Which Financial Metric is right for your project?

While evaluating initiatives/projects, it is important to evaluate the financial impact of the investment. There are numerous financial metrics out there. Here are some of the common ones used. It is recommended to take into account the time value of money metrics.

ROI (Return on investment) – While comparing two or more investments using this method, consider the risk. The higher the risk the higher the expected return. Benefits can come from reduction of costs, increase in profits or additional value.
Calculation: (Total cost of the investment – Total benefits) / Total cost of investment
Note – Its use is limited. It ignores the time value of money.

Payback Period – How long will it take for an investment to pay for itself?
Calculation: Total amount of investment/annual savings expected
Note – Its use is limited. It ignores the time value of money.

Break Even Analysis – How many units one needs to sell in order to break even with the fixed cost cash investment?
Calculation: Breakeven volume = Fixed Cost/Unit Contribution Margin
Unit Contribution Margin = Net unit revenue – variable costs per unit
Note – Its use is limited. It ignores the time value of money.

Economic value added – It is used to evaluate investments and operational business performance.
Calculation: Net Operating Profits after Taxes – (Capital Used x Cost of Capital)
Note – It analyzes the cost of capital in investment decisions.

NPV (Net Present Value) – It is the value today of a future stream of cash flows discounted at some annual compound interest rate (or discount rate). It is a more sound decision making tool as long as the assumptions utilized in the analysis are relevant.
Note – Use a financial calculator. NPV is a more accurate value of an investment opportunity. It takes into consideration the time value of money.

IRR (Internal Rate of Return) – It is the discount rate at which the NPV of an investment equals zero. If the IRR is greater than the opportunity cost of capital required the investment is a good one. The opportunity cost is the expected return on a comparable investment. Again, assumptions used in the analysis should be pertinent.
Note –This method is preferred as it takes into account the time value of money.

Reading Reference: Finance for Managers – Harvard Business Essentials
Financial Intelligence by Karen Berman and Joe Knight, Harvard Business School Press

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