Payback Period Explained, With the Formula and How to Calculate It

how to work out payback period

It’s similar to determining how much money the investor currently needs to invest at this same rate in order to get the same cash flows at the same time in the future. Discount rate is useful because it can take future expected payments from different periods and discount everything to a single point in time for comparison purposes. The other project would have a payback period of 4.25 years but would generate higher returns on investment than the first project.

  1. It’s important to know what a cash flow is in order to have a better understanding.
  2. The second project will take less time to pay back, and the company’s earnings potential is greater.
  3. Corporations and business managers also use the payback period to evaluate the relative favorability of potential projects in conjunction with tools like IRR or NPV.
  4. In essence, the payback period is used very similarly to a Breakeven Analysis, but instead of the number of units to cover fixed costs, it considers the amount of time required to return an investment.
  5. The period of time that a project or investment takes for the present value of future cash flows to equal the initial cost provides an indication of when the project or investment will break even.
  6. The more quickly the company can receive its initial cost in cash, the more acceptable and preferred the investment becomes.

Understanding the Discounted Payback Period

Since IRR does not take risk into account, it should be looked at in conjunction with the payback period to determine which project is most attractive. As an alternative to looking at how quickly an investment is paid back, and given the drawback outline above, it may be better for firms to look at the internal rate of return (IRR) when comparing projects. The Payback Period shows how long it takes for a business to recoup an investment. This type of analysis allows firms to compare alternative investment opportunities and decide on a project that returns its investment in the shortest time if that criteria is important to them.

Payback Period vs. Discounted Payback Period

However, based solely on the payback period, the firm would select the first project over this alternative. The implications of this are that firms may choose investments with shorter payback periods at the expense of profitability. The breakeven point is the price or value that an investment or project must rise to cover the initial costs or outlay.

Guide to Understanding Accounts Receivable Days (A/R Days)

Also, it is a simple measure of risk, as it shows how quickly money can be returned from an investment. However, there are additional considerations that should be taken into account when performing the capital budgeting process. In its simplest form, the formula to calculate the payback period involves dividing the cost of the initial investment by the annual cash flow. The Payback Period measures the amount of time required to recoup the cost of an initial investment via the cash flows generated by the investment.

Using the Payback Method

A discounted payback period gives the number of years it takes to break even from undertaking the initial expenditure, by discounting future cash flows and recognizing the time value of money. The metric is used to evaluate the feasibility and profitability of a given project. The shorter a discounted payback period is means the sooner a project or investment will generate cash flows to cover the initial cost.

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 the role of standard costs in management cash tied up in investments without the ability to reinvest funds elsewhere. Unlike the IRR, the MIRR uses the reinvestment rate for positive cash flows and the financing rate for the initial outflows.

Get instant access to video lessons taught by experienced investment bankers. Learn financial statement modeling, DCF, M&A, LBO, Comps and Excel shortcuts. But since the payback period metric rarely comes out to be a precise, whole number, the more practical formula is as follows. So it would take two years before opening the new store locations has reached its break-even point and the initial investment has been recovered. A below 1 ratio (PI can’t be a negative number) suggests that the investment doesn’t create enough or as much value in order to be considered.

This is due to the fact that the future value is affected by factors such as inflation, eroding purchasing power, liquidity, and default risks. A longer payback time, on the other hand, suggests that the invested capital is going to be tied up for a long period. Average cash flows represent the money going into and out of the investment. Inflows are any items that go into the investment, such as deposits, dividends, or earnings.

The NPV is the difference between the present value of cash coming in and the current value of cash going out over a period of time. Unlike other methods of capital budgeting, the payback period ignores the time value of money (TVM). This is the idea that money is worth more today than the same amount in the future because of the earning potential of the present money. The term payback period refers to the amount of time it takes to recover the cost of an investment.

This can cause inaccuracies if the received cash flows can’t be reinvested at, let’s say, at 6% when the IRR is 14%. In some cases, the same project might have two internal rates of return, which can lead to ambiguity and confusion. Multiple internal rates of return occur when dealing with non-normal cash flows, also called unconventional or irregular cash flows. If the IRR of an investment is higher than the company’s or the investor’s required rate of return, this sends a strong signal that it is worth undertaking. As the name suggests, it recognizes the TMV and discounts future cash flows to their present value for every period. The payback period is a valuable and simple analysis tool that can facilitate the comparison of alternative investments.

how to work out payback period

Unlike the regular payback period, the discounted payback period metric considers this depreciation of your money. The value obtained using the discounted payback period calculator will be closer to reality, although undoubtedly more pessimistic. In this article, we will explain the difference between the regular payback period and the discounted payback period. You will also learn the payback period formula and analyze a step-by-step example of calculations.

how to work out payback period

Amanda Bellucco-Chatham is an editor, writer, and fact-checker with years of experience researching personal finance topics. Specialties include general financial planning, career development, lending, retirement, tax preparation, and credit. Next, the second column (Cumulative Cash Flows) tracks the net gain/(loss) to date by adding the current year’s cash flow amount to the net cash flow balance from the prior year. For instance, let’s say you own a retail company and are considering a proposed growth strategy that involves opening up new store locations in the hopes of benefiting from the expanded geographic reach. The sooner the break-even point is met, the more likely additional profits are to follow (or at the very least, the risk of losing capital on the project is significantly reduced). Julia Kagan is a financial/consumer journalist and former senior editor, personal finance, of Investopedia.

As a result, payback period is best used in conjunction with other metrics. In addition, the potential returns and estimated payback time of alternative projects the company could pursue instead can also be an influential determinant in the decision (i.e. opportunity costs). Firstly, it fails to consider the time value of money, as cash flow obtained in the initial years of a project is valued more highly than cash flow received later in the project’s process.