If short-term cash flows are a concern, a short payback period may be more attractive than a longer-term investment that has a higher NPV. 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. Other metrics, such as the internal rate of return (IRR), profitability index (PI), net present value (NPV), and effective annual annuity (EAA) can also be used to quantify the profitability of a given project.

To simplify the claims process, a program which proactively returns funds was started, returning $4.1 million to 13,700 rightful owners without requiring additional paperwork for identification purposes. Suppose a company is considering whether to approve or reject a proposed project. 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. In this case, the payback period would be 4.0 years because 200,0000 divided by 50,000 is 4. Harold Averkamp (CPA, MBA) has worked as a university accounting instructor, accountant, and consultant for more than 25 years.

Payback period is a quick and easy way to assess investment opportunities and risk, but instead of a break-even analysis’s units, payback period is expressed in years. The shorter the payback period, the more attractive the investment would be, because this means it would take less time to break even. 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. 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.

## Understanding the Payback Period

It is easy to calculate and is often referred to as the “back of the envelope” calculation. 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 calculation process consists of dividing the cost of the initial investment by the annual cash flows. 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. People and corporations mainly invest their money to get paid back, which is why the payback period is so important.

- After all, your $100,000 will not be worth the same after ten years; in fact, it will be worth a lot less.
- For the purposes of calculating the payback period formula, you can assume that the net cash inflow is the same each year.
- For the most thorough, balanced look into a project’s risk vs. reward, investors should combine a variety of these models.
- For example, a firm may decide to invest in an asset with an initial cost of $1 million.

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. While the payback period shows us how long it takes for the return on investment, it does not show what the return on investment is. Referring to our example, cash flows continue beyond period 3, but they are not relevant in accordance with the decision rule in the payback method. The discounted payback period is often used to better account for some of the shortcomings, such as using the present value of future cash flows. For this reason, the simple payback period may be favorable, while the discounted payback period might indicate an unfavorable investment.

## Payback method

The payback period is the amount of time (usually measured in years) it takes to recover an initial investment outlay, as measured in after-tax cash flows. 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. For example, a firm may decide to invest in an asset with an initial cost of $1 million. Over the next five years, the firm receives positive cash flows that diminish over time.

## Internal Rate of Return (IRR)

After the initial purchase period (Year 0), the project generates $5 million in cash flows each year. One of the biggest advantages of the payback period method is its simplicity. The method is extremely simple to understand, as it only requires one straightforward calculation. Hence, it’s an easy way to compare several 501c organization definition projects and then to choose the project that has the shortest payback time. Generally speaking, an investment can either have a short or a long payback period. The shorter a payback period is, the more likely it is that the cost will be repaid or returned quickly, and hence, the more desirable the investment becomes.

One of the most important capital budgeting techniques businesses can practice is known as the payback period method or payback analysis. In this case, the payback period would be 4 years because 200,0000 divided by 50,000 is 4. You can get an idea of the best payback period by comparing all the investments you’re considering, and opt for the shortest one. Generally, a long payback period is determined by your own comfort level – as long as you are paying off one investment, you’ll be less able to invest in newer, promising opportunities. Management will set an acceptable payback period for individual investments based on whether the management is risk averse or risk taking.

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Management then looks at a variety of metrics in order to obtain complete information. Comparing various profitability metrics for all projects is important when making a well-informed decision. The formula for the simple payback period and discounted variation are virtually identical.

Return on Investment (ROI) is the annual return you receive on investment, and it measures the efficiency of the investment, compared to its cost. A payback period, on the other hand, is the time it takes to recover the cost of an investment. A payback period refers to the time it takes to earn back the cost of an investment. More specifically, it’s the length of time it takes a project to reach a break-even point. The breakeven point is the level at which the costs of production equal the revenue for a product or service.

## Free Financial Modeling Lessons

The shorter a discounted payback period is means the sooner a project or investment will generate cash flows to cover the initial cost. A general rule to consider when using the discounted payback period is to accept projects that have a payback period that is shorter than the target timeframe. One of the disadvantages of this type of analysis is that although it shows the length of time it takes for a return on investment, it doesn’t show the specific profitability. This can be a problem for investors choosing between two projects on the basis of the payback period alone. One project might be paid back faster, but – in the long run – that doesn’t necessarily make it more profitable than the second. Some investments take time to bring in potentially higher cash inflows, but they will be overlooked when using the payback method alone.

Getting repaid or recovering the initial cost of a project or investment should be achieved as quickly as it allows. However, not all projects and investments have the same time horizon, so the shortest possible payback period needs to be nested within the larger context of that time horizon. For example, the payback period on a home improvement project can be decades while the payback period on a construction project may be five years or less. A project may have a longer discounted payback period but also a higher NPV than another if it creates much more cash inflows after its discounted payback period.

All else being equal, it’s usually better for a company to have a lower payback period as this typically represents a less risky investment. The quicker a company can recoup its initial investment, the less exposure the company has to a potential loss on the endeavor. The second project will take less time to pay back, and the company’s earnings potential is greater. 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. The next step is to subtract the number from 1 to obtain the percent of the year at which the project is paid back.