opportunity cost

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 value of what you lose when choosing between two or more options. When you decide, you feel that the choice you’ve made will have better results for you regardless of what you lose by making it. As an investor, opportunity cost means that your investment choices will always have immediate and future losses or gains. This article will show you how to calculate opportunity cost with a simple formula.

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. 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.

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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. Opportunity cost is the value of what you lose when you choose from two or more alternatives. When you invest, opportunity cost can be defined as the amount of money you might not earn by purchasing one asset instead of another. 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.

Robert Johnson, a professor of finance at Creighton University, points to a classical example of the returns caution-minded investors miss out on when they downplay stocks in favor of more secure investments long term. When calculating https://www.bookstime.com/s, it’s important to consider more than just flat returns, however. A company used $5,000 for marketing and advertising on its music streaming service to increase exposure to the target market and potential consumers. The sunk cost for the company equates to the $5,000 that was spent on the market and advertising means.

What Is an Example of Opportunity Cost?

When building a new aircraft, the materials used may be more useful, so make as many aircraft as possible from as few materials as possible to increase the margin of profit. Every choice has trade-offs, and opportunity cost is the potential benefits you’ll miss out on by choosing one direction over another. In this example, the opportunity costs are continued interest gains on bond “A” and the initial loss of $10,000 on bond “B” while hoping to recover it and increase your profits in the future. You can also think of opportunity cost as a way to measure a trade-off. Individuals, investors, and business owners face high-stakes trade-offs every day.

Although you’d earn more with a CD, you’d be locked out of your $11,000 and any earnings in the event of an emergency or financial downturn. Entrepreneurs need to figure out which actions to take to get the best return on their money so they can thrive and not just survive. That action might mean hiring a marketing director for $80,000 per year or investing in marketing automation software for $3,000 per month, depending on the opportunity cost. If the government offers an income tax cut, the opportunity cost is that government revenue cannot be used to finance some aspect of government spending. Economics has been called the dismal science because it studies the most fundamental of all problems, scarcity. Because of scarcity we all face the dismal reality that there are limits to what we can do.


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. The concept of opportunity cost does not apply to those goods and services which are produced without money cost. Although, the concept of opportunity costs is of great importance yet it is not free from limitations. The concept of opportunity cost has a very wide application in economic theory and policy.

The trade-off, however, is that you can’t withdraw these funds for the entire five-year period. Let’s say you’re trying to decide what to do with $11,000 in retained earnings. You’re thinking of stowing your funds in a business savings account, and there are two standout options.

Explicit Costs

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. In this way, real cost means the trouble, sacrifice of factors in producing a commodity.

opportunity cost

These costs may encompass those related to acquiring, setting up, and mastering new capital equipment, as well as costs tied hiring, dismissing, and training employees to modify production. We use “adjustment costs” to describe shifts in the firm’s product nature rather than merely changes in output volume. In line with the conventional concept, the adjustment costs experienced during repositioning may involve expenses linked to the reassignment of capital and/or labor resources.

Formula and Calculation of Opportunity Cost

Johnson points to historical data on stocks versus bonds to illustrate the missed financial opportunities. From 1926 to 2020, large capitalization stocks, like those in the S&P 500, have seen average annual returns of 10.2%. Long-term government bonds averaged 5.5% annually whereas Treasury Bills returned 3.3% each year on average.

opportunity cost

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