Return on Investment: What Is It and How to Calculate

May 3, 2023
When creating a business case for a specific plan, the ROI calculation is occasionally combined with other methods. ROI is calculated by dividing the benefit (or return) of an investment by the Investment's expense. The outcome is presented as a ratio or a proportion. The overall ROI for a firm is used to assess how effectively a business is managed. A return on Investment might be calculated in terms of achieving one or more of these objectives rather than an immediate profit or cost savings if a company has immediate objectives, such as gaining market revenue share, developing infrastructure, or positioning itself for sale.

What is Return on Investment?

Return on Investment (ROI), also referred to as Return on Costs (ROC), is a formula that investors can use to assess their investments and determine how well one Investment has done in comparison to other investments. You can use ROI to assess the profitability or efficiency of an investment to compare the effectiveness of several distinct investments. ROI aims to quantitatively quantify the rate of return on a specific investment in relation to the Investment's expense.

How to Calculate Return on Investment?

Return on Investment (ROI) can be determined in various ways. The most prevalent is the Investment's return as a percentage of its expense;

ROI = Net income/Cost of Investment * 100

Investment gain divided by investment base also calculates ROI;

ROI = Investment gain / Investment base OR,

ROI= (Current Value of Investment - Cost of Investment​​) / Cost of Investment

"Current Value of Investment" is the amount that could be obtained after the sale of an investment in question. The investment return on Investment (ROI) is typically expressed as a percentage, making it easy to evaluate ROI across different asset classes.

It is essential to specify which algorithm was used to determine the proportion when talking about or comparing ROIs across divisions or companies because there are many different methods to arrive at this number. There may be multiple investment-measuring equations. The return on Investment is expressed as a percentage rather than a ratio for simplicity's sake.

How to interpret ROI calculations

Several measures, all of which contribute to a company's profitability, can be measured with return on Investment. Total profits and total expenses must be evaluated for an accurate return on investment calculation. Because of its adaptability and ease of use, return on Investment is a widely used measure. Simply put, return on Investment (ROI) can be used as a rough indicator of a venture's success. An example of return on Investment is the profit made from selling a piece of property, investing in stocks, or growing a business.

The computation itself is straightforward and has a wide variety of possible interpretations. If the proportion of return from the ROI computation is positive, then the company or statistic being evaluated is lucrative. In contrast, a negative return on investment proportion indicates that the company or statistic being evaluated is losing money. To put it another way, if the proportion is favorable, the benefits will outweigh the Investment. If the figure is a negative proportion, then the investor is losing money.

Uses of Return on Investments

The return on investment (ROI) metric is useful for assessing the profitability of investments relative to their outlays. Return on Investment (ROI) estimates are also used in business for assessing current and past expenditures. A return on investment calculation can help a trader identify profitable ventures from those that are not. Investors and stock administrators can try to get the most out of their money with this strategy.

Using return on Investment (ROI), you can easily compare and rate various business opportunities. The rate of return can be used as a yardstick by private investors to evaluate the performance of their stock holdings, financial stakes in startups, and other financial assets.

The benefits of ROI

Some advantages of return on investment rates are as follows:

  1. Typically, uncomplicated and straightforward to compute. There are only a handful of numbers required to finish the computation, and you can find them all in your company's financial records or balance sheets.
  2. The capacity to draw parallels between different situations is a second key feature. Because of its broad application and straightforward computation, more accurate evaluations of investment yields across businesses are possible.
  3. Profitability analysis. Return on Investment (ROI) refers to the money earned from an enterprise-level expenditure. As a result, it's easier to compare businesses' or sports teams' financial success.
  4. Commonly Acknowledged. If you use the term "return on investment" in casual discussion, it's safe to assume that the audience will have a basic understanding of the idea.

The limitations of ROI

The return on Investment (ROI) is a popular metric for gauging the success of a business venture. Nonetheless, it is not without flaws. Among these are the following:

  1. The irrational failure to factor time into the calculation. The greater return appears to be the superior purchase at first glance. An investment that yields a greater return after ten years pales in contrast to another investment that yields a significantly lesser return after just one year.
  2. The rate of return (RoR), which considers the duration of an undertaking, can be used in tandem with the return on Investment (ROI). Net current value (NPV) is another method that can be used to take inflation and currency depreciation into consideration. RoR calculations that factor in NPV is sometimes referred to as "real" RoR calculations.
  3. Return on Investment (ROI) figures are open to manipulation as they may be interpreted differently by various companies. Since there is no universally accepted formula for calculating ROI, comparing expenditures across businesses is meaningless. The real return on Investment (ROI), which factors in all expenses associated with an investment's growth in value, is what an investor should focus on.
  4. Managers may favor assets with higher returns on Investment (iv). Even purchases with poor returns on Investment (ROIs) can sometimes boost a company's worth. But making less-than-ideal decisions can result in wasted resources.
  5. There is no method to quantify intangible advantages. Using the return on Investment for new machines as an illustration, a company can use hard numbers to figure out how much money it made and how much it spent. While new machines are sure to boost mood, it's tough to place a price on that effect alone. However, businesses can compute ROIs for such intangible advantages by referring to them as soft ROIs, in contrast to hard ROIs, which are produced with real monetary numbers.
  6. Refinancing real estate or getting a second debt can complicate return on investment calculations. The ROI may decrease if the new figures are applied to a second or refinanced debt due to factors such as higher interest and loan costs. Owners of business and domestic leasing properties may see a rise in their energy bills, upkeep costs, and property taxation. For properties purchased with an adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM), where the interest rate is subject to yearly adjustments and can rise dramatically over the course of the loan, more complicated computations may be necessary.

Types of ROI

Similar alternatives to ROI are used to different degrees by companies. Some examples are as follows:

  • Annualized ROI.

This type of return on Investment takes into account the period of time an investor holds an asset.

It is calculated as shown below:

Annualized ROI = ((Final value of Investment - Initial value of Investment) / Initial value of Investment) x 100.

Similarly, the annual performance rate can be calculated using the following;

 ((P + G) / P) ^ (1 / n) - 1, where:

P = initial investment, 

G = gains or losses, and 

n = the number of years the Investment is held.

  • Social ROI (SROI).

Economic, environmental, and societal worth are all taken into account when calculating SROI. It assigns monetary amounts to the results achieved.

The formula for SROI is: 

SROI = Net present value of benefits / Net present value of Investment.

Social Return on Investment (SROI) aids in comprehending the value proposal of specific ESG factors utilized in SRI practices.

  • Marketing statistics ROI.

The success of a marketing plan or strategy can be gauged in part by looking at these metrics. It looks for the benefits that can be traced back to promotional efforts.

A basic calculation is:

(Sales Growth - Marketing cost) / Marketing cost

  • Social media statistics ROI.

This can include things like the number of views or likes produced for a given amount of work and is used to gauge the success of social media promotion. The return on Investment (ROI) from social media can be easily calculated by looking at the income it generates.

Formula: (Value / Total investment) x 100.

  • Learning ROI.

Return on Investment in terms of knowledge gained and kept after undergoing formal training or schooling. Several other specialized types of return on Investment will undoubtedly emerge as time goes on and the global economy evolves.

Alternatives to the ROI Formula

The return on investment percentage is a very general metric, but there are many others to consider.

It is the Internal Rate of Return (IRR) that provides the most granular analysis of profitability. This is the total increase rate in revenue flow over the lifetime of a transaction stated as a percentage. This gauge of return, which factors in the timeliness of financial transfers, is widely used in high-end markets such as private equity and venture capital.

Return on assets and return on equity are two other metrics that can be used as an option for ROI. The yearly rate of return represented by these two measures does not take into consideration the schedule of financial transfers. (as opposed to a lifetime rate of return like IRR). However, the fraction is more precisely defined, making them more particular than the standard ROI. While the term "investment" can refer to a variety of activities, terms like "equity" and "assets" have clear definitions.

What Is a Good ROI?

Considerations like the investor's risk capacity and the amount of time it takes for the Investment to produce a return determine what constitutes a "good" ROI. If all other factors remain constant, buyers with a lesser tolerance for risk will opt for smaller returns. Similarly, buyers will want a larger return on their money if the venture has a lengthier payoff time.

The general consensus holds that an equity purchase with a return on Investment (ROI) of 7% per year or higher is doing well. When adjusted for inflation, this is also roughly the average yearly return of the S&P 500. This is an estimate, so your yield could be greater or smaller in individual years. However, total efficiency will average out to this figure.

However, you need more than a straightforward measure to arrive at the correct ROI for your business plan. Depending on your risk tolerance and the type of assets you're buying, the S&P 500 may not be the best index to follow. Ask yourself the following to determine the appropriate rate of return:

  1. Can I afford to take this risk?
  2. What will happen if I spend and then lose all of that money?
  3. To what extent do I need to increase my earnings before I'm willing to risk losing money on this Investment?
  4. If I don't put this money into this venture, what else could I do with it?

What Industries Have the Highest ROI?

The S&P 500 has generated an annualized return of around 10% on average. But even within that, there may be wide discrepancies between sectors. In 2020, for instance, many tech firms had yearly profits significantly higher than 10%. Energy and utility businesses, for example, had much weaker returns on Investment (ROI) and even deficits in some years. Increased rivalry, advances in technology, and modifications in consumers' tastes are just a few of the variables that can cause an industry's typical return on Investment (ROI) to change over time.


Return on Investment (ROI) is a simple and straightforward measure for evaluating the success of a financial outlay. This common method of analysis ensures that all business opportunities are evaluated equally.

However, return on Investment (ROI) alone should not be used by investors because it needs an accurate measurement of all expenses and does not take into consideration risk or time frame. The return on Investment (ROI) is a useful metric to use, but it shouldn't be the only one.