Accounting Principles Underlying Asset Measurement

An asset is any resource that has the potential to either generate future cash inflows or reduce future cash outflows. While that is a general definition broad enough to cover almost any kind of asset, accountants add a caveat that for a resource to be an asset.

A firm has to have acquired it in a prior transaction and be able to quantify future benefits with reasonable precision. The accounting view of asset value is to a great extent grounded in the notion of historical cost, which is the original cost of the asset, adjusted upwards for improvements made to the asset since purchase and downwards for the loss in value associated with the aging of the asset. This historical cost is called the book value. While the generally accepted accounting principles for valuing an asset vary across different kinds of assets, three principles underlie the way assets are valued in accounting statements.

• An Abiding Belief in Book Value as the Best Estimate of Value: Accounting estimates of asset value begin with the book value. Unless a substantial reason is given to do otherwise, accountants view the historical cost as the best estimate of the value of an asset.

• A Distrust of Market or Estimated Value: When a current market value exists for an asset that is different from the book value, accounting convention seems to view this market value with suspicion. The market price of an asset is often viewed as both much too volatile and too easily manipulated to be used as an estimate of value for an asset. This suspicion runs even deeper when values are is estimated for an asset based upon expected future cash flows.

• A Preference for under estimating value rather than over estimating it: When there is more than one approach to valuing an asset, accounting convention takes the view that the more conservative (lower) estimate of value should be used rather than the less conservative (higher) estimate of value. Thus, when both market and book value are available for an asset, accounting rules often require that you use the lesser of the two numbers.

Lessons From The Intelligent Investor

Lessons From The Intelligent Investor

If you're like a lot of people watching the recession unfold, you have likely started to look at your finances under a microscope. Perhaps you have started saving the annual savings rate by people has started to recover a bit.

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