How to Calculate Opportunity Cost: 10 Steps with Pictures

Additionally, if you were to compare the income you’ve lost from something like choosing to take time off work to earn your Bachelor’s degree, it can be difficult to factor all of the trade-offs accurately. As suggested by the concept of risk, there are important limitations to opportunity cost figures. Truly, there will never be an instance where you can predict the outcome of an investment with 100% accuracy. In simpler terms, an opportunity cost is essentially the cost of the option you don’t choose. Therefore, opportunity cost represents the cost of inevitably choosing one option over the other, whereby the measurement becomes the metric you can use to make a decision.

  • Opportunity cost is different because it’s not always completely obvious.
  • On the other hand, “implicit costs may or may not have been incurred by forgoing a specific action,” says Castaneda.
  • With that choice, the opportunity cost is 4%, meaning you would forgo the opportunity to earn an additional 4% on your funds.
  • The company must decide if the expansion made by the leveraging power of debt will generate greater profits than it could make through investments.
  • Trade-offs take place in any decision that requires forgoing one option for another.

After all, it takes a lot of thought to discern how making one purchase over another will affect your return on investment. Investors try to consider the potential opportunity cost while making choices, but the calculation of opportunity cost is much more accurate with the benefit of hindsight. When you have real numbers to work with, rather than estimates, it’s easier to compare the return of a chosen investment to the forgone alternative. Opportunity cost is the comparison of one economic choice to the next best choice. These comparisons often arise in finance and economics when trying to decide between investment options. The opportunity cost attempts to quantify the impact of choosing one investment over another.

Second, the slope is defined as the change in the number of burgers (shown on the vertical axis) Charlie can buy for every incremental change in the number of tickets (shown on the horizontal axis) he buys. The slope of a budget constraint always shows the opportunity cost of the good that is on the horizontal axis. If Charlie has to give up lots of burgers to buy just one bus ticket, then the slope will be steeper, because the opportunity cost is greater. This is a simple example, but the core message holds for a variety of situations. It may sound like overkill to think about opportunity costs every time you want to buy a candy bar or go on vacation. But opportunity costs are everywhere and occur with every decision made, big or small.

The formula calculates the best options and the second best possible option in terms of value, which was not chosen during the course of production. If an organization sign up for quickbooks online accountant cannot earn an economic profit, it will eventually fail. The business owner will have to leave the business and the available resources will be put to other uses.

Scenario #2: Investor dilemma.

In this scenario, investing $10,000 in company A returned $2,000, while the same amount invested in company B would have returned a larger $5,000. The $3,000 difference is the opportunity cost of choosing company A over company B. Buying 1,000 shares of company A at $10 a share, for instance, represents a sunk cost of $10,000. This is the amount of money paid out to invest, and getting that money back requires liquidating stock.

  • Aside from the missed opportunity for better health, spending that $4.50 on a burger could add up to just over $52,000 in that time frame, assuming a very achievable 5% RoR.
  • Maybe you want an inexpensive sedan, but there’s admittedly more value in a larger SUV.
  • When it’s negative, you’re potentially losing more than you’re gaining.
  • The expected return on investment for Company A’s stock is 6% over the next year.

Opportunity cost is a term that refers to the potential reward that you forgo when choosing one option over the next-best alternative. This idea is called opportunity cost, and it can help people and businesses make better financial choices. Opportunity cost is a term economists use to describe the relationship between what an item adds to your life, and how much it might cost you by not having it, taking into account your other options. So the opportunity cost of buying an SUV includes an alternative option, such as buying a less expensive sedan. There’s no doubt that investing can be a nerve-wracking and tricky business.

Implicit costs

Your stomach growls and you decide to purchase a premium taco for $5. You see that a supplier charges $10 for a certain part—and that’s your cost. Opportunity cost refers to what you miss out on when you choose one option over another.

From the above problem, we should calculate the profitability in each case. While calculating opportunity cost might seem like a math problem, there is no defined math formula. As we said earlier, opportunity cost is the value of the forgone alternative. Therefore, there is a mathematical way to think of opportunity costs. In general, the larger the decision, the more potential fallout there is via opportunity cost. In the PPC example above, focusing on necklaces when bracelets would actually result in more revenue/profit would be a potentially fatal business error right out of the gate.

The Formula

If we plot each point on a graph, we can see a line that shows us the number of burgers Charlie can buy depending on how many bus tickets he wants to purchase in a given week. This complex situation pinpoints the reason why opportunity cost exists. As we all know, resources are scarce, so to get optimum value or efficiency, one has to decide the best possible use of resources to give the end consumer the best satisfaction. In other words, one has to process the raw materials into doors kind of products which would give optimum satisfaction to the user. For example, according to the economics theory, we know that goods are scarce and human wants are unlimited. So a particular commodity or raw material can only be used for one purpose.

What is Opportunity Cost?

Without this type of calculation, you may make a decision that appears to be the best choice on the surface—but actually isn’t efficient in the long run. This information is not intended as a recommendation to invest in any particular asset class or strategy or as a promise of future performance. There is no guarantee that any investment strategy will work under all market conditions or is suitable for all investors. Each investor should evaluate their ability to invest long term, especially during periods of downturn in the market. Investors should not substitute these materials for professional services, and should seek advice from an independent advisor before acting on any information presented. It is important to compare investment options that have a similar risk.

Comparing a Treasury bill, which is virtually risk free, to investment in a highly volatile stock can cause a misleading calculation. Both options may have expected returns of 5%, but the U.S. government backs the RoR of the T-bill, while there is no such guarantee in the stock market. While the opportunity cost of either option is 0%, the T-bill is the safer bet when you consider the relative risk of each investment.

Students frequently use the concept of opportunity cost as part of their evaluation – but you won’t get much credit for it unless you give a sensible application of what might have been ‘given up’. Sunk cost refers to money that has already been spent and can’t be recovered. Opportunity cost, on the other hand, refers to money that could be earned (or lost) by choosing a certain option. And remember, regardless of your choice, you’ll incur some sort of opportunity cost. Even making no decision is itself a decision with costs, especially when you consider the sleeper costs of inflation.

Yet because opportunity cost is a relatively abstract concept, many companies, executives, and investors fail to account for it in their everyday decision making. Companies or analysts can future manipulate accounting profit to arrive at an economic profit. The difference between the calculation of the two is economic profit includes opportunity cost as an expense. This theoretical calculation can then be used to compare the actual profit of the company to what the theoretical profit would have been. If you choose to start a business, you’ll have a harder time compared to those who choose to advance their careers.


silver laptop on brown wooden table

Social Media

Recommended Articles

Get the latest news

Sign-up to our newsletter

No spam, notifications only about new products, updates.

Similar Articles

Let Tesla Expand? Germans Vote .

The News article Residents of the German community where Tesla Motors has its only assembly plant in Europe overwhelmingly rejected the company’s plans to expand

Best Robot Vacuums of 2023?

As we move into 2023, smart home technology continues to amaze us, especially the progress made in robot vacuums. These automated devices have gone beyond