What are current assets?

Accountants define current assets as assets deemed to be liquid enough to be converted to cash within one year or less. The balance sheet reports this item above noncurrent assets.


Types of current assets include:

Current assets are “liquid”

We define liquidity as how easily an asset can be converted into cash. For example, analysts consider short-term investments in stocks and bonds to be liquid because companies can sell them with a single phone call (or click on a website). They can quickly sell accounts receivable to banks. On the other hand, goodwill is not considered to be liquid because it is very difficult to sell.

Operating cycles

The actual definition of current assets is assets that are likely to be converted into cash within one year or one operating cycle, whichever is longer. You can define an operating cycle as the period of time from when a company first buys inventory or raw materials, until whenever the company actually collects cash from selling the finished product. Almost all companies have operating cycles of less than a year, and therefore simply define current assets as assets likely converted into cash within one year. However, some companies – such as wineries and ship builders – have much longer operating cycles. They therefore define it as assets likely converted into cash within one of their (long) operating cycles. For example, if it takes five years to grow grapes, turn them into wine, age the wine, and sell it, then the winery would have a five-year operating cycle and everything likely liquidated within five years gets measured as current assets.

Using current assets to make money

All business assets should generate revenues and net income. Before purchasing any assets, think about how they will ultimately increase your profits and keep enough cash and short-term investments handy to pay your bills.

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