• Course Introduction

        • Time: 50 hours
        • Free Certificate
        In BUS103: Financial Accounting, we learned that firms are required to keep detailed financial records so that organized reports can be distributed to managers, shareholders, and government regulators. Principles of Finance will focus on what these managers, investors, and government agencies do with this information. It is an introductory course to various fields of finance and is comparable in content to courses that other institutions label as "corporate finance" or "financial management".

        Finance is a broad term; you will find that both managers that compile the financial reports we discussed in financial accounting and stockbrokers working on Wall Street will claim that they work in finance. So what exactly is finance? Finance is the science of fund management. It is distinct from accounting in that, whereas accounting aims at organizing and compiling past information, finance is geared towards deciding what to do with that information.

        In this course, you will be exposed to a number of different sub-fields within finance. You will learn how to determine which projects have the best potential payoff, to manage investments, and even to value stocks. In the end, you will discover that all finance boils down to one concept: return. If I give you money today, how much money will I get back in the future? Though the answer to this question will vary widely from case to case, by the time you finish this course, you will know how to find the answer.

        You will learn how to use financial concepts such as the time value of money, pro forma financial statements, financial ratio analysis, capital budgeting analysis, capital structure, and the cost of capital. This course will also provide an introduction to bonds and stocks. Upon completion of this course, you will understand financial statements, cash flow, time value of money, stocks and bonds, capital budgeting, ratio analysis, and long term financing, and apply these concepts and skills in business decisions.

        First, read the course syllabus. Then, enroll in the course by clicking "Enroll me in this course". Click Unit 1 to read its introduction and learning outcomes. You will then see the learning materials and instructions on how to use them.

      • Unit 1: Introduction to Finance, Financial Statements, and Financial Analysis

        Finance is a broad subject, and financial decisions are all around us. Whether you work on Wall Street or in a small company, finance is vital to every business. Therefore, understanding the fundamentals of finance is vital to your business education. This introductory unit addresses fundamental concepts of finance, stocks, and bonds. Also, Unit 1 exposes the importance of understanding ratios for financial statement analysis and analysis of cash flows. The main ratios explained are: solvency (or liquidity ratios), financial ratios, profitability ratios, and market value ratios. In addition, you will learn about financial growth, what financial factors determine growth, the importance of maintaining a sustainable growth rate, and how to use financial statement information to manage growth. Consider this situation: You are the manager of a small retail chain and your boss has given you the task of deciding whether to invest in a second store. You know that adding a second store means greater potential for growth. However, you also know that adding a new store will require spending cash. Facing this tough decision, how could you determine whether the company can "handle" such an investment? The answer might lie in ratio analysis. This section will explain how to use financial ratios to help you make these types of business decisions.

        Completing this unit should take you approximately 25 hours.

      • Unit 2: Time Value of Money – Future Value, Present Value, and Interest Rates

        Suppose you have the option of receiving $100 dollars today vs. $200 in five years. Which option would you choose? How would you determine which is the better deal? Some of us would rather have less money today vs. wait for more money tomorrow. However, sometimes it pays to wait. Unit 2 introduces the concept of time value of money and explains how to determine the value of money today vs. tomorrow by using finance tools to determine present and future values. Also, Unit 2 exposes the concept of interest rates and how to apply them when multiple periods are considered.

        Completing this unit should take you approximately 8 hours.

      • Unit 3: Capital Budgeting Techniques

        This unit will show you how a financial manager makes capital investment decisions using financial tools. It is especially the case that this unit addresses the concept of capital budgeting and how to evaluate investment projects using the net present value calculations, internal rate of return criteria, profitability index, and the payback period method. In particular, this unit will teach you how to determine which cash flows are relevant (should be considered) when making an investment decision. Say for instance, you have been asked to give your recommendation about buying or not buying a new building. As the financial manager, it is your task to identify cash flows that, in some way or another, affect the value of the investment (in this case the building). Also, this unit explains how to calculate "incremental" cash flows when evaluating a new project, which can also be considered as the difference in future cash flows under two scenarios: when a new investment project is being considered and when it is not. Make sure to complete Unit 2 first before engaging in Unit 3 as this unit is considered the advanced portion using the financial techniques that are explained in Unit 2, such as the present and future value formulas.

        Completing this unit should take you approximately 6 hours.

      • Unit 4: Risk and Return

        Unit 4 provides an explanation of the relationship between risk and return. Every investment decision carries a certain amount of risk. Therefore, the role of the financial manager is to understand how to calculate the "riskiness" of an investment so that he or she can make sound financial and business decisions. For example, you are the financial manager for a large corporation and your boss has asked you to choose between two investment proposals. Investment A is a textile plant in a remote part of a third world country. This plant has the capacity to generate $50 million dollars in yearly profits. Investment B is a textile plant located in the United States, near a small Virginia Town with a rich textile industry tradition. However, investment B's capacity for profits is only $30 million (due to higher start-up and operating costs). You are the financial manager. Which option do you chose? While investment A has the capacity to yield significantly higher profits, there is a great deal of risk that must be taken into consideration. Investment B has a much lower profit capacity, but the risk is also much lower. This relationship between risk and return is explained in this unit. Specifically, you will learn how to compute the level of risk by calculating expected values and the standard deviation. Also, you will learn about handling risk in a portfolio with different investments and how to measure the expected performance of a stock investment when it is being affected by the overall performance of a stock market.

        Completing this unit should take you approximately 3 hours.

      • Unit 5: Corporate Capital Structure, Cost of Capital, and Taxes

        Does it matter whether a company's assets are being financed with 50% from a bank loan and 50% from investors' money? Does that form of capital structure, where 50% of assets comes from debt and 50% from equity, influence how a company succeeds in business? This unit addresses these questions by focusing on the theory of capital structure. Specifically, Unit 5 explains the concept of capital structure and introduces you to the most common formula used when comparing a company's return to the cost of capital: The weighted average cost of capital (WACC). Also, Unit 5 exposes the concept of how tax policy affects a company's true cost of capital.

        Completing this unit should take you approximately 2 hours.

      • Unit 6: Applying the CAPM Model

        This unit puts what you have learned from the previous units about cost of capital, net present value, and risk into one widely used model: The CAPM model. The CAPM model is used to compute a company's costs of capital that can be used in net present value calculations. It has been used in court cases for estimating a company's stock value as with the case of the breakup of AT&T in 1984 that resulted in seven companies. Also, the CAPM model is used in computing stock valuation. This unit will show how the financial manager uses this financial tool to value stock and to determine which stocks are the better options for investors, based on their rates of returns and how they compare to the overall stock market return.

        Completing this unit should take you approximately 2 hours.

      • Study Guide

        This study guide will help you get ready for the final exam. It discusses the key topics in each unit, walks through the learning outcomes, and lists important vocabulary. It is not meant to replace the course materials!

      • Course Feedback Survey

        Please take a few minutes to give us feedback about this course. We appreciate your feedback, whether you completed the whole course or even just a few resources. Your feedback will help us make our courses better, and we use your feedback each time we make updates to our courses.

        If you come across any urgent problems, email contact@saylor.org or post in our discussion forum.

      • Certificate Final Exam

        Take this exam if you want to earn a free Course Completion Certificate.

        To receive a free Course Completion Certificate, you will need to earn a grade of 70% or higher on this final exam. Your grade for the exam will be calculated as soon as you complete it. If you do not pass the exam on your first try, you can take it again as many times as you want, with a 7-day waiting period between each attempt.

        Once you pass this final exam, you will be awarded a free Course Completion Certificate.

      • Saylor Direct Credit

        This credit exam is currently unavailable. The most recent credit recommendation for this exam ended April 30th. We expect to have this exam available again very soon. Please email records@saylor.org with your questions.

        Take this exam if you want to earn college credit for this course. This course is eligible for college credit through Saylor Academy's Saylor Direct Credit Program.

        The Saylor Direct Credit Final Exam requires a proctoring fee of $5. To pass this course and earn a Proctor-Verified Course Certificate and official transcript, you will need to earn a grade of 70% or higher on the Saylor Direct Credit Final Exam. Your grade for this exam will be calculated as soon as you complete it. If you do not pass the exam on your first try, you can take it again a maximum of 3 times, with a 14-day waiting period between each attempt.

        We are partnering with SmarterProctoring to help make the proctoring fee more affordable. We will be recording you, your screen, and the audio in your room during the exam. This is an automated proctoring service, but no decisions are automated; recordings are only viewed by our staff with the purpose of making sure it is you taking the exam and verifying any questions about exam integrity. We understand that there are challenges with learning at home - we won't invalidate your exam just because your child ran into the room!


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        Once you pass this final exam, you will be awarded a Credit-Recommended Course Completion Certificate and can request an official transcript.