Whether you’re using accounting software in your business or are using a manual accounting system, you can easily calculate your payback period. In its simplest form, the formula to calculate the payback period involves dividing the cost of the initial investment by the annual cash flow. 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.

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Mary Girsch-Bock is the expert on accounting software and payroll software for The Ascent. As you can see in the example below, a DCF model is used to graph the payback period (middle graph below). We’ll now move to a modeling exercise, which you can access by filling out the form below. 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.

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- Investments with higher cash flows toward the end of their lives will have greater discounting.
- Under payback method, an investment project is accepted or rejected on the basis of payback period.

## When Would a Company Use the Payback Period for Capital Budgeting?

For example, three projects can have the same payback period with varying break-even points due to the varying flows of cash each project generates. Cash flow is the inflow and outflow of cash or cash-equivalents of a project, an individual, an organization, or other entities. Positive cash flow that occurs during a period, such as revenue or accounts receivable means an increase in liquid assets. On the other hand, negative cash flow such as the payment for expenses, rent, and taxes indicate a decrease in liquid assets. Oftentimes, cash flow is conveyed as a net of the sum total of both positive and negative cash flows during a period, as is done for the calculator. The study of cash flow provides a general indication of solvency; generally, having adequate cash reserves is a positive sign of financial health for an individual or organization.

## Calculating Payback Using the Subtraction Method

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). 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 what’s the difference between amortization and depreciation in accounting within also plays a critical role. 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. The Ascent is a Motley Fool service that rates and reviews essential products for your everyday money matters.

## Using the Payback Method

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. 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. Although calculating the payback period is useful in financial and capital budgeting, this metric has applications in other industries.

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Payback period is used not only in financial industries, but also by businesses to calculate the rate of return on any new asset or technology upgrade. For example, a small business owner could calculate the payback period of installing solar panels to determine if they’re a cost-effective option. This payback period calculator https://www.quick-bookkeeping.net/what-is-the-prudence-concept-of-accounting/ is a tool that lets you estimate the number of years required to break even from an initial investment. You can use it when analyzing different possibilities to invest your money and combine it with other tools, such as the net present value (NPV calculator) or internal rate of return metrics (IRR calculator).

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. Payback period is the amount of time it takes to break even on an investment.

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. It’s important to note that not all investments will create the same amount of increased cash flow each year.

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. For example, if it takes five years to recover the cost of an investment, the payback period is five years. The discounted payback period of 7.27 years is longer than the 5 years as calculated by the regular payback period because the time value of money is factored in.

Another option is to use the discounted payback period formula instead, which adds time value of money into the equation. 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. As seen doubtful accounts and bad debt expenses from the graph below, the initial investment is fully offset by positive cash flows somewhere between periods 2 and 3. Calculating the payback period is also useful in financial forecasting, where you can use the net cash flow formula to determine how quickly you can recoup your initial investment.