Retained Earnings in Accounting and What They Can Tell You

do dividends reduce retained earnings

As an investor, you won’t see the liability entry in the dividend payable account when the dividend is declared. The only thing you’ll notice is the final recording of the reduction in retained earnings and cash. By the time a company releases its financial statements, it’ll have already paid the dividend and recorded it in these two accounts.

do dividends reduce retained earnings

The Retained Earnings account can be negative due to large, cumulative net losses. Dividends and retained earnings are two ways in which a company can allocate its profits. When a company earns profits, it can choose to distribute a portion of those earnings to shareholders as dividends or retain them within the business.

Stock Dividends on the Balance Sheet

By understanding the dynamics and implications of dividends and retained earnings, investors and business owners can make informed decisions to optimize their financial strategies. When a company distributes cash dividends to its shareholders, its retained earnings statement is affected by showing a reduction in the company’s assets. Cash dividends, unlike stock dividends, represent a loss of liquid assets because they reduce the amount of a company’s cash flow.

  1. Retained earnings are typically used for reinvesting in the company, paying dividends, or paying down debt.
  2. On a company’s balance sheet, retained earnings are listed in the shareholder’s equity column, where amounts are carried over from one period to another.
  3. Retained earnings are calculated through taking the beginning-period retained earnings, adding to the net income (or loss), and subtracting dividend payouts.
  4. While paying dividends may enhance shareholder loyalty and provide immediate value to investors, it can limit a company’s ability to fund future growth initiatives.
  5. For instance, if a company pays one share as a dividend for each share held by the investors, the price per share will reduce to half because the number of shares will essentially double.

During the same period, the total earnings per share (EPS) was $13.61, while the total dividend paid out by the company was $3.38 per share. As an investor, one would like to know much more—such as the returns that the retained earnings have generated and if they were better than any alternative investments. Additionally, investors may prefer to see larger dividends rather than significant annual increases to retained earnings.

The schedule uses a corkscrew-type calculation, where the current period opening balance is equal to the prior period closing balance. In between the opening and closing balances, the current period net income/loss is added and any dividends are deducted. For example, if a company has retained earnings of $1 million and decides to pay out $200,000 in dividends, the retained earnings balance will decrease to $800,000. The $200,000 is no longer available for the company to use for future investments, expansion, or debt repayment. It’s important to note that retained earnings can also be impacted by factors such as losses, write-offs, or changes in accounting rules.

Generally speaking, a company with a negative retained earnings balance would signal weakness because it indicates that the company has experienced losses in one or more previous years. However, it is more difficult to interpret a company with high retained earnings. The retained earnings are calculated by adding net income to (or subtracting net losses from) the previous term’s retained earnings and then subtracting any net dividend(s) paid to the shareholders.

Unit 14: Stockholders’ Equity, Earnings and Dividends

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do dividends reduce retained earnings

The purpose of retaining these earnings can be varied and includes buying new equipment and machines, spending on research and development, or other activities that could potentially generate growth for the company. This reinvestment into the company aims to achieve even more earnings in the future. Several factors can influence the effect of dividends on a company’s retained earnings. These factors play a crucial role in determining the amount of retained earnings available for reinvestment in the business. However, when a company pays dividends, it reduces its ability to undertake these growth opportunities. If a company consistently pays out a significant portion of its profits in dividends, it may have limited retained earnings that can be used for reinvestment.


At the end of the period, you can calculate your final Retained Earnings balance for the balance sheet by taking the beginning period, adding any net income or net loss, and subtracting any dividends. An alternative to the statement of retained earnings is the statement of stockholders’ equity. According to FASB Statement No. 16, prior period adjustments consist almost entirely of corrections of errors in previously published financial statements. Corrections of abnormal, nonrecurring errors that may have been caused by the improper use of an accounting principle or by mathematical mistakes are prior period adjustments. Normal, recurring corrections and adjustments, which follow inevitably from the use of estimates in accounting practice, are not treated as prior period adjustments.

Management and Retained Earnings

Beginning period retained earnings are the previous accounting period’s retained earnings carried over to the current accounting period. Corporations reinvest their profits because they expect to earn a significant return on their investments and grow as a result. If a corporation is distributing nearly all its profits, then management has deemed that it is better of in the hands of investors in order to increase ROI somewhere else. Changes in the composition of retained earnings reveal important information about a corporation to financial statement users. A separate formal statement—the statement of retained earnings—discloses such changes. Any item that impacts net income (or net loss) will impact the retained earnings.

These earnings are not distributed to shareholders but are instead kept within the company to finance growth initiatives, repay debt, or build cash reserves. Retained Earnings are reported on the balance sheet under the shareholder’s equity section at the end of each accounting period. To calculate RE, the beginning RE balance is added to the net income or reduced by a net loss and then dividend payouts are subtracted. A summary report called a statement of retained earnings is also maintained, outlining the changes in RE for a specific period. The relationship between dividends and retained earnings is intertwined and plays a crucial role in shaping a company’s financial position and its ability to grow and generate value for shareholders.

April 13, 2023