18. Warren Buffett’s 1st Rule – What is the Current Ratio and the Debt to Equity Ratio

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In this lesson, students learned the importance of investing in vigilant leaders. A vigilant leader is a manager that won’t put your business in dangerous situations. Business are just like people you know. You probably have friends that take enormous financial risks and as a result find themselves in a lot of debt. Business are no different.

Right now, there a businesses around the world that manage their debt very poorly. The best way to identify these types of businesses is through the two tools you learned in this lesson; the Debt to Equity Ratio and the Current Ratio.

The Debt to Equity ratio is found on the balance sheet. To calculate the number, simply divided the total debt by the equity and it will give you the ratio. This ratio is very important because it shows a potential owner (or shareholder) how much leverage a company has on it’s business. The lower the ratio is, the better for you as an owner. When Warren Buffett invests in stocks, he typically likes to find debt to equity ratios that are lower than (0.50). Depending on the specific sector, his tolerance for debt to equity may increase, but generally speaking this is the ratio he uses.

The Current ratio is also found on the balance sheet. To calculate the number, simply divided the current assets by the current liabilities. The Current assets are the cash or other assets the company will likely convert to cash during the next 12 months. Likewise, the current liabilities are the debts that the company must pay in the next 12 months. By comparing these two figures, a potential owner gets a great idea if the company will need to incur debt within the next 12 months. If the current ratio is a 1.0, that means the company’s current assets and liabilities are equal. A number lower than 1.0 is bad and it means the company will most likely incur debt within the next 12 months. A number above 1.0 means the company’s assets will exceed the liabilities. This is a good thing and what you want to find in a business.

When Warren Buffett looks for a company to buy, he always tries to find a company with a current ratio above 1.5.