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How to Create a Personal Cash Flow Statement

by Ryan Guina

There are many ways to measure your financial health. The measurement that probably gets the most attention from personal finance books and news outlets is the personal balance sheet, or net worth statement. Knowing your net worth can be important, but keep in mind that it is a snapshot in time and not necessarily a true indicator of financial health. There are many other factors that affect your financial health, one of which is your cash flow statement, which is a representation of your net monthly cash flow.

You can use your cash flow statement in conjunction with your net worth statement to get a better idea of your overall financial health. Later we will show you how to combine your net worth statement and cash flow statement with a financial risk test and debt analysis which will help you get a more clear picture of your financial health.

Why positive cash flow is important

One of the fundamental building blocks of becoming wealthy is spending less than you earn. It is one of the core concepts of achieving wealth. Your cash flow statement won’t tell you if you will become a millionaire or not, but it can tell you if you are on the right path – hint: you can’t build wealth if you are running on a deficit.

How to Create a Personal Cash Flow Statement

Creating a cash flow statement may remind you of creating a budget. You will need to record all sources of income and all your expenses. Then you will add the final amounts for income and expenses. Just like your net worth statement, a positive number is positive cash flow (good!) and a negative number is negative cash flow (bad!).

Factors to Consider in Personal Cash Flow Statement

A cash flow statement is designed to list all sources of income that affect your cash flow, not just your salary from your day job. Below this section is a list of income streams to consider adding to your cash flow statement. However, you should only add the income sources that are available for spending. For example, investment income and dividends are listed as forms of income, but you wouldn’t list those on your cash flow statement if they are in retirement accounts or are automatically reinvested.

On the same token, you need to record all expenses, including regular and irregular expenses. For example, some of your expenses may come quarterly, semi-annually, or annually. You may wish to break those down into a monthly approximation (examples could include insurance premiums, taxes, homeowner’s association fees, investment contributions, etc.). Groceries and utilities are also expenses that can be approximated to smooth out your cash flow statement.

The following is a list of income sources and expenses that you may wish to include in your personal cash flow statement. You will need to tailor it to your needs.

Income

Earned Income

  • Salary 1
  • Salary 2
  • Bonuses/tips/commissions

Other Income

  • Self-employment income
  • Freelance/consulting income
  • Government benefits (unemployment, disability, VA benefits, welfare, etc.).
  • Child support/alimony
  • Investment Income
  • Interest income
  • Dividends
  • Capital gains
  • Distributions

Retirement Income

  • Pension
  • Social security
  • Annuity
  • Retirement plan distributions (401K, IRA, withdrawals)

Expenses

Fixed Expenses:

  • Mortgage/Rent
  • Car payments
  • Insurance premiums
  • Property Taxes
  • Alimony/Child Support
  • Investment contributions

Variable expenses:

  • Groceries
  • Utilities
  • Medical care
  • Entertainment/hobbies
  • Dining out
  • Maintenance/home or auto
  • Spending money
  • Other

Calculate the Net Cash Flow

Add total income and expenses and you have a personal cash flow statement. If your cash flow statement is positive, then you have some additional cash each month that you can use to help you reach your financial goals (build emergency fund, pay down debt, invest, etc.). If your cash flow statement is negative, then it is time to look for ways to right the ship and turn things around. Look for areas you can trim back on expenses, and ways to increase income.


Published or updated March 13, 2013.
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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Evan

Not sure about you *Ryan* but it also really helps me when I take a step back and also create a corresponding power point flow chart.

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2 Ryan

Not a bad idea. I just use Excel because it’s faster for what I need it to do.

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3 Barb

Hi Ryan,
I agree that a cash flow statement is a good way to see where you are with your income and expenses. I’d like to share a trick that I use to grow our family’s net worth; There is some income that I ignore when creating a cash flow statement so that it appears like we have less income to spend and can increase our savings. For example, I do not include monetary gifts, some consulting income, and any stock dividends in our cash flow tally.
Barb

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4 Ryan

Barb, that is a great idea, and something I touched on in the article. For example, I don’t recommend counting any income that doesn’t go into a general spending fund (most dividends and CDs are either reinvested or remain in the investment account). We also live on our regular salary and don’t use the income from side jobs in our budgeting. It helps us put more money away for retirement or other investment goals.

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5 Ko

Hi, Ryan, thanks for the info
Just wondering are there any limations of personal cash flow statement?

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6 Ryan

None that I can think of. Just customize it to your own personal situation. You may find it more difficult with irregular income, but it’s not impossible to do. Start by listing all stable sources of income and all regular expenses and fill it out from there.

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