What are Cash Equivalents?

Definition: Cash equivalents are short-term assets that are easily and readily converted into a know amount of cash. Cash equivalents usually include short-term investments in stock and other securities and treasury bills. Long-term investments can also be classified as cash equivalents if they are set to mature in the next 90 days or the maturity date is close enough that the fair market value and interest rate will not affect the value.

What Does Cash Equivalent Mean?

In other words, a cash equivalent is an asset that is so liquid that it can be considered cash for practical purposes. Stocks and other trading securities that can be easily sold on a public market are easily converted into cash that they can be considered cash for most financial reporting.


There are generally two different ways to report cash equivalents on the balance sheet. Some companies state cash equivalents as a separate line item directly under cash on the face of the balance sheet. This allows investors and credits a look at what is actually in the company’s bank account and what are other liquid investments.

Other companies group cash and cash equivalents together on the balance sheet and state them as one line item. This grouping gives the investors and creditors less information about the company initially, but details about the break down of cash and equivalents are usually provided in the notes of the financial statements or the management discussion and analysis report.

Both of these reporting methods are permissible.

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