previous year’s

That’s distinct from retained earnings, which are calculated to-date. Now that we’re clear on what retained earnings are and why they’re important, let’s get into the math. To calculate your retained earnings, you’ll need three key pieces of information handy. Get instant access to video lessons taught by experienced investment bankers. Learn financial statement modeling, DCF, M&A, LBO, Comps and Excel shortcuts. Below is a short video explanation to help you understand the importance of retained earnings from an accounting perspective.

In this case, the company would need to take action to improve its financial position. The purpose of the retained earnings statement is to show how much profit the company has earned and reinvested. Finally, companies can also choose to repurchase their own stock, which reduces retained earnings by the investment amount.

Step 2. Retained Earnings Projection Period

Retained earnings can typically be found on a company’s balance sheet in the shareholders’ equity section. Retained earnings are calculated through taking the beginning-period retained earnings, adding to the net income , and subtracting dividend payouts. Remember that your company’s retained earnings account will decrease by the amount of dividends paid out for the given accounting period. When calculating retained earnings, you’ll need to incorporate all forms of dividends; you’ll see that stock and cash dividends can impact the final number significantly. The figure is calculated at the end of each accounting period (monthly/quarterly/annually). As the formula suggests, retained earnings are dependent on the corresponding figure of the previous term.

How to calculate retained earnings in Excel?

  1. Beginning Period RE can be found in the Balance sheet under shareholders' equity.
  2. Take Net Income / (Loss) from Profit and Loss Statement.
  3. Cash Dividend.

Examples of these items include sales revenue, cost of goods sold, depreciation, and other operating expenses. Non-cash items such as write-downs or impairments and stock-based compensation also affect the account. If the company is experiencing a net loss on their Income Statement, then the net loss is subtracted from the existing retained earnings. For example, during the period from September 2016 through September 2020, Apple Inc.’s stock price rose from around $28 to around $112 per share. The decision to retain the earnings or to distribute them among shareholders is usually left to the company management. However, it can be challenged by the shareholders through a majority vote because they are the real owners of the company.


Both cash dividends and stock dividends result in a decrease in retained earnings. The effect of cash and stock dividends on the retained earnings has been explained in the sections below. Net Profit or Net Loss in the retained earnings formula is the net profit or loss of the current accounting period. For instance, in the case of the yearly income statement and balance sheet, the net profit as calculated for the current accounting period would increase the balance of retained earnings. Similarly, in case your company incurs a net loss in the current accounting period, it would reduce the balance of retained earnings.

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  • In case a company is a dividend-paying company, and hence even this could lead to negative retained earnings if the dividends paid is large.
  • Retained earnings refer to the residual net income or profit after tax which is not distributed as dividends to the shareholders but is reinvested in the business.
  • This money often goes towards paying business expenses in the next cycle or towards reinvestment into the business.
  • Depending on how much you pay out, you could even end up with negative retained earnings.

They go up whenever your earns a profit, and down every time you withdraw some of those profits in the form of dividend payouts. In effect, the equation calculates the cumulative earnings of the company post-adjustments for the distribution of any dividends to shareholders. On the balance sheet, the relevant line item is recorded within the shareholders’ equity section. The first item listed on the Statement of Retained Earnings should be the balance of retained earnings from the prior year, which can be found on the prior year’s balance sheet. On the balance sheet you can usually directly find what the retained earnings of the company are, but even if it doesn’t, you can use other figures to calculate the sum. The statement of retained earnings is defined as a financial statement that outlines the changes in retained earnings for a specified period.

How to calculate retained earnings (formula + examples)

The truth is, retained earnings numbers vary from business to business—there’s no one-size-fits-all number you can aim for. That said, a realistic goal is to get your ratio as close to 100 percent as you can, taking into account the averages within your industry. From there, you simply aim to improve retained earnings from period-to-period. While the term may conjure up images of a bunch of suits gathering around a big table to talk about stock prices, it actually does apply to small business owners. However, from a more cynical view, the growth in retained earnings could be interpreted as management struggling to find profitable investments and project opportunities worth pursuing. But while the first scenario is a cause for concern, a negative balance could also result from an aggressive dividend payout – e.g. dividend recapitalization in LBOs.


Though the last option of debt repayment also leads to the money going out of the business, it still has an impact on the business’s accounts . Recall that your retained earnings at the end of last month were $2,000. There’s an opportunity cost with retained earnings if not utilized properly or if it sits unused, which can limit a company’s growth. By proving that your company is profitable enough—with $175,000 in retained earnings that can already be put toward expansion—the investor is likely to take a bet on you. Companies need to know what their retained earnings are so they can plan for future investment, place money in rainy day funds, and the like.

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