How to Calculate Opportunity Cost

This includes projecting sales numbers, market penetration, customer demographics, manufacturing costs, customer returns, and seasonality. Economic profit (and any other calculation above that considers opportunity cost) is strictly an internal value used for strategic decision-making. There are no regulatory bodies that govern public reporting of economic profit or opportunity cost. Whereas accounting profit is heavily dictated by reporting rules and frameworks, economic profit factors in vague assumptions and estimates from management that do not have IRS, SEC, or FASB oversight. In economics, risk describes the possibility that an investment’s actual and projected returns are different and that the investor loses some or all of the principal. Opportunity cost concerns the possibility that the returns of a chosen investment are lower than the returns of a forgone investment.

For this reason, opportunity cost is very important when it comes to business decisions. If you don’t calculate opportunity cost, you potentially miss out on all sorts of opportunities that could have led to greater business success. Opportunity cost is different because it’s not always completely obvious. You need to calculate opportunity cost in both the short- and long-term to fully understand what you are missing out on by choosing one option over another.

An investor calculates the opportunity cost by comparing the returns of two options. This can be done during the decision-making process by estimating future returns. Alternatively, the opportunity cost can be calculated with hindsight by comparing returns since the decision was made.

  • From the above problem, we should calculate the profitability in each case.
  • Imagine how certain investments will affect your life later down the line.
  • These comparisons often arise in finance and economics when trying to decide between investment options.
  • Find out the most profitable and the least profitable in a descending manner to protect its Cash balance.
  • In financial analysis, the opportunity cost is factored into the present when calculating the Net Present Value formula.
  • Since you cannot buy everything you need, you tend to compare products, the amount of money you’ll pay, and the number of goods that you’ll get.

To boost your productivity and efficiency in decision making, you have to have priorities. Every time you choose something, you forgo other alternatives together with their benefits. Ultimately, Tiller says, “considering the opportunity cost will help show the most profitable option to invest in, making the decision-making process easier for you.” Opportunity costs matter to investors because they are constantly selecting the best option among investments. By using a PPC, business owners can intelligently plan their business models around products that will result in the highest amount of revenue or profit.


The opportunity cost instead asks where that $10,000 could have been put to better use. Funds used to make payments on loans, for example, cannot be invested in stocks or bonds, which offer the potential for investment income. The company must decide if the expansion made by the leveraging power of debt will generate greater profits than it could make through investments.

It can be difficult, then, to compare the opportunity costs of very risky investments, like individual stocks, with virtually risk-free investments, like U.S. A sunk cost is money already spent in the past, while opportunity cost is the potential returns not earned in the future on an investment because the capital was invested elsewhere. When considering opportunity cost, any sunk costs previously incurred are ignored unless there are specific variable outcomes related to those funds. When assessing the potential profitability of various investments, businesses look for the option that is likely to yield the greatest return.

Over time you might find that your initial calculation was inaccurate, especially when working with something volatile like the stock market. However, it’s important to note that opportunity cost can aid in deciding between two risk profiles. For example, let’s say you have the option between investment #1, which is rather precarious, but has a possible ROI of 21%, or investment #2, which is considerably less risky, but only has an ROI of 7%. Keep in mind that opportunity cost can be a positive or negative number. When negative, you could potentially lose more from your chosen option than you would from the alternative, whereas a positive number indicates a more profitable move.

Brex for startups.

A land surveyor determines that the land can be sold at a price of $40 billion. A consultant determines that extracting the oil will generate an operating revenue of $80 billion in present value terms if the firm is willing to invest $30 billion today. The problem comes up when you never look at what else you could do with your money or buy things without considering the lost opportunities. Having takeout for lunch occasionally can be a wise decision, especially if it gets you out of the office for a much-needed break. When feeling cautious about a purchase, for instance, many people will check the balance of their savings account before spending money. But they often won’t think about the things that they must give up when they make that spending decision.

Evaluating Business Decisions

However, with the right precautions, it can also be extremely profitable. To minimize risks and maximize profits, investors often use various tricks of the trade to calculate and compare potential decisions. When it comes to investment returns, you’ll just need to sub in the expected rates of return of each option.

Opportunity Cost Examples

We believe that better banking products can make the whole financial system more inclusive. Calculating opportunity cost can be difficult because not all future variables can be known in the present moment. In the business example above, there’s no way that you could have known that two clients would have approached you a mere two days later and offered you a better deal on the work your team could accomplish. In this example, by purchasing the taco, your opportunity cost was not being able to purchase the smoothie later on. Specifically, this was the short-term opportunity cost of purchasing the taco.

It is important to look at the ratio between two alternatives to correctly calculate opportunity costs. The owners of the business will eventually have to exit the industry, and the resources of the business will be put to a different use. Investing in securities products involves risk and you could lose money.

Comparing Investments

When you invest, opportunity cost can be defined as the amount of money you might not earn by purchasing one asset instead of another. Whether it means investing in one stock over another or simply opting to study for a big math exam instead of meeting a friend for pizza, opportunity cost pervades every facet of life. That’s because each time you choose one option over another, you’ve lost out on something. Opportunity cost is one of the key concepts in the study of economics and is prevalent throughout various decision-making processes. The opportunity cost is the value of the next best alternative foregone.

Therefore, decision-makers rely on much more information than just looking at just opportunity cost dollar amounts when comparing options. Assume that, given $20,000 of available funds, a business must choose between investing funds in securities or using it to purchase new machinery. No matter which option the business chooses, the potential profit that it gives up by not investing in the other option is the opportunity cost.

While financial reports do not show opportunity costs, business owners often use the concept to make educated decisions when they have multiple options before them. Using opportunity cost calculations will allow you to determine what is valuable and identify the returns of the forgone alternative. As an entrepreneur, you should use opportunity costs to make decisions that will positively impact your business and increase returns.

Examples of Opportunity Cost Formula

In such instances, having a clear attitude and using the tips that we’ve covered here will help you make the right decisions and boost your productivity. For the majority of people, it makes sense to think of opportunity cost from the aspect how to prepare a trial balance in 5 steps of sacrificing and gaining. You should use opportunity cost when making decisions, especially the important ones. They represent the income or other benefits that could possibly have been generated had you made the alternative choice.

Stash does not represent in any manner that the circumstances described herein will result in any particular outcome. While the data and analysis Stash uses from third party sources is believed to be reliable, Stash does not guarantee the accuracy of such information. Nothing in this article should be considered as a solicitation or offer, or recommendation, to buy or sell any particular security or investment product or to engage in any investment strategy. No part of this material may be reproduced in any form, or referred to in any other publication, without express written permission. Stash does not provide personalized financial planning to investors, such as estate, tax, or retirement planning. Investment advisory services are only provided to investors who become Stash Clients pursuant to a written Advisory Agreement.


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