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Cash Equivalents


Cash equivalents are short-term, highly liquid investments that are easily convertible to known amounts of cash and have very low risk of a change in value. Typically, they have a maturity period of three months or less. Examples of cash equivalents include money market funds, U.S. Treasury bills, and commercial paper.


The phonetic pronunciation of the keyword “Cash Equivalents” would be: kæʃ ɪˈkwɪvələnts

Key Takeaways

  1. Cash Equivalents are short-term, highly liquid investments that can be quickly converted into cash, usually within 90 days.
  2. Examples of cash equivalents include money market funds, short-term government bonds, and commercial paper.
  3. They are typically low-risk and low-return investments, suitable for businesses and individuals seeking to temporarily park cash while minimizing risk.


Cash equivalents are an important concept in business and finance as they represent short-term, highly liquid investments that can be readily converted into cash with minimal risk of fluctuating in value. They provide insights into a company’s liquidity and its capacity to meet short-term financial obligations, such as paying off debts, payroll, and operational expenses. By considering cash equivalents alongside cash, financial professionals gain a more accurate picture of an organization’s overall financial health, which is crucial for decision-making, investment, and risk management purposes. Additionally, cash equivalents are often considered when calculating key financial ratios, such as the current ratio and quick ratio, which are used to assess a company’s liquidity and operational efficiency.


Cash equivalents play a crucial role in the financial stability and liquidity of a company. These are short-term, highly liquid investments that can be readily converted into cash with minimal risk of losing value. The primary purpose of these investments is to provide businesses with a secure place to park their excess funds, while still being readily accessible in case of unexpected financial needs or short-term obligations. In essence, cash equivalents act as a safety cushion, enabling companies to be more agile in managing financial commitments while maintaining a healthy cash flow. The use of cash equivalents is not only essential for corporations but also for individual investors. It allows them to maintain diversified portfolios without compromising liquidity. Some examples of cash equivalents are treasury bills, commercial papers, money market funds, and short-term government bonds, which usually have a maturity period of three months or less. Cash equivalents play a pivotal role in financial planning and forecasting, as they are factored into various liquidity metrics such as the current ratio and quick ratio. These metrics help businesses and investors evaluate the ability of an entity to meet short-term obligations with assets that can be easily converted into cash, mitigating financial risks and ensuring operational continuity.


Cash equivalents are short-term, highly liquid investments that can be easily converted into a known amount of cash, usually within three months or less. They are considered secure and low-risk investments. Three real-world examples of cash equivalents include: 1. Treasury Bills: Also known as T-Bills, these are short-term debt securities issued by the government with maturity periods ranging from a few days to 52 weeks. They are considered low-risk investments due to the backing of the government. Investors purchase T-Bills at a discount, and their profit is the difference between the purchase price and the face value at maturity when they’re paid back by the government. 2. Commercial Paper: This is a type of short-term, unsecured debt instrument issued by corporations, typically with maturity periods of up to 270 days. Commercial paper is often used by businesses to meet short-term financial needs and is usually issued at a discount, similar to Treasury bills. The risk of commercial paper depends on the creditworthiness of the issuing corporation, but generally, it is considered a low-risk investment. 3. Money Market Funds: These are mutual funds that invest in short-term, low-risk debt securities such as Treasury bills, commercial paper, and certificates of deposits (CDs). Money market funds aim to maintain a stable net asset value (NAV) and provide investors with interest income while preserving their initial capital. Money market funds are often used by individual investors and institutions as a cash management tool due to their high liquidity and low risk.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

What are cash equivalents?
Cash equivalents are short-term, highly liquid investments that can be easily converted into a known amount of cash, typically with a maturity period of three months or less. Examples include treasury bills, commercial paper, money market funds, and short-term government bonds.
Why are cash equivalents important for a business?
Cash equivalents play a crucial role in a company’s financial management as they provide a high level of liquidity, allowing businesses to easily meet short-term financial obligations, cover unexpected expenses, or capitalize on investment opportunities when they arise.
How are cash equivalents reported on a financial statement?
Cash equivalents are reported in a company’s balance sheet under the current assets section, usually grouped together with cash. This classification is important as it highlights the company’s liquid resources available for immediate use.
How do cash equivalents differ from cash?
While cash refers to physical currency and bank deposit balances, cash equivalents are short-term investments that can be quickly converted into cash with minimum risk of change in value. Both are liquid assets but cash equivalents have generally higher returns compared to cash, due to the interest earned.
Are cash equivalents considered safe investments?
Cash equivalents are generally considered low-risk investments due to their short maturities and high credit quality. However, they are not entirely risk-free and may still be subject to market changes, credit risk, or interest rate fluctuations. It is important to take such risks into consideration when managing cash equivalents in a portfolio.
What factors should be considered when selecting cash equivalents?
When choosing cash equivalents, consider factors such as maturity period, credit quality, yield, and liquidity. It is essential to ensure that the investment aligns with the company’s risk tolerance and financial objectives while providing sufficient liquidity and minimal capital loss risk.
Can individual investors hold cash equivalents?
Yes, individual investors can include cash equivalents in their portfolios. These investments can be beneficial for anyone seeking short-term, low-risk options to preserve capital, provide liquidity, or diversify their investment mix. Some common cash equivalents for individual investors include money market funds and short-term government bonds.

Related Finance Terms

  • Short-term investments
  • Liquidity
  • Money market funds
  • US Treasury bills
  • Commercial paper

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