Discounted Payback Period Definition, Formula, and Example

They can, however, use the limited funds wisely and choose the most effective project that will be profitable. On the other hand, payback method looks at the number of years which make it simple and easy to understand. In such situations, we will first take the difference between the year-end cash flow and the initial cost left to reduce. Next, we divide the number by the year-end cash flow in order to get the percentage of the time period left over after the project has been paid back.

  • It does not take into account the cash flow after the payback period.
  • Investors may use payback in conjunction with return on investment (ROI) to determine whether or not to invest or enter a trade.
  • This indicates that the evaluation will be biased throughout toward maximizing short-term profits.
  • The value of a dollar invested today will be different from one invested 20 years ago.
  • Cash flows may stop once the payback period ends, making such a project meaningless.

In Excel, create a cell for the discounted rate and columns for the year, cash flows, the present value of the cash flows, and the cumulative cash flow balance. Input the known values (year, cash flows, and discount rate) in their respective cells. Use Excel’s present value formula to calculate the present value of cash flows. 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.

In this metric, future cash flows are estimated and adjusted for the time value of money. It is the period of time that a project takes to generate cash flows when the cumulative present value of the cash flows equals the initial investment cost. Payback period is a simple and popular method of evaluating the profitability of a project or investment.

While it is not going to account for every available variable, it is a very easy way to do a basic comparison. One of the main advantages of the payback period is that it is simple to calculate and does not require much complexity. Determining which project will repay your capital soonest takes a relatively short time. If your investment finances are limited, you correctly eliminate projects with longer payback periods.

Net Present Value Method Vs. Payback Period Method

This is especially true if you have to choose between multiple investments. When you use the payback period method, you will be able to see how the projects rank so you can select the most appropriate ones. A massive loss on an investment is the single biggest threat to small and medium businesses. Budgets are always tight in your industry, and big losses can have a major impact, unless you are at the top. Business requires that you have liquid capital to run day-to-day operations and invest in your company’s future.

  • Because the payback period method is so popular for its simplicity, it also applies to all aspects of the equation.
  • Payback period should be used as a screening tool, not as a ranking tool, to eliminate projects that are too risky or unprofitable.
  • The payback approach is so straightforward that it neglects normal business conditions.
  • You may estimate the duration of an investment’s payback based on the expected cash flow.
  • Making important decisions should always involve a variety of approaches.

Thus, one project may
be more valuable than another based on future cash flows, but the
payback method does not capture this. 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. The breakeven point is a specific price or value that an investment or project must reach so that the initial cost of that investment or project is completely returned. Whereas the payback period refers to the time it takes to reach the breakeven point.

Management Notes

However, the payback has several practical and theoretical drawbacks. The payback method of evaluating capital expenditure projects is very popular because it’s easy to calculate and understand. It has severe limitations, however, and ignores many important factors that should be considered when evaluating the economic feasibility of projects. Looking at the example investment project in the diagram above, the key columns to examine are the annual « cash flow » and « cumulative cash flow » columns.


Small businesses often must focus on profits and cash flow in order to grow, and the payback period method can assist in making the right investments. The payback period technique, praised for building a fund management team its ease of use, naturally applies to all aspects of the equation. By utilizing this strategy, management won’t have to perform any challenging accounting or math formulas for budgeting.

However, using the payback period as a decision criterion also has some drawbacks that limit its usefulness and accuracy. In this article, you will learn about the advantages and disadvantages of using the payback period as a decision tool in P&L management. Although it is simple to calculate, the payback period method has several shortcomings. First, the payback period calculation ignores the time value of money. Suppose that in addition to the embroidery machine, Sam’s is considering several other projects.

Is a Higher Payback Period Better Than a Lower Payback Period?

The IRR measures the annualized rate of return that equates the present value of the cash inflows and the present value of the cash outflows of the project. A higher IRR means that the project is more profitable and should be preferred over other projects with lower IRRs. The PI measures the ratio of the present value of the cash inflows to the present value of the cash outflows of the project. A PI greater than one means that the project generates more value than it costs and should be undertaken.

A quicker payback period also reduces the risk of loss occurring from possible changes in economic or market conditions over a longer period of time. There is some usefulness to this method, especially in quick-moving industries with a lot of rapid change. The problem for most businesses is that they need to have a better balance of projects and investments so that their short, mid, and long-term needs are all taken care of. No business is going to be able to rely on this method for their investment opportunities if they want to have a stable future ahead. It is always better to use a variety of methods to make important decisions.

Example of an Investment Calculation

Additional complexity arises when the cash flow changes sign several times; i.e., it contains outflows in the midst or at the end of the project lifetime. For example, if solar panels cost $5,000 to install and the savings are $100 each month, it would take 4.2 years to reach the payback period. 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. Some companies rely heavily on payback period analysis and only consider investments for which the payback period does not exceed a specified number of years. Assume Company A invests $1 million in a project that is expected to save the company $250,000 each year. If we divide $1 million by $250,000, we arrive at a payback period of four years for this investment.

This method will not provide you with any information to help your company manage its cash flow over time. This method cannot be used to make any but the most basic decisions because each project provides cash flow on a different schedule. For the entire duration of a project, a business needs to be aware of how much cash flow it can expect from its investments. The biggest problem with the payback period method is that it only looks at cash flow for a certain period of time. It is fine for businesses to want to see how quickly they can break even on their investment, but this is not always the case.

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