What is Return on Investment (ROI)?

Return on Investment (ROI) is a measure of the profitability of an investment. A high return on investment means that an investment generates favorable profit compared to its investment cost.

We commonly use ROI to evaluate the efficiency of an investment, as it allows an investor to determine profits related to the amount of capital invested.

It is a cash flow metric that compares the amount and timing of investment gains with the amount and timing of costs.

Return on investment – one tool

However, it should not be the only tool we use when making investment decisions. ROI, for example, does not represent the risk associated with a stock.

ROI is particularly effective when paired with other financial metrics, such as the internal rate of return (IRR) or net present value (NPV), to give investors a more dimensional view of an investment’s potential.

It only looks at the comparison between returns and costs if the predicted results are achieved.

The word ‘investment’ refers to using resources (such as money or time) to make more money or produce goods. It also means to use resources to provide a future income or benefit.

Return on investment
John is happy with his return on investment.

We calculate ROI by dividing the return on an investment by its cost. We typically express ROI as either a percentage or a ratio.

Return on investment higher/lower than zero

An ROI higher than 0 means that profits are more than costs. An ROI below 0, on the other hand, means that costs are more than returns.

When comparing securities, it is useful to observe their ROI regularly.

Return on investment vs. profit

Return on investment is not the same as profit. We calculate ROI with the money somebody invests in a security and the return they gain on that money. We base this on the security’s net profit.

However, profit measures a security’s performance. ROI is also not the same as the return on the owner’s equity.

A major downside of ROI is that it is possible to manipulate the calculations. In other words, we can express the calculations in different ways.

In addition to financial returns, a comprehensive ROI analysis may also account for non-monetary benefits, such as environmental impact and social value, which are increasingly important in sustainable investment strategies.

Calculating return on investment

For a single-period, you divide the return by the invested amount:

Return on investment (%) = (Net profit ÷ Investment) × 100
Return on investment (%) = (Gains – Investment Costs) ÷ (Investment Costs)) x 100

  • Calculating the ROI of a new business

Let’s assume that a business costs $500,000 to start up. We also expect it to provide a total of $1,000,000 in profits over its first four years.

The ROI for this investment would be:

($1,000,000 – $500,000) ÷ ($500,000) x 100 = 100%

In the example above, the ROI would be 100%.

Fair rate of return

If an investment has a ‘fair rate of return,’ it’s worth investing in, i.e., it’s worth the risk.

‘Fair rate of return’ also refers to the price limit that regulatory agencies or governments impose on utility companies.

Exploring vocabulary with ‘return on investment’

There are many compound phrases containing ‘return on investment.’ Here are five commonly used ones:

  • Return on Investment Ratio

A financial metric used to assess the profitability of an investment compared to its cost.

For example: “The ‘return on investment ratio’ will help us determine which of the two projects is more profitable in the long run.”

  • Return on Investment Analysis

A process of evaluating the efficiency and profitability of an investment.

For example: “Before committing our capital, we conducted a thorough ‘return on investment analysis’.”

  • Return on Investment Forecast

An estimate of the future profitability of an investment.

For example: “The ‘return on investment forecast’ looks promising, suggesting the project will be highly profitable.”

  • Return on Investment Calculation

The process of determining the profitability percentage of an investment.

For example: “Our finance team is responsible for the ‘return on investment calculation’ for all major expenditures.”

  • Return on Investment Comparison

The act of comparing the ROI of different investment opportunities.

For example: “A ‘return on investment comparison’ between the two properties showed the downtown location to be superior.”

Video – What is Return on Investment (ROI)?

This video, from our YouTube partner channel – Marketing Business Network – explains what ‘Return on Investment’ is using simple and easy-to-understand language and examples.