Defined: Opportunity Cost, Plus Examples and Calculation

Risk evaluates the actual performance of an investment against its projected performance. It focuses solely on one option and ignores the potential gains from other options that could have been selected. In contrast, opportunity cost focuses on the potential for lower returns from a chosen investment compared to a different investment that was not chosen. For example, a college graduate has paid for college and now may have outstanding debt.

  • Everyday examples of opportunity costs might include choosing to commute using public transit for 80 minutes instead of driving for 40 minutes.
  • Every choice you make — from investing choices to career decisions to something as simple as where to eat dinner — comes with some form of opportunity cost.
  • Without this careful weighing of the options, you may find your portfolio filled with easily outperformed assets.

Often, they can determine this by looking at the expected RoR for an investment vehicle. However, businesses must also consider the opportunity cost of each alternative option. The two types of opportunity costs are explicit opportunity cost and implicit opportunity cost. For instance, if a restaurant buys $1,000 worth of ground beef, the cost is the other things that it could have purchased with that money, like chicken wings or hamburger buns.

Implicit opportunity cost

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. The opportunity cost instead asks where that $10,000 could have been put to better use.

Having takeout for lunch occasionally can be a wise decision, especially if it gets you out of the office for a much-needed break. Pete Rathburn is a copy editor and fact-checker with expertise in economics and personal finance and over twenty years of experience in the classroom. Generally speaking, the stronger the liquidity, versatility, and compatibility of the asset, the less its sunk cost will be. You can change your settings at any time, including withdrawing your consent, by using the toggles on the Cookie Policy, or by clicking on the manage consent button at the bottom of the screen.

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Definition of Opportunity Cost

An opportunity cost would be to consider the forgone returns possibly earned elsewhere when you buy a piece of heavy equipment with an expected ROI of 5% vs. one with an ROI of 4%. Again, an opportunity cost describes the returns that one could have earned if the money were instead invested in another instrument. Thus, while 1,000 shares in company A eventually might sell for $12 a share, netting a profit of $2,000, company B increased in value from $10 a share to $15 during the same period.

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Now, your opportunity cost is -25%, which means you’ll be foregoing the “opportunity” to earn 25% less over time. For example, if a business is deciding whether to purchase two new tractors, the opportunity cost of not doing so would be the potential revenue and profitability lost by not being able to take on another project. Take, for example, two similarly risky funds available for you to invest in.

At Finance Strategists, we partner with financial experts to ensure the accuracy of our financial content. In isolation, the investment is perceived to be wise because it nets a positive return. A former Wall Street trader, he is the author of the books CNBC’s Creating Wealth and The Career Survival Guide.

This includes projecting sales numbers, market penetration, customer demographics, manufacturing costs, customer returns, and seasonality. Opportunity cost does not show up directly on a company’s financial statements. Economically speaking, though, opportunity costs are still very real. Yet because opportunity cost is a relatively abstract concept, many companies, executives, and investors fail to account for it in their everyday decision making. When assessing the potential profitability of various investments, businesses look for the option that is likely to yield the greatest return.

Opportunity Cost Formula, Calculation, and What It Can Tell You

One of the most famous examples of opportunity cost is a 2010 exchange of Bitcoin for pizza. The opportunity cost of exchanging the 10,000 bitcoins for two large pizzas peaked at almost $700 million based on Bitcoin’s 2022 all-time high price. Alternatively, if the business purchases a new machine, it will be able to increase its production of widgets. The machine setup and employee training will be intensive, and the new machine will not be up to maximum efficiency for the first couple of years. Let’s assume it would net the company an additional $500 in profits in the first year, after accounting for the additional expenses for training.

Our mission is to empower readers with the most factual and reliable financial information possible to help them make informed decisions for their individual needs. Finance Strategists is a leading financial education organization that connects people with financial professionals, priding itself on providing accurate and reliable financial information to millions of readers each year. They estimate a $200,000 return over the next 10 years by investing in an employee training program, expanding the marketing budget, and upgrading an outdated payroll system.

As an investor, weighing out the opportunity cost of each investment decision you make can help you make the most prudent decisions. Without this careful weighing of the options, you may find your portfolio filled with easily outperformed assets. The opportunity cost of choosing to invest in Company A versus Company B is 10% minus 6%. With that choice, the opportunity cost is 4%, meaning you would forgo the opportunity to earn an additional 4% on your funds.

If you choose to stay in cash long term, not only are you missing out on the opportunity to grow that money in the stock market, but your dollars are also losing value by around 2% each year. “To put it in perspective, A dollar invested in the S&P 500 at the start of 1926 would have grown to $10,896 (with all dividends reinvested) by the end of 2020. Thus, the opportunity cost for conservative investors would be $10,874,” Johnson says.

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