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Statement of Retained Earnings Explained
Definition, Meaning, Structure, Content, and Example

Business Encyclopedia, ISBN 978-1-929500-10-9. Revised 2014-092-23.

The retained earnings statement shows how \profits are divided between dividends for shareholders and retained earnings

The statement of retained earnings shows how a period's profits are divided between divi-
dends for shareholders and retained earnings, which are kept to accum-
ulate under owners equity on the balance sheet.

Retained earnings are the part of a company’s income kept to accumulate, after dividends are paid. The company’s accumulated retained earnings appear on the Balance Sheet under owner’s equity. Retained earnings are declared each year on a statement of retained earnings. After a profitable period, a company can (at the discretion of its board of directors) pay some of its income to shareholders, as dividends, and keep the remainder as retained earnings.

The statement of retained earnings is one of the four primary financial accounting reports published quarterly and annually by publicly held companies (companies that sell shares of stock to the public). The other three are the income statement, balance sheet, and statement of changes in financial position (SCFP).  

For purposes of financial accounting, a profit making company can do only two things with profit earned: (1) distribute to shareholders (the company owners) as dividends or (2) keep some or all of the profits as retained earnings. Many companies divide profits for both uses each year.

The  statement of retained earnings is sometimes described as a bridge between the Income statement and balance sheet. The statement shows how profits from the period (from the Income statement) are either transferred to the balance sheet, as retained earnings, or to the company's owners (shareholders) as dividends.  

The basic statement of retained earnings equation is as follows:

              Net income   = Preferred stock dividends paid
                                        + Common stock dividends paid
                                        + Retained earnings       
 and, equivalently      
 Retained earnings   = Net income
                                      – Preferred stock dividends paid
                                      – Common stock dividends paid       
Retained earnings, in other words, are the funds remaining from net income after dividends have been  paid to the owners (shareholders). Each period's retained earnings are added to the cumulative total from previous periods, to create the current retained earnings balance.


•  Example statement of retained earnings
•  Retained earnings interface with other financial statements

Example statement of retained earnings

This example statement of retained earnings is from the same set of related company reporting statements used elsewhere in this encyclopedia, including an example income statement, balance sheet and statement of changes in financial position.

Retained earnings statement example

Retained earnings interface with other financial statements

The Statement of retained earnings is the shortest of the four primary financial accounting statements, but it provides the clearest illustration of the interrelated nature of these statements. Every entry in the example above also appears on another of the primary statements.

  • The retained earnings beginning balance appears on the previous period's (end of period) balance sheet, under Owner's Equity.
  • The net income figure is of course the bottom line, or net profit figure from the current period's income statement
  • The dividend payments for preferred and common stock shareholders also appear on the current period's statement of changes in financial position, under Uses of Cash.
  • The end of period retained earnings balance also appears on the current balance sheet under Owner's Equity.

By Marty Schmidt. Copyright © 2004-


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