What is Owner’s Equity and How is it Calculated?


Owner’s equity is one of the most important figures on a company’s balance sheet, representing the amount of a company’s value that can be claimed by its shareholders. Owner’s equity has important implications for the company, especially in the case of liquidation. In this article, we’ll discuss what owner’s equity is, how it’s calculated, and everything else you’ll need to know.

What is Owner’s Equity?

Broadly speaking, the term “equity” means ownership. And in the case of companies, owner’s equity is the amount of a company that’s owned by the shareholders. It’s the difference between a company’s assets and liabilities, both of which can be found on the balance sheet.

In the case of a liquidation, the owner’s equity is the amount that would be returned to the shareholders after the debts have been paid off. It’s the difference between a company’s assets and liabilities.

Owner’s equity may also be considered to be the book value of a company, or the amount that it’s worth on paper. This figure is made up of more than just the amount that shareholders have invested in the company. It also includes the company’s profits.

Owner’s equity can be either positive or negative. If a company has a positive owner’s equity, it means that in the case of liquidation, it would be able to pay off its debts and still return some capital to its shareholders. However, a company’s owner’s equity can also be negative, which means the company doesn’t have enough to pay off its debts. Over a prolonged period, a negative owner’s equity is considered insolvency. And for an investor, putting your money into a company with negative owner’s equity would generally be considered a high-risk move.

It’s worth noting that this equity may be called different things depending on the company. Sole proprietorships, partnerships, and limited liability companies often use the term owner’s equity to describe the value of the company that owners have a claim to. In the case of publicly-traded companies and others that sell stocks, you’re more likely to hear the term shareholder equity or stockholder equity.

Components of Owner’s Equity

A company’s equity can be broken down into several different components. These are often separately listed on the balance sheet.

1. Outstanding shares

Outstanding shares refers to both the common stock and preferred stock a company has that’s currently owned by shareholders.

2. Retained earnings

When companies earn a profit, they have the option of distributing them to owners, either in the form of an owner’s distribution for private companies or as dividends for public companies. When a company chooses not to distribute those profits, they remain within the company and are considered retained earnings. Companies often reinvest them for continued growth.

3. Treasury stock

Treasury stock refers to those shares a company has repurchased from its investors. Companies may buy back these shares as a way of creating more value for the rest of their shareholders since it increases the value of each other slice of ownership.

4. Paid-in capital

Paid-in capital refers to the amount that investors paid for shares above and beyond the par value listed in the company’s corporate charter.

How is Owner’s Equity Calculated?

As we mentioned, owner’s equity is the difference between a company’s assets and liabilities. It’s calculated using the following calculation:

Owner’s Equity = Total Assets – Total Liabilities

Both assets and liabilities can be found on a company’s balance sheet, making it easy for anyone to find the necessary figures and calculate its owner’s equity.

Balance Sheet

As we mentioned, assets and liabilities are reported on a company’s balance sheet. This document is one of the financial statements a company must file with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). It’s one of the most important documents available to investors and analysts to help them determine a company’s financial health. For public companies, the latest balance sheets can always be found in the EDGAR database maintained by the SEC.

Assets & Liabilities

Owner’s equity is calculated using a company’s assets and liabilities, but what exactly does that include. Generally speaking, it’s what a company owns and what it owes, similar to an individual’s net worth.

A company’s assets generally include the following:

Cash and cash equivalents
Marketable securities
Accounts receivable
Long-term investments
Property, plant, & equipment
Intangible assets

A company’s liabilities generally include:

Business debt
Accounts payable
Pension reserves
Customer prepayments
Deferred tax liability

An Example of Owner’s Equity

Suppose a local furniture store is creating its balance sheet and calculating its owner’s equity. The company has roughly $125,000 in assets, most of which are made up by its inventory, storefront, and cash reserves. It also has a number of liabilities, including accounts payable, wages owed, and an outstanding business loan. The balance sheet might look something like the one below.

Furniture Store ABC

Balance Sheet as of December 31, 2021


          Cash & cash equivalents


          Property, plant, & equipment

Total Assets


          Accounts payable

          Wages payable

          Business loan

Total Liabilities

Owner’s Equity


As you can see in the example above, the furniture store in our example has $50,000 of owner’s equity. If the company is a sole proprietorship or individually-owned limited liability company, then the owner’s equity is made up entirely of one individual’s ownership in the company. However, in the case of a publicly-traded company, it would consist of all shareholder equity, which can include common stock, preferred stock, and more.

Dig Deeper

What’s included in OE?

Owner’s equity is calculated using all of a company’s assets and liabilities, meaning anything it owns minus everything it owes.

Can an OE be negative?

Yes, a company’s owner’s equity can be negative, which generally means the company doesn’t have enough assets to pay for its debts and is insolvent.

What is an OE interest?

If someone has an equity interest in the company, it means they either own the business or are a shareholder who has purchased a slice of ownership.

What factors affect OE?

The two factors that directly affect the owner’s equity are a company’s assets and liabilities. However, there are far more factors that affect those two components, including the amount of profit it has earned and retained, the amount it has borrowed from others, the amount owners have taken out of the business, and more.

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Author is not a client of Personal Capital Advisors Corporation and is compensated as a freelance writer.

The content contained in this blog post is intended for general informational purposes only and is not meant to constitute legal, tax, accounting or investment advice. Compensation not to exceed $500. You should consult a qualified legal or tax professional regarding your specific situation. Keep in mind that investing involves risk. The value of your investment will fluctuate over time and you may gain or lose money. Any reference to the advisory services refers to Personal Capital Advisors Corporation, a subsidiary of Personal Capital. Personal Capital Advisors Corporation is an investment adviser registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Registration does not imply a certain level of skill or training nor does it imply endorsement by the SEC.

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