Finance is the study of the trade-off between risk and expected return. There are three broad areas of finance: business finance, investments, and financial markets and institutions.
The accounting department creates financial statements, and the finance department implements the firm’s policy objectives, monitors results, and responds to necessary strategic and tactical changes. Finance is responsible for budgeting and forecasting. Finance aids in establishing firm objectives and is responsible for meeting with creditors, lenders, owners, regulators, and other stakeholders that provide capital to the firm or have a claim against firm assets.
Much of the data used in business today has been available for many years. However, data today is more attainable than ever due to technological advancements facilitating a user’s ability to gather, evaluate, and store information faster and more cost effectively than ever. Information is continually available, so the quicker and less expensively firms can adjust to the arrival of new information, the more valuable they become for their stakeholders.
Careers in finance are plentiful, fulfilling, and well compensated. Introductory positions are available in areas such as data collection and data entry. More skill and experience is required for roles such as data analysis and forecasting. Eventually, executive-level positions such as CFO present themselves to the most qualified. Finance careers are not limited to financial firms, as understanding finance is an important skill in government regulatory positions, nonprofit management, and all types of commercial business—from real estate, to retail, to manufacturing, to education.
Financial markets are where buyers and sellers of financial securities come together to trade. The trading of securities allows markets to value assets and signal value as new information arrives. Brokers operate to bring buyers and sellers together and receive commissions. Dealers trade from their own portfolios and are often willing to make markets for specific securities by agreeing to buy or sell at the current bid and ask prices. Financial intermediaries actually change or create new financial products.
Economics is the study of the allocation of scarce resources. Economists attempt to understand the how and why of human, physical, and financial capital allocation. Microeconomics is the study of factors affecting an individual’s consumption, and macroeconomics is the study of all the aggregate factors affecting an economy. Economics is important in finance due to the number of economic variables critical to good financial forecasting.
Maturity is one method to differentiate among financial instruments. Using this methodology, we have money markets and capital markets. Money markets consist of short-term marketable securities, and capital markets focus on longer-term securities such as bonds and stocks.
The concepts of time and value involve the resolution of conflict between consumption now versus consumption later. Time and value represent the trade-off between risk and expected return. Many financial exercises examine the relationships among time, interest rates, risk, cash flows now, and cash flows in the future. You can expect to solve several “time value of money” problems before you complete this book.