Billy Russel

Billy Russel - FP&A Strategist

January 2023 - min to read

How to create a balance sheet projection in 2023

How to create a balance sheet projection in 2023

Especially in today's economy, companies must plan and plan again.

If that's you, you're in the right place. A balance sheet projection is a financial planning necessity to predict your company's future financial performance.

But how do you perform a balance sheet projection?

In this guide, we'll show you exactly how. 

Keep reading. 

Contents

  1. What is a balance sheet projection?
  2. Why are balance sheet projections important?
  3. What should I watch out for in a balance sheet projection?
  4. Best practices for balance sheet forecasts
  5. How to forecast a balance sheet
  6. Balance sheet forecast example
  7. Steps for balancing the forecasted balance sheet model
  8. Conclusion: Create a balance sheet projection with Cube

What is a balance sheet projection?

A balance sheet projection (also called a balance sheet forecast) is a guide to what a business’s financial situation will look like in the future. The forecasts are based on the current balance sheet.

A balance sheet projection looks at assets, liabilities, and equity. Then it works out three others: cash flow, solvency, and liquidity.

A balance sheet forecast helps business owners and finance teams to make better decisions. A company’s growth plans, investments, and headcount are determined by how healthy the financials are.

Without a balance sheet forecast, a business risks making unsustainable changes it can’t afford in the long term.

Why are balance sheet projections important?

A balance sheet forecast gives businesses an assessment of scaling up, managing operations, and investing in new technologies without overspending.

If the fiscal year isn't going well, the balance sheet forecast gives the FP&A team a chance to correct course and put in place cutbacks to get profitability back on track.

Here’s an example: you want to increase headcount by 10% in the next year, but your projected cash flow isn’t looking too hot. Your business’ liabilities have also gone up. It might be best to put those plans on ice until the company is in a better financial position.

You’ll only know this impact by completing a balance sheet forecast.

Alternate example: you had a bumpier year in sales and your balance sheet projections look healthy, but the global economic situation isn’t great. Now might be the time to put away retained earnings to weather the storm.

If you’re looking to take on new funding, balance sheet projections help communicate with potential investors.

You can instill confidence in your stakeholders by demonstrating an excellent financial track record, with projections to prove it.

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What should I watch out for in a balance sheet projection?

Balance sheet projections are valuable tools, but no forward projection is perfect.

You’ll need to look out for any inaccuracies in the figures, potential risks in the business that could affect the financials, and how it compares to the previous year’s financial performances.

Mismatched or unreliable data

A projection is only as good as the data inputted into it. If there are flaws in the current balance sheets, or they haven’t changed in a while, your projections will not truly reflect your financials.

You may need to adjust the projections and give the model new data if it looks off.

Known future anomalies

While you can’t predict every future risk that might affect your business, you’ll know whether anything on the immediate horizon might impact your balance sheet projections.

If you haven't already, you should factor any red flags into your estimations.

Recent changes that make predictions less certain

Lastly, if you haven’t greatly changed the business, you can compare your current projections to previous fiscal years.

Do they seem accurate? Is there a significant loss or surplus in the estimates you can’t account for?

Looking back at records can give you a more precise picture of the future.

Best practice for balance sheet forecasts

If you want the most accurate forecasting for your business, then your modeling needs to be effective.

These best practices will set you up for success and give your projections a good start.

2+ years of historical data

Context is vital for financials. You need at least two years’ worth of historical data, like cash flow statements, to forecast a balance sheet.

The more data you give it to analyze, the more accurate the reporting will be.

Reclassify GAAP to suit your needs

There’s such a thing as optimizing your data for financial forecasting. While GAAP is for financial statements, your data might be better suited to different categories for your balance sheet projections so that they’re better reflected in the forecasts.

For example, separating and reclassifying long-term debt to short-term debt if a company expects to pay it off in the next year gives a more accurate picture for forecasting.

Use supporting schedules

Sometimes, your balance sheet forecasting needs a little help.

The supplemental information from supporting schedules means your projections can give more insight into the company’s future financial performance. 

An example of a supporting schedule could be detailed on a business's debt. You could include information on the interest rates, repayments and when the debt finishes, so the modeling can factor this data into the projections.

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How to forecast a balance sheet

Now that you know some best practices with balance sheet forecasts, how do you get started?

Forecasting the balance sheet means working out the business’s future financial position—its assets, liabilities, and equity. Each business’s incoming and outgoing finances are unique: look at any planned divestment, acquisitions, or investments on the horizon.

You’ll also need to be mindful of the economic climate and any business operations that could affect your company’s financials.

A typical balance sheet forecast spans 12 months, but your forecast period can be any time you need.

Below, we’ve outlined some core considerations for getting your balance sheet projections up to scratch.

Forecasting cash flow

To run a successful company, you want to know if you're running short on money or doing well. Accurate cash flow forecasts are vital for the rest of your balance sheet projections.

You'll need to use income statement line items to forecast cash flow and predict what sales will look like, plus any short-term expenses you might need to cover for.

Working capital

The best way to start is by forecasting the net working capital, a short-term measure of a company’s financial health. In its simplest form, you’re subtracting the current liabilities from the current assets.

Some working capital may also be sensitive to global market trends and changes to business operations.

For example, if your company relies on importing goods and there’s a geopolitical issue in the region you buy from, your business’s working capital could go up or down.

Assets can include:

  • Cash: Reserves in the bank
  • Accounts Receivable (AR): The amount of short-term money that’s owed from customers for goods and/or services
  • Inventories: Whatever materials a company uses to produce a product, plus any finished products ready to sell
  • Prepaid Expenses: Expenses that have been paid in advance
  • Other Current Assets: Current assets that will be either converted into cash or used up within the next year

Liabilities could look like:

  • Accounts Payable (AP): The amount of short-term money owed by the business to other companies
  • Accrued Expenses: Unpaid expenses for the company
  • Deferred Revenue: Revenue that’s been received by a company but not realized yet
  • Taxes Payable: Taxes owed but not yet paid
  • Other Current Liabilities: Debts that are expected to be paid off in the next 12 months

Fixed assets: PP&E and intangible assets

Long-term fixed assets like machinery and equipment count as PP&E. Intangible assets concern patents, trademarks, and copyrights. The more revenue a company generates, the more PP&E and intangible assets it usually has.

These assets typically last for years, but their value needs to be forecasted yearly due to depreciation. This can make predictions tricky at times, but you can use roll-forward calculations for both to determine the change in any value.

Goodwill is a specialist intangible asset class that comes into play when companies are acquired. It reflects a company’s financial standing with customers, suppliers, investors, or stakeholders.

Unless you’re on a spending spree, it rarely comes into play but it is still good to have on your projected balance sheet.

Debts

In accounting, debt is treated differently because it accrues interest expense whereas liabilities do not. Long-term debt projections are calculated using the opening balance as a starting point, then adding any interest and subtracting repayments.

It’s worth including some disclosure on when the debt is set to be paid off, even if a company plans on borrowing more in the future.

This is because it's assumed that companies are continuously paying off and refinancing debts to maintain a healthy capital structure.

Equities and retained earnings

Once you’ve subtracted the liabilities from the assets, you’re left with the equity. This can include a few different equity types, including shareholder capital, new stock issuance, and common stock.

Stock-based compensation for employees and treasury stock, which is stock repurchased from shareholders, are treated as reductions in equity.

Retained earnings also fall under this category. This is the company’s income that isn’t distributed amongst its shareholders; instead, it's kept aside for lowering debt or reinvesting into the business. It’s a good indicator of how well a company is doing: the more retained earnings it has, the less it needs to rely on outside investment.

Other comprehensive income (OCI) is anything that can’t count as net income, but still needs a place on the balance sheet. This can include items like foreign currency adjustments, or unrealized gains or losses on investments and pension plans.

Other items

A few items in your balance sheet projections may not fit into the other categories. They still need to fit somewhere in the forecasts to get an accurate sense of your company’s financial health.

Deferred taxes are the future tax consequences of events that have already been accounted for in a business’s financial statements.

Tax assets could include deductions yet to be realized, typically tied to revenue projections. Tax liabilities are upcoming tax payments, which typically tie into operations.

Some items don’t have any particular category but must be included in balance sheet forecasts. These could be land holdings or leases, long-term debt, or pension liabilities.

Cash and short-term debt

These two items go hand in hand, as short-term debt can compensate for any projected cash flow shortfall.

To accurately forecast short-term debt, use the cash flow statement projections as a starting point. This will reveal any potential upcoming cash deficits or surpluses. If there’s a cash deficit, short-term debt can fill this gap.

No additional borrowing is needed if the company is projected to be flush with cash to compensate for any cash flow projection shortfall.

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Balance sheet forecast example

Let’s run through a very simple example of what a forecasted balance sheet looks like.

 

Current year

Next year

Assets

   

Cash

$100,000

$120,000

Accounts receivable

$50,000

$60,000

Inventory

$20,000

$25,000

Intangible assets

$30,000

$40,000

TOTAL

$200,000

$245,000

Liabilities

   

Accounts payable

$35,000

$50,000

Long-term debt

$15,000

$25,000

TOTAL

$50,000

$75,000

Equity

   

Shareholder capital

$100,000

$110,000

Retained earnings

$50,000

$60,000

TOTAL

$150,000

$170,000

Each time, the equity is the number of liabilities minus the assets. Your financial model will have more complex needs, but this example shows the core principles of balance sheet projections.

If your figures aren’t adding up, check the next section for tips on fixing your forecasts.

Steps for balancing the model

Now that you’ve sorted the projections, you need to make sure everything matches up, also known as balancing the model.

Balance sheet forecasting fundamentals involve assets, liabilities, and equities. If everything is worked out correctly, the liabilities subtracted from the assets should add up to the remaining equity in the company.

But as you’ll now know, it’s never that straightforward. This can lead to the model needing rebalancing to account for any errors.

Thankfully, careful editing can address any anomalies and bring your balance sheet back into harmony.

Step-by-step process

  1. Check over the completed balance sheet line items. See how they compare to previous financial years and anything in the pipeline. Does it match up? If not, revisit your figures.

  2. Correct any errors. You may need to crunch the numbers again, remove any anomalies or rein in any assumptions in the projections.

  3. Re-run the newly updated numbers to get your new projections. Check them against the benchmarked data again.

  4. Check your cash flow statement and forecast if it still doesn’t match up. This is often the culprit of any errors. For example, if you haven’t accounted for the cash impact of assets affecting revenue growth, this can throw your figures.

Once you’ve balanced the balance sheet forecast, you can continually update the model if the company’s financial situation changes.

This way, you’ll stay on top of your financial projections and be able to make informed business decisions.

Conclusion: Balance sheet forecasting with Cube

Now you know how to create a balance sheet projection.

You also learned why balance sheet forecasting is vital and how it can help you create more accurate financial models.

If you're like the 92% of FP&A teams that use Excel, then you should check out Cube.

Cube handles all the manual labor of organizing, checking, and cleansing your source system data. Plus it makes it easy to pull it into Excel.

Companies of all sizes use Cube and most teams get started in as little as two weeks.

Request a demo to learn more here:

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