What Is Return on Investment (ROI)?

Written by True Tamplin, BSc, CEPF®

Reviewed by Subject Matter Experts

Updated on March 29, 2023

Return on Investment (ROI) Definition

Return on Investment (ROI) is a core financial performance measure used to evaluate the efficiency of an investment and to compare the efficiency to other investments.

Most financial and business concepts build upon ROI because its purpose is to tell investors how much money they stand to make in the future if they make an investment right now. ROI is expressed as a percentage or ratio and is calculated as follows:

In addition, the appreciation of a stock and depreciation of material assets are taken into consideration when calculating ROI.

Uses of the ROI Metric

ROI's are very useful for short term investments, but can be misleading for long term investments because they do not factor in the time value of money.

Time value of money is based on the principle that a dollar today is worth more than a dollar paid at a later date.

The ROI is still a useful metric because it is both versatile and simple, allowing investors to estimate the profitability of their investments.

ROI is applicable across a variety of investments such as real estate investments, stock market investments, or investments in updating factory tools and machinery.

Return on Investment & Net Present Value

The net present value of a company, which is the current value of all future cash outflows, is similar to ROI but is stated as a dollar amount and includes any discounts in the investment.

When the net present value of an investment is net positive, then it is most likely a profitable investment. Investors should analyze the profitability of their investments using both ROI and NPV, and should avoid investments when negative ROIs are calculated.

Return on Investment (ROI) FAQs

About the Author

True Tamplin, BSc, CEPF®

True Tamplin is a published author, public speaker, CEO of UpDigital, and founder of Finance Strategists.

True is a Certified Educator in Personal Finance (CEPF®), author of The Handy Financial Ratios Guide, a member of the Society for Advancing Business Editing and Writing, contributes to his financial education site, Finance Strategists, and has spoken to various financial communities such as the CFA Institute, as well as university students like his Alma mater, Biola University, where he received a bachelor of science in business and data analytics.

To learn more about True, visit his personal website, view his author profile on Amazon, or check out his speaker profile on the CFA Institute website.

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