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Assets vs liabilities: Building your financial foundation

Are you confused about assets and liabilities in finance? Let’s break it down simply. 

Assets are valuable resources you own, like cash, property or investments, that can generate income. Liabilities, on the other hand, are amounts you owe to others, such as loans, bills or mortgages. 

Understanding this crucial difference is critical to managing your finances effectively. Today’s article will dive deep into the concepts of assets and liabilities and their differences. Let’s begin!

What are assets and liabilities?


If a person, business, or nation owns or controls a resource with economic worth, which creates future benefits, then that resource is considered an asset. Businesses can increase their worth or improve their operations by purchasing or building assets, listed on the balance sheet. 

Valuable assets are those that have the potential to provide income that one can exchange for monetary value. Things like machinery are one example of tangible assets. 

There are several types of assets, including those with a shorter time horizon, those that are location-specific, those that are financial investments, and those that are intangible.


Some examples of personal assets are a house, a piece of property, ornamental jewellery, works of art, or even your checking account. Assets for a company may involve things like automobiles, commercial property, equipment, tools, funds, and accounts receivable.

Even though they are not tangible, non-physical assets (intangible assets) generate income. They are a significant category of assets, including royalty payments, contracts, and intellectual property. 


A person’s or business’s liability is the amount of money they owe another party. Economic benefits such as cash, products, or services can be transferred over time to fulfil financial obligations or liabilities.

Liabilities are unfinished or unpaid obligations between parties. The temporality of a liability determines whether it is considered current or non-current. In general, current obligations are those with a maturity date of twelve months or less, and non-current liabilities are those with a longer maturity date. 


Deferred income, advances, accounts payable, debts, bonds, warranties, and accrued costs are all examples of liabilities. 

Difference between assets and liabilities

MeaningThese are resources owned by a company and have future economic value.These are obligations of a company that require settlement in the future.
TypesCurrent, Non-current, Tangible, and intangibleCurrent, Non-current, and Contingent
Assets vs liabilities examplesCash, inventory, property, equipment, and trademarksLoans, accounts payable, mortgages, and deferred revenues
Impact on net worthIncreases net worthDecreases net worth

Understanding asset liability management

Asset/liability management is the practice of controlling the use of assets and cash flows to reduce the risk of financial loss due to the failure to make timely payments on liabilities.  

Assets and debts that are well-handled help a business make greater profits. Portfolios of bank loans and pension plans are prevalent examples of entities using an asset/liability management approach. 

Allocating assets strategically, reducing risk, and adjusting capital and regulatory frameworks are all aspects of asset and liability management. Financial institutions may maximise their investment returns and boost profitability by carefully managing the surplus that remains after assets have been matched against liabilities.

A complete ALM system ensures there is enough working capital, manages credit quality, and keeps liquidity needs in check so the business can be stable and profitable in the long term. 

At its core, ALM is a framework-based, coordinated process that monitors a company’s entire balance sheet, setting it apart from other risk management approaches. The system ensures the business has invested the funds effectively and that the risks are reduced in the long run.

ALM strategies rely on macro-level risk reduction and asset management, particularly addressing financing, liquidity, and market challenges. Banking organisations, pensions, asset management, and insurance sectors are among those that have adopted ALM methods.


When you understand the difference between assets and liabilities, you step towards financial stability. By making informed choices to grow your assets while prudently minimising your liabilities, you lay a strong foundation for long-term financial security and peace of mind. Embrace this knowledge as a guiding principle in your financial journey.


What are the 3 types of assets?

In India, assets are classified based on convertibility, physical existence, and usage. The three types are: 
Current assets (can be easily converted into cash, like cash and receivables), 
Non-current assets (long-term investments that cannot be quickly converted into cash, like property, equipment), 
Operating assets (used in primary business operations). 
Both tangible assets, like machinery, and intangible assets, like patents, also fall under these categories.

What is the goal of ALM?

Asset Liability Management (ALM) in India is a strategic approach to managing financial risks associated with a financial institution’s assets and liabilities. It aims to ensure the institution’s sustainability by managing liquidity risks, market risks, and interest rate risks. 
The focus is on ensuring that the institution can meet its short-term obligations without incurring unacceptable losses, protecting it from fluctuations in the market that could affect asset values, and mitigating the impact of interest rate changes on assets and liabilities.

What are the three pillars of ALM?

ALM is vital for maintaining profitability and long-term viability, especially in the dynamic financial market conditions prevalent in India. The three pillars of ALM in India are:
ALM information systems: These systems ensure the accuracy, adequacy, and timeliness of data, which is fundamental for effective ALM.
ALM organisation: This defines the structure and responsibilities within the institution, ensuring that there is a clear hierarchy and accountability.
ALM process: This encompasses risk identification, measurement, and management, forming the core activities of ALM.

What are various types of liabilities?

In India, liabilities are categorised to reflect a company’s financial obligations and its preparedness to meet them. The categories are current liabilities (short-term obligations that are due within a year), non-current liabilities (long-term financial commitments that are not due within the current fiscal year), and contingent liabilities (potential obligations that may arise from future events, like lawsuits).

Is equity a liability?

Equity is not considered a liability in India. It signifies the shareholders’ residual claim over the company’s assets once all liabilities have been paid off. Equity reflects the true value that would be returned to shareholders in the event of liquidation and is an indicator of the financial health and stability of a company. It is the foundation upon which the trust of investors is built, representing the net worth or book value of the company.

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