The debt to equity ratio (D/E) is a financial ratio indicating the relative proportion of equity and debt used to finance a company's assets. It is equal to total liabilities divided by shareholders' equity. The two components are often taken from the firm's balance sheet or statement of financial position (so-called book value), but the ratio may also be calculated using market values for both, if the company's debt and equity are publicly traded, or using a combination of book value for debt and market value for equity.

Preferred shares can be considered part of debt or equity. Attributing preferred shares to one or the other is partially a subjective decision but will also take into account the specific features of the preferred shares.

When used to calculate a company's "financial leverage" the debt usually includes only the Long Term Debt (LTD). Quoted ratios can even exclude the current portion of the LTD. The composition of equity and debt and its influence on the value of the firm is much debated and also described in the Modigliani-Miller theorem.

Financial analysts and stock market quotes will generally not include other types of liabilities, such as accounts payable, although some will make adjustments to include or exclude certain items from the formal financial statements. Adjustments are sometimes also made to, for example, exclude intangible assets, and this will affect the formal equity; debt to equity will therefore also be affected.

Financial economists and academic papers will usually refer to all liabilities as debt, and the statement that equity plus liabilities equals assets is therefore an accounting identity (it is, by definition, true). Other definitions of debt to equity may not respect this accounting identity, and should be carefully compared.

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Author's Bio: 

This definition is part of a series that covers the topic of Debt and Debt Consolidation. The Official Guide to Debt and Debt Consolidation is Leo J. Quinn. Leo J. Quinn, Jr. has been teaching and motivating people all around the world to get out of debt as quickly as possible. His best-selling book, “How To Own Your Paycheck Again”, has transformed literally thousands of financial lives. He also authors a lively weekly newsletter and is a much sought-after speaker for self-help and marketing seminars. One of Leo's most important goals is to help people improve their overall attitude about money or their "Moneytude" as he calls it.

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