What are Retained Earnings? Guide, Formula, and Examples

retained earnings normal balance

As with many financial performance measurements, retained earnings calculations must be taken into context. Analysts must assess the company’s general situation before placing too much value on a company’s retained earnings—or its accumulated deficit. Any investors—if retained earnings normal balance the new company has them—will likely expect the company to spend years focusing the bulk of its efforts on growing and expanding. There’s less pressure to provide dividend income to investors because they know the business is still getting established.

  • And, retaining profits would result in higher returns as compared to dividend payouts.
  • The normal balance of any account is the balance (debit or credit) which you would expect the account have, and is governed by the accounting equation.
  • Therefore, the company must maintain a balance between declaring dividends and retaining profits for expansion.
  • These are the long term investors who seek periodic payments in the form of dividends as a return on the money invested by them in your company.

You should be able to find this figure on the income statement of the accounting period in question. If you generate monthly income statements, then look at the net loss or net profit from your previous statement. This figure is the retained earnings normal balance you had when you last calculated it. For example, if you create new balance sheets every month, the current earnings would be how much you had leftover at the end of the previous month. The money can also be used to purchase and absorb other companies, provide customers and clients with loans, or repay current company loans.

What is Retained Earnings Normal Balance?

This is the case where the company has incurred more net losses than profits to date or has paid out more dividends than what it had in the retained earnings account. Beginning Period Retained Earnings is the balance in the retained earnings account as at the beginning of an accounting period. That is the closing balance of the retained earnings account as in the previous accounting period. For instance, if you prepare a yearly balance sheet, the current year’s opening balance of retained earnings would be the previous year’s closing balance of the retained earnings account.

retained earnings normal balance

If a company has negative retained earnings, it has accumulated deficit, which means a company has more debt than earned profits. The disadvantage of retained earnings is that the retained earnings figure alone doesn’t provide any material information about the company. Stock dividends, on the other hand, are the dividends that are paid out as additional shares as fractions per existing shares to the stockholders. In fact, both management and the investors would want to retain earnings if they are aware that the company has profitable investment opportunities.


Management and shareholders may want the company to retain the earnings for several different reasons. For this reason, retained earnings decrease when a company either loses money or pays dividends and increase when new profits are created. For reference, the chart below sets out the type, side of the accounting equation (AE), and the normal balance of some typical accounts found within a small business bookkeeping system. Any changes or movements with net income will directly impact the RE balance. Factors such as an increase or decrease in net income and incurrence of net loss will pave the way to either business profitability or deficit.

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The account’s net balance is the difference between the total of the debits and the total of the credits. This can be a net debit balance when the total debits are greater, or a net credit balance when the total credits are greater. By convention, one of these is the normal balance type for each account according to its category. https://www.bookstime.com/ In the case of a contra account, however, the normal balance convention is reversed and a normal balance is reported either as a negative number, or alongside its parent balance as an amount subtracted. This is the amount of retained earnings to date, which is accumulated earnings of the company since its inception.

What Makes up Retained Earnings

In this case, you’d want to figure out why the account is not showing a normal balance. You might have had a journal entry error, an offset from an earlier transaction, or even checks written but not yet funded with cash. This is the case here, as the balance has a debit of $3,000 on the left-hand side. Generally speaking, a company with a negative retained earnings balance would signal weakness because it indicates that the company has experienced losses in one or more previous years. However, it is more difficult to interpret a company with high retained earnings.

Where they know that management has profitable investment opportunities and have faith in the management’s capabilities, they would want management to retain surplus profits for higher returns. Revenue refers to sales and any transaction that results in cash inflows. However, this money is a loan, so it also creates a liability (that is, you would also note the $50,000 in your liability account). A maturing company may not have many options or high-return projects for which to use the surplus cash, and it may prefer handing out dividends.

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