Working capital is often referred to as the "lifeblood" of a business because it represents the funds available to meet short-term obligations and keep the business operating.

Positive working capital means that a business has more current assets than liabilities, which gives the business the financial flexibility to invest in growth or take on new opportunities.

While positive working capital is generally good, it's important to remember that too much working capital can tie up funds that could be better used elsewhere. 

So, it's crucial to strike a balance and have just enough working capital to support the business's current operations.

Positive working capital means a company has enough resources to cover its short-term obligations. A negative working capital, on the other hand, means that a company may have difficulty meeting its short-term obligations.

A negative working capital occurs when a company's current liabilities exceed its current assets. This means that the company is unable to pay off its short-term obligations. While this may seem like a bad thing, there are some situations where it is acceptable.

For example, a company may have negative working capital in the middle of a significant expansion project. As a result, the expansion project may require the company to take out loans and use other debt financings.

This would increase the company's current liabilities, and the increased debt may cause the working capital to become negative. However, once the expansion project is complete, the company may be able to repay its debts and return to a favorable working capital position.

Another situation where a negative working capital may be acceptable is if a company is in the middle of a turnaround.

Working capital is essential for businesses of all sizes. It is a crucial indicator of a company's financial health and can be used to finance day-to-day operations, invest in growth, and manage cash flow. Therefore, businesses should keep working capital in mind when making financial decisions.

Limitations of working capital

Working capital is an essential aspect of company analysis for internal and external analysts. It helps them understand the liquidity position of the company.

A company's working capital can give us a snapshot of the company’s financial health.

While working capital is a crucial metric for financial decision-makers, it is essential to understand its limitations. First, working capital does not consider a company's long-term assets or liabilities. Instead, it only looks at a company’s short-term financial situation. 

This is fine if you’re only interested in the company’s ability to pay its short-term debts, but it doesn’t give you the whole picture. Second, it does not consider a company's capital structure, which can impact its ability to service its debt and other obligations. 

Additionally, the working capital formula only considers the money a company has on hand. It doesn’t consider the company's money coming in or out of business. 

Despite these limitations, working capital is still valuable for assessing a company's short-term financial health. By understanding its formula and how it works, you can better assess a company's financial position and make more informed decisions.

importance of working capital

Every business needs working capital to function. This is the money used to pay for the day-to-day expenses of running the business, such as salaries, rent, and utilities. 

It is important to have enough working capital to cover these expenses and any unexpected costs that may come up.

Calculating working capital is not always straightforward, but it is important to get it right. The wrong calculation can lead to problems down the road, such as not having enough money to cover expenses or being unable to take advantage of opportunities as they arise.

There are different methods for calculating working capital, but the most important thing is to use a consistent and accurate method. 

This will help you make the best decisions for your business and ensure you have the funds you need to keep your business running smoothly.

It is essential to calculate working capital accurately, as it can give you a clear picture of a company's short-term financial health. This information can help make investment decisions and understand a company's risk profile.

There are a few different methods for calculating working capital, but the most important thing is to use the same method consistently to make apples-to-apples comparisons.

Working capital can be complex, but understanding it is essential for any business owner or manager. By learning how to calculate working capital accurately, you can gain valuable insights into your company's financial health.

How can a company improve Its working capital?

If you're looking to improve your company's working capital, you can do a few things. First, you can improve your accounts receivable by collecting customer payments more quickly. 

You can also improve your inventory management to reduce the amount of money tied up in stock. Finally, you can work on reducing your accounts payable to free up more cash flow.

Increasing current assets, which can mean saving cash or paying off expenses sooner, could also improve your working capital. Reducing short-term debt is also a surefire way to better credit terms. But, of course, it’s always good to avoid taking on expensive debt.

Another way is to lengthen your accounts receivable period. This will give you more time to collect payment from your customers. Another is to reduce your accounts payable.

There are several other ways to improve working capital, but some are more effective than others.

  1. Reduce Accounts Receivable
  2. Increase Accounts Payable
  3. Manage Inventory More Efficiently
  4. Improve Cash Flow Management

You can improve your company's working capital and financial health by taking the above steps.

Researched and authored by Jake Heimowitz | LinkedIn

Reviewed and Edited by Aditya Salunke I LinkedIn

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