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Study notes

Finance: Cash Flow Forecast (GCSE)

  • Levels: GCSE
  • Exam boards: AQA, Edexcel, OCR, IB

The cash flow forecast predicts the net cash flows of the business over a future period.

The forecast estimates what the cash inflows into the bank account and outflows out of the bank account will be. The result of the cash flow forecast is an estimate of the bank balance at the end of each period covered (normally this is for each month). An example of a simple cash flow forecast is shown below:

Example of a cash flow forecast

A business uses a cash flow forecast to:

  • Identify potential shortfalls in cash balances – for example, if the forecast shows a negative cash balance then the business needs to ensure it has a sufficient bank overdraft facility
  • See whether the trading performance of the business (revenues, costs and profits) turns into cash.
  • Analyse whether the business is achieving the financial objectives set out in the business plan (which will almost certainly include some kind of cash flow budget)

Why the cash flow forecast is so important

If a business runs out of cash and is not able to obtain new finance, it will become insolvent. It is no excuse for management to claim that they didn't see a cash flow crisis coming.

So in business, "cash is king". Cash flow is the life-blood of all businesses – particularly start-ups and small enterprises. As a result, it is essential that management forecast (predict) what is going to happen to cash flow to make sure the business has enough to survive.

Here are the key reasons why a cash flow forecast is so important:

  • Identifies potential shortfalls in cash balances in advance – think of the cash flow forecast as an "early warning system". This is the most important reason for a cash flow forecast
  • Makes sure that the business can afford to pay suppliers and employees. Suppliers who don't get paid will soon stop supplying the business; it is even worse if employees are not paid on time
  • Spot problems with customer payments – preparing the forecast encourages the business to look at how quickly customers are paying their debts. Note – this is not really a problem for businesses (like retailers) that take most of their sales in cash/credit cards at the point of sale
  • As an important discipline of financial planning – the cash flow forecast is an important management process, similar to preparing business budgets
  • External stakeholders such as banks may require a regular forecast. Certainly if the business has a bank loan, the bank will want to look at cash flow forecasts at regular intervals

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