Asset Definition & Meaning

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What is an asset

You can’t physically touch them, but they have value and can be converted into cash. Fixed assets are resources with an expected life of greater than a year, such as plants, equipment, and buildings. An accounting adjustment called depreciation is made for fixed assets as they age. Depreciation may or may not reflect the fixed asset’s loss of earning power. Business assets, on the other hand, are assets owned by businesses.

  • The straight-line method assumes that a fixed asset loses its value in proportion to its useful life, while the accelerated method assumes that the asset loses its value faster in its first years of use.
  • There are also current assets and fixed assets, which you hear more about in a business context.
  • Current assets are short-term economic resources that are expected to be converted into cash or consumed within one year.
  • People tend to keep assets to build wealth so they can retire or use the assets as a financial resource.

Accountants, in particular, must have a strong understanding of assets and how they affect a company’s finances. Accounting often involves looking at the relationships between assets and other key metrics of a business’s finances, like revenue, liabilities, and equity. For example, someone’s personal assets may include their work experience or a life insurance policy. On the other hand, a business’s assets are things the company can use to generate revenue. In the financial accounting sense of the term, it is not necessary to have title (a legally enforceable ownership right) to an asset.

What Is Considered an Asset?

Accumulated depreciation is shown in the face of the balance sheet or in the notes. Stucky says a company’s current assets can offer a lens into how much liquidity the company will have to fund its everyday operations and meet near-term financial obligations. These short-term assets could include the money a company will use to pay employees or buy supplies, along with the inventory it’s currently selling to customers. They include things such as patents, copyrights, intellectual property, internet domain names, and a company’s brand.

  • An asset is anything of value or a resource of value that can be converted into cash.
  • It’s easy to determine the value of assets like stocks, bonds, and your 401(k) by simply checking their current market prices.
  • Typically, a company will hold current assets for a year or less before using or selling them.

Current assets are short-term economic resources that are expected to be converted into cash or consumed within one year. Current assets include cash and cash equivalents, accounts receivable, inventory, and various prepaid expenses. A fixed asset is an accounting term that’s used to distinguish between assets that will be quickly used up (i.e., current assets) and assets that will provide value for a longer period. A company’s fixed assets may include the land, machinery, and other tangible equipment that it will use to create the products and services it sells.

Phrases Containing asset

For example, many current assets, like inventory, are necessary for day-to-day operations. Non-current assets, often called fixed assets, are not very liquid — these are long-term holdings owned by the company for many years before they become cash. There are no limits based on age, contract, or regulatory obligations. Companies tend to record intangible assets on a balance sheet but include only things that the business buys or acquires (like a patent, email list, or a solid website) are included.

What is an asset

An asset represents an economic resource owned or controlled by, for example, a company. An economic resource is something that may be scarce and has the ability to produce economic benefit by generating cash inflows or decreasing cash outflows. If you don’t have work or internship experience in accounting, you can focus on coursework you had that involved core accounting skills, such as understanding assets, liabilities, and equity. You can also use your cover letter to describe any experiences you have outside of the professional or academic space. For example, you can talk about if you’ve helped a friend or family member balance their small business’s books or organize their company’s finances. Another way to determine the value of a real estate asset is with the cost approach.

Understanding Assets

If you have more debt than assets, your net worth will be negative. What’s important is knowing what your net worth is and tracking how it changes over time. People tend to keep assets to build wealth so they can retire or use the assets as a financial resource. “An asset in the form of a dividend stock earns ongoing income for its owner and could be sold if needed, freeing up purchasing power,” says Mark Berger, a CFP and Account Executive at Berger Financial Group. While many assets are material and can be held and seen, others aren’t — they are more like ideas or concepts than physical buildings or property.

The build-up of assets is generally considered to be a pursuit of monetary wealth. Businesses must prudently use their assets to generate profits, whereas not efficiently using assets can hurt a business. Personal assets can include a home, land, financial securities, jewelry, artwork, gold and silver, or your checking account. Business assets can include such things as motor vehicles, buildings, machinery, equipment, cash, and accounts receivable.

Fixed assets, also known as noncurrent assets, are expected to be in use for longer than one year. As a result, unlike current assets, fixed assets undergo depreciation. Non-operating assets are non-essential resources that are not used daily by a company. Some non-operating resources are common for most businesses, such as stocks or unused real estate.


Liquid assets are unique in that not all your assets can be sold right now for cash without incurring some type of loss or fee on the sale. Business assets also need to be included in financial statements and have a specific way they need to be accounted for, which includes marking their historical cost and any depreciation. Personal assets do not need to be reported every year on taxes nor do they need to be accounted for.

Long-term investments

Cash can lose value over time due to inflation, whereas assets can appreciate, primarily if these assets are investments, such as stocks, bonds, and real estate. Investing in these types of assets is making your money “work” for you, so that your money grows over time, whereas with cash, your money won’t grow, but rather it will lose value. When looking at an asset definition, you’ll typically find that it is something that provides a current, future, or potential economic benefit for an individual or company.

For example, employees are assets because companies need people to keep things running, create products, or offer services. The building the employees work in is also an asset, as well as any piece of machinery and the inventory employees make or use. In business, though, assets need to provide positive economic value — the resource must create or produce something that the company can sell for cash, or the resource itself must hold resale value.