How many times have you flipped to the back of a company's annual report or 10-K and found yourself blankly staring at dozens, or even hundreds, of pages of numbers and tables?

You know that these should be important to your investment decision, but you're not quite sure what they mean or where to begin.

When you are looking at numbers like these, there's a good chance you are looking at a company's balance sheet.

What is a balance sheet? Why does it matter? Why are professional investors so obsessed with studying it, and even more importantly, how are they able to use that analysis to reduce their portfolio risk and make better, safer decisions when it comes to putting their own money to work?

In this investing lesson, I'm going to help you answer some of those questions by teaching you the basics of balance sheet analysis.

Smart investors have always known that financial statements are among the keys to understanding a company.

The balance sheet, especially when reviewed in conjunction with the other accounting records and disclosures, can warn of many potential problems.

By deciding that you are going to read this lesson, you have taken the first step on the road towards financial statement fluency.

The Role of the Balance Sheet In the Financial Statements

For every business, there are three important financial statements you must examine:

The Balance Sheet - The balance sheet tells investors how much money a company or institution has (assets), how much it owes (liabilities), and what is left when you net the two together (net worth, book value, or shareholder equity).  In this lesson, we are going to learn to analyze a balance sheet.
•资产负债表——资产负债表告诉投资者一家公司或机构有多少钱（资产）、欠多少钱（负债）、二者加一起剩多少（净值、账面价值或股东权益）。这一课我们要学会分析资产负债表。

The Income Statement - The income statement is a record of the company's profitability. It tells you how much money a corporation made (or lost).
•损益表——损益表记录公司收益，告诉你公司赚（或亏）多少钱。

The Cash Flow Statement - The cash flow statement is a record of the actual changes in cash compared to the income statement. It shows you where the cash was brought in and where the cash was disbursed.
•现金流量表——相比损益表，现金流量表记录现金的实际变化，体现现金流入来源和去向。

Accounting is the language of business and these three financial statements, the balance sheet among them, are the report card. From the balance sheet, we can learn:

How much debt the business has relative to its equity
•相对于权益该产品有多少负债

How quickly customers are paying their bills.
•客户支付账单的速度

Whether short-term cash is declining or increasing.
•短期现金正在减少还是增加

The percentage of assets that are tangible (factories, plants, machinery) and how much comes from accounting transactions.
•有形资产（工厂、车间、机器）比重以及有多少来自财务交易

Whether products are being returned at higher-than-average historical rates.
•产品返厂率是否高于历史平均比率。

How many days it takes, on average, to sell the inventory the business keeps on hand.
•该公司卖出手里的库存平均要多少天。

Whether the research and development budget is producing good results.
•产品研发预算是否花得其所

Whether the interest coverage ratio on the bonds is declining.
•债券利息补偿率是否在下降

The average interest rate a company is paying on its debt.
•公司还债的平均利率

Where profits are being spent or reinvested.
•赚得的利润花在哪儿或重新投在哪儿

（翻译：菲菲）