What is a Good Debt Ratio & How Do I Calculate It?

What is the debt ratio?Debt ratios serve as vital benchmarks for gauging the financial health of businesses. A healthy business strives to maintain a balanced debt ratio, which represents the proportion of debt relative to its total capital. This ratio offers valuable insights into the company’s risk profile and financial stability.

A moderate and sustainable debt ratio indicates that the business has effectively managed its debt obligations while maintaining a solid equity base.

Lenders and investors often view a healthy debt ratio as a sign of prudent financial management, demonstrating the company’s ability to meet its financial commitments and weather economic challenges.

By keeping the debt ratio within a reasonable range, businesses can enhance their capacity to fund growth initiatives and capitalize on market opportunities while safeguarding their overall financial well-being.

What is the debt ratio?

A company’s debt ratio stands as a widely recognized metric signifying its stability. This ratio evaluates the extent to which the company employs debt to fuel its operations in comparison to the available capital or equity. The calculation involves dividing the company’s total liabilities by the aggregate amount of shareholders’ equity.

This equity embodies the company’s net value, representing the hypothetical sum shareholders would receive if the company’s assets were liquidated and all debts settled. Another approach to calculation involves deducting the total liabilities from the total assets, both meticulously documented on the company’s balance sheet.

The resulting value provides insight into the company’s reliance on debt financing. A higher debt ratio indicates a greater dependency on external funding sources, potentially rendering the company less stable in scenarios involving trading challenges or operational intricacies.

Why is the debt ratio important?

Typically, a favorable debt ratio falls within the range of 1 to 1.5. However, the optimal debt ratio is subject to industry dynamics, as different sectors utilize debt financing to varying degrees.

Industries with substantial capital requirements, such as finance and manufacturing, frequently exhibit higher ratios, occasionally surpassing 2.

A heightened debt ratio signifies a business employing debt for expansion. Particularly, capital-intensive industries that channel substantial funds into assets and operations often boast elevated debt ratios.

For lenders and investors, a heightened ratio implies greater risk, as the business may struggle to generate adequate revenue for debt repayment.

Conversely, a lower debt ratio, approaching zero, suggests a business that hasn’t heavily relied on borrowing for operations. Nonetheless, excessively low ratios might discourage investors, hinting that the business isn’t harnessing the potential profits attainable through borrowing to amplify its operations and value.

How to calculate your debt ratio

Calculating your company’s debt ratio involves a straightforward formula. Divide the sum of your total liabilities or debts by the total value of your assets.

Ensure that all relevant elements are considered to provide a comprehensive view of your company’s overall debt exposure, rather than focusing solely on its present obligations.

For instance, if a company possesses assets worth £5 million and carries total debt liabilities amounting to £1,250,000, the debt ratio computes as 25% or 0.25. This calculation aids in quantifying your company’s leverage and its relative debt burden.

What is a good debt to income ratio for a UK business?

Debt ratios exhibit substantial variation across diverse industries and sectors, making it challenging to establish a universally applicable standard for a good debt-to-income ratio.

For instance, consider a SaaS company characterized by steady revenue, minimal employee turnover, and streamlined automation. In this context, a debt-to-income ratio of 40% might be deemed entirely reasonable.

Conversely, a coffee shop or retail business might encounter average debt ratios nearing 60%. This elevated ratio can be attributed to their pronounced initial costs, frequent employee turnover, and unpredictable profit margins.

Instead of pursuing a definitive benchmark, it proves advantageous to delve into industry norms and evaluate your competitors’ debt ratios.

By gauging your position relative to industry standards, you can glean insights into the appropriateness of your debt management strategy and make informed decisions regarding your financial trajectory.

Servicing your debt

When determining the appropriate debt level for your business, it’s crucial to assess your ability to manage the debt load over time. Evaluating the healthiness of your debt involves posing essential questions like the following:

  1. Industry Dynamics: Does your industry inherently demand a significant debt burden to remain competitive and operate efficiently?
  2. Debt Ratio Benchmarking: How does your debt ratio analysis align with similar businesses within your industry? This comparison can offer insights into the appropriateness of your debt level.
  3. Personal Guarantees: Have you personally guaranteed any of the business’s borrowing? While this is a common practice, it exposes you to personal liability if the company faces challenges.
  4. Market Outlook: Is your market poised for potential decline in the near future? Assessing market trends helps anticipate shifts that could impact your ability to service debt.
  5. Interest Rate Sensitivity: Could an increase in interest rates affect your capacity to meet debt obligations? Being mindful of interest rate fluctuations is essential to ensure continued affordability.

It’s worth noting that offering personal guarantees for business loans is customary, yet it does entail the risk of personal accountability should the business encounter financial difficulties. By considering these factors comprehensively, you can make informed decisions about your business’s debt strategy and reduce the potential risks associated with debt management.

Dealing with debt

If you’re grappling with debt-related challenges, there are practical steps you can explore. For more detailed guidance, visit our dedicated “Dealing with Debt” resource.

Additionally, you could explore options like debt consolidation and refinancing to potentially alleviate the strain on your monthly repayments.

Even if you’re not currently facing pressing concerns, it’s prudent to ensure your business maintains an adequate working capital reserve. This precautionary measure is crucial for navigating more demanding trading circumstances effectively.


In conclusion, understanding and managing debt ratios are pivotal aspects of maintaining a healthy financial profile for businesses. While there’s no one-size-fits-all formula, a judicious approach involves aligning debt levels with industry benchmarks, capitalizing on growth opportunities without jeopardizing stability.

By gauging the unique requirements of their sector and evaluating the debt strategies of competitors, businesses can strike a balance that ensures sustainable expansion while mitigating financial risks.

Monitoring debt ratios, adapting as industry landscapes evolve, and making informed decisions will empower businesses to navigate economic challenges, secure investment, and achieve long-term success.

Worried about your businesses debt ration? simply complete the online equity form to discuss your options.

Insolvency & Restructuring Expert at Business Insolvency Helpline | + posts

With over three decades of experience in the business and turnaround sector, Steve Jones is one of the founders of Business Insolvency Helpline. With specialist knowledge of Insolvency, Liquidations, Administration, Pre-packs, CVA, MVL, Restructuring Advice and Company investment.