The Definition of a Figure
By Bill Oakey
September 4, 2013
In order to become proficient in the field of accounting, one must master the art of figuring out what a figure is. Figures are everywhere. They just don’t seem to ever go away. Especially the ones we don’t like, the ones that don’t balance, and the ones that linger around too long and haunt us.
Just what exactly is a figure anyway, and what do accountants use them for?
That of course depends on where it came from, who came up with it, and what you are trying to prove with it at the time. The best way to understand figures is to sort them into types first. Here are a few:
1. Actual Figure – A figure that actually got where it is. It may or may not belong there, but if you rub your eyes and look again and it’s still there, it’s an actual figure.
2. Pure Figure – A single figure that is pulled from a group of figures that everybody likes. Not to be confused with true figures.
3. True Figure – A figure that appears to be correct, but in an embarrassing sort of way. Nobody else in the office likes it. Usually needs to be adjusted. Not to be confused with correct figures.
4. Correct Figure – Any figure that balances to any other figure. It is possible for either pure figures or true figures not to balance. In that case, do not use them. Always use correct figures, especially if they look familiar.
5. Familiar Figure – A figure that looks right because you remember seeing it somewhere else before. Especially useful when trying to arrive at realistic figures.
6. Realistic Figure – A figure that comes out the way it is expected to. Should always be used on official reports.
7. Accurate Figure – A figure that bothers you because you can’t find anything wrong with it. Be extremely careful when using one, especially if it balances the first time you try. It may or may not be a firm figure.
8. Firm Figure – A figure that you have to go with. Either it is too late to change it, or its effect on the person sitting next to you hasn’t been discovered yet.
9. Perfect Figure – One that makes the boss happy. Never question it.
10. Final Figure – The kind that we only see once in a lifetime. We can all count on it. It’s the one that’s assessed by our undertaker. Even if it’s out of whack, we can rest assured that it will go away and never bother us again.
Dead Serious Note: If you were considering settling into your final resting place in a City of Austin cemetery, you might want to do it before the end of September. The friendly folks at City Hall are planning hefty fee increases for all cemetery services, effective October 1st. Your final figure could be 30% more, or even higher, if you don’t act quickly to avoid letting their unaffordable policies follow you to your grave. (For the complete list of cemetery fee increases, see www.austintexas.gov/edims/document.cfm?id=191684)