A cash flow is a real or virtual movement of money:

  • a cash flow in its narrow sense is a payment (in a currency), especially from one central bank account to another; the term 'cash flow' is mostly used to describe payments that are expected to happen in the future, are thus uncertain and therefore need to be forecast with cash flows;
  • a cash flow is determined by its time t, nominal amount N, currency CCY and account A; symbolically CF = CF(t,N,CCY,A).
  • it is however popular to use cash flow in a less specified sense describing (symbolic) payments into or out of a business, project, or financial product.

Cash flows are narrowly interconnected with the concepts of value, interest rate and liquidity. A cash flow that shall happen on a future day tN can be transformed into a cash flow of the same value in t0.


Cash flow notion is based loosely on cash flow statement accounting standards. The term is flexible and can refer to time intervals spanning over past-future. It can refer to the total of all flows involved or a subset of those flows.

Within cash flow analysis, 3 types of cash flow are present and used for the cash flow statement:

Business' financials

The (total) net cash flow of a company over a period (typically a quarter, half year, or a full year) is equal to the change in cash balance over this period: positive if the cash balance increases (more cash becomes available), negative if the cash balance decreases. The total net cash flow for a project is the sum of cash flows that are classified in three areas: