Due to its ease of use, payback period is a common method used to express return on investments, though it is important to note it does not account for the time value of money. If opening the new stores amounts to an initial investment of $400,000 and the expected cash flows from the stores would be $200,000 each year, then the period would be 2 years. The payback period with the shortest payback time is generally regarded as the best one. This is an especially good rule to follow when you must choose between one or more projects or investments.

- We’ll explain what the payback period is and provide you with the formula for calculating it.
- People and corporations mainly invest their money to get paid back, which is why the payback period is so important.
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- As you can see, using this payback period calculator you a percentage as an answer.

The first column (Cash Flows) tracks the cash flows of each year – for instance, Year 0 reflects the $10mm outlay whereas the others account for the $4mm inflow of cash flows. In this guide, we’ll be covering what the payback period is, what are the pros and cons of the method, and how you can calculate it, with concrete business examples. Others like to use it as an additional point of reference in a capital budgeting decision framework.

## Fixed Cash Flow

Unlike some capital budgeting methods, NPV also factors in the risk of making long-term investments. Discounted payback period will usually be greater than regular payback period. Investments with higher cash flows toward the end of their lives will have greater discounting. Both payback period and discounted payback period analysis can be helpful when evaluating financial investments, but keep in mind they do not account for risk nor opportunity costs such as alternative investments or systemic market volatility.

In most cases, a longer payback period also means a less lucrative investment as well. A shorter period means they can get their cash back sooner and invest it into something else. A longer period leaves cash tied up in investments without the ability to reinvest funds elsewhere. The total cash flows over the five-year period are projected to be $2,000,000, which is an average of $400,000 per year. When divided into the $1,500,000 original investment, this results in a payback period of 3.75 years. However, the briefest perusal of the projected cash flows reveals that the flows are heavily weighted toward the far end of the time period, so the results of this calculation cannot be correct.

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Based solely on the payback period method, the second project is a better investment if the company wants to prioritize recapturing its capital investment as quickly as possible. Management will set an acceptable payback period for individual investments based on whether the management is risk averse or risk taking. This target may be different for different projects because higher risk corresponds with higher return thus longer payback period being acceptable for profitable projects. For lower return projects, management will only accept the project if the risk is low which means payback period must be short. While you know up front you’ll save a lot of money by purchasing a building, you’ll also want to know how long it will take to recoup your initial investment.

## Example of the Discounted Payback Period

It is an important calculation used in capital budgeting to help evaluate capital investments. For example, if a payback period is stated as 2.5 years, it means it will take 2½ years to receive your entire initial investment back. To calculate the cumulative cash flow balance, add the present value of cash flows to the previous year’s balance. The cash flow balance in year zero is negative as it marks the initial outlay of capital. Therefore, the cumulative cash flow balance in year 1 equals the negative balance from year 0 plus the present value of cash flows from year 1.

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A second issue with relying solely on the accounting rate of return in capital budgeting is the lack of acknowledgement of cash flows. In contrast to these drawbacks, the accounting rate of return is quite useful for providing a clear picture of a project’s potential profitability, satisfying a firm’s desire to have a clear idea of the expected return single step vs multi step income statement on investment. This method also acknowledges earnings after tax and depreciation, making it effective for benchmarking a firm’s current level of performance. Using the payback period to assess risk is a good starting point, but many investors prefer capital budgeting formulas like net present value (NPV) and internal rate of return (IRR).

## Profitability Index

Ideally, businesses would pursue all projects and opportunities that hold potential profit and enhance their shareholder’s value. However, there’s a limit to the amount of capital and money available for companies to invest in new projects. Before you invest thousands in any asset, be sure you calculate your payback period. Cathy currently owns a small manufacturing business that produces 5,000 cashmere scarfs each year. However, if Cathy purchases a more efficient machine, she’ll be able to produce 10,000 scarfs each year. Using the new machine is expected to produce an additional $150,000 in cash flow each year that it’s in use.

There are some clear advantages and disadvantages of payback period calculations. My Accounting Course is a world-class educational resource developed by experts to simplify accounting, finance, & investment analysis topics, so students and professionals can learn and propel their careers. For the most thorough, balanced look into a project’s risk vs. reward, investors should combine a variety of these models.

Another drawback to the payback period is that it doesn’t take the time value of money into account, unlike the discounted payback period method. This concept states that money would be worth more today than the same amount in the future, due to depreciation and earning potential. But there are a few important disadvantages that disqualify the payback period from being a primary factor in making investment decisions. First, it ignores the time value of money, which is a critical component of capital budgeting. For example, three projects can have the same payback period; however, they could have varying flows of cash.

For example, if the building was purchased mid-year, the first year’s cash flow would be $36,000, while subsequent years would be $72,000. First, we’ll calculate the metric under the non-discounted approach using the two assumptions below. Yarilet Perez is an experienced multimedia journalist and fact-checker with a Master of Science in Journalism. She has worked in multiple cities covering breaking news, politics, education, and more. In this case, the payback period would be 4.0 years because 200,0000 divided by 50,000 is 4. Amanda Bellucco-Chatham is an editor, writer, and fact-checker with years of experience researching personal finance topics.

In most cases, this is a pretty good payback period as experts say it can take as much as years for residential homeowners in the United States to break even on their investment. Between mutually exclusive projects having similar return, the decision should be to invest in the project having the shortest payback period. It’s important to note that not all investments will create the same amount of increased cash flow each year.

The payback period is the time it will take for your business to recoup invested funds. For instance, if your business was considering upgrading assembly line equipment, you would calculate the payback period to determine how long it would take to recoup the funds used to purchase the equipment. Obviously, the longer it takes an investment to recoup its original cost, the more risky the investment.

Perhaps you’re torn between two investments and want to know which one can be recouped faster? Maybe you’d like to purchase a new building, but you’re unsure if the savings will be worth the investment. For example, imagine a company invests $200,000 in new manufacturing equipment which results in a positive cash flow of $50,000 per year. This is particularly useful because companies and investors usually have to choose between more than one project or investment, so being able to determine when certain projects will pay back compared to others makes the decision easier. The payback period is the amount of time it would take for an investor to recover a project’s initial cost.

The discounted payback period is calculated by adding the year to the absolute value of the period’s cumulative cash flow balance and dividing it by the following year’s present value of cash flows. To determine how to calculate payback period in practice, you simply divide the initial cash outlay of a project by the amount of net cash inflow that the project generates each year. For the purposes of calculating the payback period formula, you can assume that the net cash inflow is the same each year. Most capital budgeting formulas, such as net present value (NPV), internal rate of return (IRR), and discounted cash flow, consider the TVM.