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# Payback Period: Definition, Formula, and Calculation

August 5, 2024
Bill Kimball

In the arsenal of corporate finance tools for capital budgeting, it’s worth seeing how it compares to other capital budgeting methods such as NPV, IRR, modified IRR, and profitability index. The point after breaking even is when the total of discounted cash inflows will exceed the initial cost. The rate of return can be positive or negative, thus, resulting in a gain or a loss for a specific investment.

## How to Calculate the Payback Period in Excel

This could prove problematic when dealing with multiple cash flows at different discount rates, for which the NPV would be more beneficial. A regularly used metric by managers to evaluate the viability of investments, the internal rate of return, or IRR, is the rate of return that makes a project worthwhile investing in. Without considering the time value of money, it is difficult or impossible to determine which project is worth considering. Projecting a break-even time in years means little if the after-tax cash flow estimates don’t materialize.

## Formula

As the equation above shows, the payback period calculation is a simple one. It does not account for the time value of money, the effects of inflation, or the complexity of investments that may have unequal cash flow over time. A higher payback period means it will take longer for a company to cover its initial investment. 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 breakeven point is the price or value that an investment or project must rise to cover the initial costs or outlay.

## Payback Period: Definition, Formula, and Calculation

Investors may use payback in conjunction with return on investment (ROI) to determine whether or not to invest or enter a trade. 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. 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 payback period disregards the time value of money and is determined by counting the number of years it takes to recover the funds invested.

## How Do I Calculate a Discounted Payback Period in Excel?

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. Are you still undecided about investing in new machinery for your manufacturing business? 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.

## What is the payback period formula?

It is expressed as a percentage and is a function of the initial investment capital and the final value, which includes dividends and interest. The out put of using the payback tool is expressed in years or a fraction of years. It is a function of the initial invested capital and the average annual net cash flows generated by the investment. 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.

Conversely, if proceeds after the period have a dramatic uptick and move into the green, then the investment is a wise decision. Payback period is a vital metric for evaluating the time taken for an investment to break even. Financial modeling best practices require calculations to be transparent and easily auditable. The trouble with piling all of the calculations into a formula is that you can’t easily see what numbers go where or what numbers are user inputs or hard-coded. First, we’ll calculate the metric under the non-discounted approach using the two assumptions below. But since the payback period metric rarely comes out to be a precise, whole number, the more practical formula is as follows.

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.

1. Rohan has a focus in particular on consumer and business services transactions and operational growth.
2. The PI is the expressed ratio of the present value of discounted future cash flows to the initial invested capital.
3. 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.
4. Each company will internally have its own set of standards for the timing criteria related to accepting (or declining) a project, but the industry that the company operates within also plays a critical role.

Julia Kagan is a financial/consumer journalist and former senior editor, personal finance, of Investopedia. On the other hand, Jim could purchase the sand blaster and save \$100 a week from without having to outsource his sand blasting. We’ll now move to a modeling exercise, which you can access by filling out the form below.

It’s important to know what a cash flow is in order to have a better understanding. The term cash flow signifies the amount of money that an investment generates or consumes over a period of time. Since some business projects don’t last an entire year and others are ongoing, you can supplement this equation for any income period. For example, you could use monthly, semi annual, or even two-year cash inflow periods. Conceptually, the payback period is the amount of time between the date of the initial investment (i.e., project cost) and the date when the break-even point has been reached.

Management uses the payback period calculation to decide what investments or projects to pursue. The discounted payback period determines the payback period using the time value of money. The table is structured the same as the previous example, however, the cash flows are discounted to account for the time value of money. Many managers and investors thus prefer to use NPV as a tool for making investment decisions. 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. Average cash flows represent the money going into and out of the investment.

The cash savings from the new equipment is expected to be \$100,000 per year for 10 years. The payback period is expected to be 4 years (\$400,000 divided by \$100,000 per year). The payback period is the expected number of years it will take for a company to recoup the cash it invested in a project. 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. Just like the basic payback period, its modified counterpart calculates the time required to retrieve the invested funds.

If a venture has a 10-year period of payback, the measure does not consider the cash flows after the 10-year time frame. It also has the function of helping with managing investment risk—the shorter the time it takes to recover the initial investment, the less risky the investment. Calculating your payback period can be helpful in the decision-making process. It may be the deciding factor in whether you should go ahead with the purchase of that big-ticket asset, or hold off until your cash flow is better. Small businesses in particular can benefit from payback analysis simply by calculating the payback period of any investment they’re considering. 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.

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