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Illiquid vs. Insolvent: What Sets Them Apart?

By May 3, 2022June 17th, 2024Blog6 min read

The comparison of illiquidity vs. insolvency is a complicated topic. Illiquid assets are assets that are not easily liquidated when the company needs cash. This type of asset includes property that does not represent the company’s core product or service. The sale of such assets may result in a lower price than the asset’s fair market value. Insolvent companies are not usually able to pay their debts because they have illiquid assets. However, illiquid companies have some assets that they must liquidate quickly to prevent bankruptcy.

In this article, we’ll cover the definition of these two terms. We’ll also explore when a company’s assets become illiquid and why it is so important to know the difference between illiquid and insolvent. Let’s begin!

What does Insolvent mean?

Insolvent assets are the ones that are not worth their value. A company can be insolvent if it lacks liquid assets to pay its creditors. Liquid assets are those that are not quickly evaporated or sunk. This type of asset is a crucial part of any company’s balance sheet, as it is the only one that is fluid. A company must conduct a thorough asset valuation to figure out its liquid assets in order to survive bankruptcy.

What is Insolvency?

Insolvency is defined as a situation in which a debtor is unable to pay their debts at the maturity dates. There are two main types of insolvency: cash flow and balance sheet insolvency.

  • A cash flow insolvency refers to a company having negative cash flow, making it impossible for the company to pay its creditors as they become due.
  • A balance sheet insolvency is where a company has negative net assets, i.e., its liabilities exceed its assets. Corporate entities usually go through this type of insolvency before filing for bankruptcy.

What does Illiquid mean?

Illiquid assets are those that can be difficult to sell. This means they may not be worth as much as their price suggests, and the market may be less accessible. Additionally, these types of assets often require a large minimum investment size, making them inaccessible to the average retail investor or moderate-net-worth individual.

Aside from the drawbacks, illiquid assets can be worthwhile long-term investments. The resulting higher yield can help investors reduce the impact of inflation on their investments. Real estate is an excellent example of an illiquid asset. This investment type can increase in value over time, reducing the effect of inflation. In addition to being less liquid than stocks, real estate is also suitable for investors who are looking for a passive cash-flow source.

What is Illiquidity?

Illiquidity, or lack of liquidity, is the condition that is most common for failing businesses. Companies in illiquidity are not viable for short-term needs, and they don’t have immediate operational opportunities to turn them around. While there are various ways to solve the issue of illiquidity, there are fewer options for companies in insolvency.

The best way to determine if a company is illiquid is to understand the financial obligations of each individual employee and shareholder. Some companies may require solvency opinions from independent financial analysts to help them make the necessary payments.

The Difference Between Illiquid and Insolvent

When a business cannot pay its bills when they fall due, it is considered insolvent. Insolvency occurs when the total value of a company’s liabilities exceeds the value of its assets, i.e., it has more debt than it has liquid assets. Liquidity is a crucial part of a company’s stability, and it demonstrates the ability to pay its debts, sell its assets, and generate cash flow. The “Quick Ratio” is a valuable tool for assessing liquidity.

A comprehensive valuation for companies can create more money opportunities to cover losses, but they cannot do so if they have a large number of indebted customers. These companies have an incredibly high debt-to-asset ratio, meaning they have a lot of debt to pay, so they cannot use temporary funds to meet these obligations.

Whether a company is liquid or illiquid depends on its profitability. While the latter reflects a company’s ability to meet its financial obligations, insolvent companies may have assets that are inherently illiquid. Such assets include real estate, antiques, and private company interests. Some illiquid assets are not readily available on the market and may have few buyers.

Understanding When Illiquid Becomes Insolvent

The insolvency process is when a company or person becomes unable to pay their debts. This process may include liquidation, voluntary administration, or receivership programs. There are many types of illiquid assets, such as collectibles, real estate, private equity, and some debt instruments. Some illiquid assets are not traded on stock exchanges and have few buyers.

This distinction between illiquidity vs. insolvency is helpful as a counterfactual proposition. While insolvency may be the best course of action for a business, understanding when illiquid becomes insolvent requires a theoretical framework to address the relevant counterfactual questions.


Understanding the difference between illiquid and insolvent can help you determine which companies are most vulnerable to financial disasters. Generally, an illiquid company cannot service its principal with cash flow from operations and must instead rely on the sale of assets. In such a scenario, a minor hit to operations or the value of the assets can force a firm into bankruptcy.

To distinguish between illiquid vs. insolvent, you need to understand the business models and financial obligations of the company. It is also essential to understand whether the firm has bank debt or not, as this could be an indicator of its solvency.

Irrespective of their volatility, illiquid assets are an excellent way to diversify your investment portfolio and build a hedge against market uncertainty. However, it’s essential to keep in mind that the rigid nature of illiquid assets depends on the rest of your portfolio, so make sure you consider your risk tolerance before investing in them. Then, make sure you consider the benefits and drawbacks of each type of investment and decide which is right for you.

RNC is a well-known and respected name in providing techno-commercial services such as Valuation Consulting & Allied Services, Insurance Survey & Loss Assessment, Insurance Advisory Services, and Corporate Finance & Deal Advisory Services. Get in touch with us to know more.

Also Read : Valuation of Goodwill in Mergers and Acquisitions: Approaches, Challenges, and Best Practices