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The reason being, the longer the money is tied up, the less opportunity there is to invest it elsewhere. The PBP is the time that elapses from the start of the project, A, to the break-even point, E, where the rising part of the curve passes the zero cash position line. In this case, the payback period would be 4 years because 200,0000 divided by 50,000 is 4.

For instance, Jim’s buffer could break in 20 weeks and need repairs requiring even further investment costs. That’s why a shorter payback period is always preferred over a longer one. The more quickly the company can receive its initial cost in cash, the more acceptable and preferred the investment becomes.

  • The payback period represents the number of years it takes to pay back the initial investment of a capital project from the cash flows that the project produces.
  • Yarilet Perez is an experienced multimedia journalist and fact-checker with a Master of Science in Journalism.
  • As a stand-alone tool to compare an investment to “doing nothing,” payback period has no explicit criteria for decision-making (except, perhaps, that the payback period should be less than infinity).
  • The decision rule using the payback period is to minimize the time taken for the return on investment.

Most major capital expenditures have a long life span and continue to provide cash flows even after the payback period. Since the payback period focuses on short term profitability, a valuable project may be overlooked if the payback period is the only consideration. 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.


PBP may be calculated as the cost of safety investment divided by the annual benefit inflows. 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. Managerial accountants really have no idea what their investment is going to do in the future. They can estimate and predict what the future cash inflows will be, but there is no guarantee. For instance, they might purchase a piece of equipment under the assumption that a production contract will continue for the next 3 years, but the contract actually isn’t renewed in year two.

  • Thus, maximizing the number of investments using the same amount of cash.
  • Capital projects can include any large-scale, expensive project such as the purchase of equipment for a new assembly line or construction of a new warehouse.
  • This means that the terminal or the salvage value would not be considered.
  • The opposite stands for investments with longer payback periods – they’re less useful and less likely to be undertaken.

Capital Budgeting is one of the important responsibilities of a finance manager of a company. A slightly more sophisticated financial analysis can be undertaken in an academic setting, as well as in professional practice. On the other hand, Jim could purchase the sand blaster and save $100 a week from without having to outsource his sand blasting. When you access this website or use any of our mobile applications we may automatically collect information such as standard details and identifiers for statistics or marketing purposes. You can consent to processing for these purposes configuring your preferences below. If you prefer to opt out, you can alternatively choose to refuse consent.

Terms Similar to the Payback Method

Given its nature, the payback period is often used as an initial analysis that can be understood without much technical knowledge. 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.

Payback Period as a Capital Project Decision Method

But in the case of unequal cash inflows the PB period can be found out by adding up the cash inflows until the total is equal to initial cash outlay. This is the simplest and easiest way to understand but it does not give us the real picture as it does not consider ther time value of money or the cash flows occurring after PB period. There is no clear-cut rule regarding a minimum SPP to accept the project.

Step 1. Non-Discounted Payback Period Calculation Example

This is an especially good rule to follow when you must choose between one or more projects or investments. The reason for this is because the longer cash is tied up, the less chance there is for you to invest elsewhere, and grow as a business. 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.

A large purchase like a machine would be a capital expense, the cost of which is allocated for in a company’s accounting over many years. No such adjustment for this is made in the payback period calculation, instead it assumes this is a one-time cost. The above equation only works when the expected annual cash flow from the investment is the same from year to year. If the company expects an “uneven cash flow”, then that has to be taken into account.

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This issue is addressed by using DPP, which uses discounted cash flows. Payback period is often used as an analysis tool because it is easy to apply and easy to understand for most individuals, regardless of academic training or field of endeavor. When used carefully or to compare similar investments, it can be quite useful. As a stand-alone tool to compare an investment to “doing nothing,” payback period has no explicit criteria for decision-making (except, perhaps, that the payback period should be less than infinity). That’s why business owners and managers need to use capital budgeting techniques to determine which projects will deliver the best returns, and yield the most profitable outcome.

Alternative measures of “return” preferred by economists are net present value and internal rate of return. An implicit assumption in the use of payback period is that returns to the investment continue after the payback period. Payback period does not specify any required comparison to other investments or even to not making an investment. 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. 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.

The cash inflows should be consistent with the length of the investment. Obviously, the longer it takes an investment to recoup its original cost, the more risky the investment. In most cases, a longer payback period also means a less lucrative investment as well.

At that point, each year will need to be considered separately and then added up. The payback time is defined as the time required for the accumulated savings to equal the total initial investment (Duffie, Beckman, & Blair, 2020). The effect of inflation is considered by the dynamic method of economic evaluation.

The answer is found by dividing $200,000 by $100,000, which is two years. 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. Although calculating the payback period is useful in financial and capital budgeting, this metric has applications in other industries.

In order to determine whether the payback period is favourable or not, management will determine the maximum desired payback period to recover the initial investment costs. Otherwise, the annual cash inflows are accumulated and the year determined when the cumulative inflows equal the investment expenditure. The method is sometimes seen as a measure of the risk involved in the project. Perhaps the simplest method for evaluating the feasibility of undertaking a potential investment or project, the payback period is a fundamental capital budgeting tool in corporate finance. Payback period intuitively measures how long something takes to “pay for itself.” All else being equal, shorter payback periods are preferable to longer payback periods. Payback period is popular due to its ease of use despite the recognized limitations described below.

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 projects and then to choose the project that has the shortest payback time. The payback period is favored when a company is under liquidity constraints because it can show how long it should take to recover the money laid out for the project. 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. 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.