What are assets

An asset is a resource with economic value that an individual, corporation, or country owns or controls with the expectation that it will provide a future benefit. Assets are reported on a company’s balance sheet and can be classified as current, fixed, financial, or intangible.

Assets are economic resources owned or controlled with the expectation of providing future benefits.

Defining assets

According to Adam Barone, an asset is a resource with economic value owned or controlled by an individual, corporation, or country. The expectation is that these assets will generate cash flow, reduce expenses, or improve sales in the future. Assets are important components of a company’s balance sheet. It can be classified into current, fixed, financial, and intangible categories.

Types of assets

Understanding the classification of assets is crucial for businesses. It helps in assessing net working capital, solvency, and risk. For instance, distinguishing between tangible and intangible assets aids in evaluating a company’s risk in high-risk industries.

These are the key types of assets:

  • Current assets: These are short-term resources expected to be converted into cash or consumed within a year. Examples can be cash, accounts receivable, inventory, and prepaid expenses.
  • Fixed assets: Resources with a lifespan of more than a year. Fixed assets can be plants, equipment, and buildings. Depreciation is applied to allocate their cost over time.
  • Financial assets: Represent investments in securities and other institutions, including stocks, bonds, and preferred equity.
  • Intangible assets: Intangible assets are economic resources without physical presence. It can be patents, trademarks, copyrights, and goodwill.

Three essential characteristics of assets

To qualify as an asset, an item must possess three fundamental attributes:

  1. Ownership or Control: A company must have ownership or control over the asset. This control lets the company turn the asset into cash or something similar to cash, while also preventing others from having any say over it. It’s important to note how the concept of ownership plays a key role in understanding assets. While companies often describe their employees as their «greatest asset» in a more casual sense, technically speaking, in accounting terms, this isn’t quite accurate. This is because companies don’t have full control over their employees the way they do over their physical assets; employees are free to leave and take up other jobs.
  2. Economic Value: An asset must offer economic value. All assets should be saleable or convertible into cash, with the exception of certain right-of-use assets like lease agreements. Assets play a role in supporting production and for business expansion.
  3. Resourcefulness: Assets must function as a resource, and it must have the capacity to generate future economic value. Essentially, this means the asset can contribute to generating positive cash inflows in the future.