In the fourth grade, I was out of school with the flu for two weeks and missed the entire unit on long division. I've never caught up. From age nine onward, I've been a word person, not a numbers person, and until recently, I had no hope of embracing the wonderful world of mathematics.
So imagine my surprise when I found myself whizzing through The Accounting Game: Basic Accounting Fresh From the Lemonade Stand, tabulating financial statements with a speed that would make my accountant friends proud. If this book can help me, it can help you. Heck, it can help anyone!
The premise of The Accounting Game is simple: It draws on that quintessential childhood experience, the opening of a lemonade stand. With an inventory of lemons, sugar, and water, the overhead inherent in running the business, and even the diversification that comes with success, each facet of the balance sheet -- indeed, the bones of business -- gets an overview from authors Darrell Mullis and Judith Handler Orloff, who help finger-counters like me put the pieces together with ease.
The best part of this guide is the way it imparts information without making the reader feel like a buffoon for not knowing such details already. At first blush, the lemonade-stand concept would appear to condescend to the adult reader, but in actuality it has the opposite effect. It made me feel comfortable and -- dare I say it? -- excited to learn the balance-sheet concepts I'd tried to hide from for so long.
The authors demystify financial statements and systematically educate their readers with simple illustrations. I suspect I'm like many people in that before reading this book I could read and understand financial statements perfectly fine; I just couldn't maneuver through the numbers myself. Now if I want to see how much cash is on Microsoft's (Nasdaq: MSFT ) balance sheet, or how much long-term debt ExxonMobil (NYSE: XOM ) is carrying, I can do it. It's liberating to have a grasp on the quantitative portion of the statements.
Most importantly, The Accounting Game is inherently Foolish. Mullis and Orloff empower the reader to take control of his or her own financial destiny by understanding not just the theory behind the balance sheet, but also how to create or decipher one from the ground up. This is valuable information, since a better understanding of the balance sheet may well help you analyze popular stocks like Dell (Nasdaq: DELL ) or Home Depot (NYSE: HD ) .
Lastly, the book amuses all the while -- something my fourth-grade math class never did. What's more, it has given me hope that even the most mathematically challenged among us can get up to speed.
And the best part? No long division.
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Hope Nelson-Pope is online coordinating editor at The Motley Fool. She owns shares of Microsoft. You don't need a slide rule to read our disclosure policy.