How To Calculate ROI- A Comprehensive Guide

When it comes to stocks, bonds, mutual funds, real estate, or any other asset class, one of the biggest reasons new investors lose money is that they chase after high rates of return. This article explains how compounding works and how it can help you grow your money significantly over time.

When you invest, you only have one goal: to make money. And every investor wishes to make the most profit possible. That’s why, before you invest in anything, you should have a rough notion of what kind of return you may expect.

Return on investment, or ROI, is a commonly used profitability statistic that compares the amount of profit generated by an investment to its costs. The return on investment (ROI) is a percentage that can evaluate individual investments or competing investment opportunities.

Understanding ROI

Because of its versatility and simplicity, ROI is a popular metric. Essentially, the return on investment (ROI) can be used as a crude indicator of an investment’s profitability. This could be the return on a stock investment, the expected return on a manufacturing expansion, or a real estate deal.

The math itself isn’t overly complicated, and it’s simple to interpret for a wide range of applications. If the return on investment (ROI) is positive, the investment is beneficial. On the other hand, these indications can assist investors in rejecting or picking the best possibilities if other opportunities with higher ROIs are available. Investors should also avoid negative ROIs, which indicate a net loss.

Assume Jo made a $1,000 investment in Slice Pizza Corp. in 2017 and sold the shares for $1,200 a year later. Divide the net profits ($1,200 – $1,000 = $200) by the initial cost ($1,000) to get a return on investment of $200/$1,000, or 20%.

With this information, one might compare Slice Pizza’s investment to comparable projects. Assume Jo made a $2,000 investment in Big-Sale Stores Inc. in 2014 and sold the stock for a total of $2,800 in 2017. The return on Jo’s Big-Sale investments would be $800/$2,000, or 40%.

Interpreting the ROI

It’s vital to keep a few things in mind when reading ROI figures. ROI is usually expressed as a percentage for starters because it is easier to comprehend (as opposed to when expressed as a ratio). Second, because investment returns can be positive or negative, the ROI calculation includes the net return in the numerator.

When ROI calculations produce a positive result, it indicates that net returns are positive (because total returns exceed total costs). When ROI calculations have a negative result, total costs exceed total profits, resulting in negative net returns. (To put it another way, this investment is a loser.) Finally, total returns and costs should be considered when calculating ROI with the most remarkable accuracy. Annualized ROI should be used to make an apples-to-apples comparison between competing investments.

How to calculate ROI for a project?

The return on investment (ROI) formula is as follows:

ROI=(Current Value of investment−Cost of investment) / Cost of investment

The proceeds from the sale of an interest-bearing investment are referred to as “Current Value of Investment.” Because ROI is expressed as a percentage, it can readily be compared to the returns on other assets, allowing you to evaluate various investment kinds.


ROI example

Assume an investor paid $10 per share for 1,000 shares of the fictitious corporation Worldwide Wicket Co. The investor sold the shares for $12.50 a year later. During the one-year holding period, the investor received $500 in dividends. To buy and sell the claims, the investor paid a total of $125 in trading commissions.

The ROI for this investor can be calculated as follows:

ROI= {($12.50 – $10 ) *1000 + $500 – $125 /( $10 * 1000 )}* 100 = 28.75%

​Here is a step-by-step analysis of the calculation:

  • Full returns and total costs must be included when calculating net returns. Capital gains and dividends make up a stock’s total returns. The initial purchase price and any commissions paid would be included in the total costs.
  • The gross capital gain (before commissions) from this deal is ($12.50 – $10) × 1,000 in the previous calculation. The $500 represents the dividends earned from the stock, while the $125 represents the total commissions paid.
  • When you break down the ROI into its constituent pieces, you’ll find that capital gains accounted for 23.75 percent and dividends accounted for 5%. This distinction is critical because capital gains and dividends are taxed differently in most jurisdictions.

ROI=Capital Gains%−Commission%+Dividend Yield

​And using example values:

Capital Gains=($2500÷$10,000)×100=25.00%


Dividend Yield=($500÷$10,000)×100=5.00%


​Benefits of using ROI

ROI as a metric for performance and profitability is beneficial to both investors and business owners. It assigns net income to a division or project to determine if the corporation should continue to invest in that area.

Another advantage of ROI is that it may be utilized in comparative analysis to determine which investment locations produce the best results. This aids investors in making the best investing decisions.

ROI calculations are also easily performed, especially in cases with no interim cash flows. The market value of a holding and the cost basis for that holding as tracked within their brokerage account can be used to compute ROI for an investor. Accounting data can be utilized to determine multiple ROI measurements for businesses.

Limitations of using ROI

One of the drawbacks of ROI is that it can be calculated in various ways. For example, net profit, EBIT, or even sales might be used to calculate the net return. Evaluators must utilize a standard definition of ROI for ROI metrics to be valuable indicators across different firms.

Another downside of ROI is that it does not account for its duration. A 100 percent ROI may appear far superior to a 20 percent return. Still, if the 100 percent return took five years to achieve against only one month for the 20 percent return, the image changes dramatically. Many investors keep track of annualized returns, which help to translate several ROI measurements from different holding periods into a single number that’s easier to compare.

From a corporate standpoint, depending purely on ROI may lead division directors to overlook projects with intangible advantages that are more difficult to evaluate. As a result, firm management may have a biased perception of what adds value to the organization.

What is a good return on investment?

Before we can figure out a reasonable rate of return, we must consider inflation, which reduces the value of money over time—the Cost of living rises. To buy the same amount of things for the same price now, you’d need more money in the future.

Many people invest in boosting their purchasing power. that is, they aren’t concerned with “dollars” or “yen” in the abstract; instead, they are concerned with how much they can buy with that money.

When we examine the data, we can observe that the rate of return differs depending on the asset type:


Gold hasn’t gained much real value in the long run, for the most part. It is merely a store of value that maintains its purchasing power. However, the value of gold fluctuates dramatically from decade to decade, moving from massive highs to terrible lows in a matter of years.

Because of the frequent changes in the rate of return, it’s not an excellent location to put money that you could need in the next few years.


Money, sometimes known as fiat currencies, can lose value over time. Long-term, burying cash in coffee cans in your yard is a bad idea. Even if it survives the elements, given enough time, it won’t be beneficial.


The average yearly return on bonds was 5.3 percent from 1926 to 2018. The higher the return on a bond, the bigger the risk it involves.


The average annual return on stocks has been 10.1 percent since 1926. The bigger the return on investment, the riskier the firm.

Real estate

Real estate return demands are similar to those of business ownership and equities without the use of debt. Over the last 30 years, we have experienced decades of roughly 3% inflation.

Projects with a higher level of risk may have a higher rate of return. Mortgages, which are a type of leverage, are commonly used by real estate investors to maximize the return on their investment.

What if your investment is below its average?

If your investments aren’t performing as expected, remember one thing: don’t panic. The stock market could be up 14% in a year. It may be down more than 35% in two years (as it was in 2008). Taking the good with the bad means leaving your money invested and reinvesting all distributions, even if the index is underperforming.

Short-term returns on stocks, real estate, and other higher-risk assets can be negative. On the other hand, these investments can make up for lost time over time and create the higher return on investment that drew your attention in the first place.

Understanding inflation’s impact on your return

To get a fair picture of what your investment can buy, you should also pay close attention to the rate of inflation. If you achieved a 5% return on an investment during a period where inflation climbed by 5%, your after-inflation, or accurate, return on investment would be zero.

Cash investments generally lag behind inflation, or at best, keep up with it. If you invest all of your money in CDs and savings accounts for decades, the amount of money in your account will grow, but the purchasing power of that money will likely decrease.

So, a high stock allocation — especially early in your professional career — is a tried-and-true approach to beat inflation and build wealth for long-term financial goals like retirement. And, in times when inflation is even higher, knowing the best assets to protect against depreciating purchasing power is critical.

What industries have the highest ROI?

The average annual return on the S& P 500 has been around 10% in the past. However, depending on the industry, there might be significant variations within that. Many technological companies, for example, produced yearly returns considerably above this 10% benchmark in 2020. Meanwhile, businesses in other industries, such as energy and utilities, had substantially lower returns and, in some cases, even losses year over year. It is natural for an industry’s average ROI to fluctuate over time due to variables such as increased competition, technological advancements, and changes in consumer tastes.

Combining leverage with ROI

If the investment creates profits, leverage can increase the ROI. On the other hand, leverage can magnify losses if the investment turns out to be a loser.

Assume an investor paid $10 per share for 1,000 shares of the fictitious company Worldwide Wickets Co. Assume that the investor purchased these shares on a 50% margin ($5,000 of their own money plus $5,000 borrowed from their brokerage firm as a margin loan). This investor sold their shares for $12.50 exactly one year later. Over a year, they received $500 in dividends. When they acquired and sold the shares, they also paid $125 in trading commissions. Furthermore, their margin loan had an interest rate of 9%.

A few variables to bear in mind while calculating the ROI on this specific, hypothetical investment. First, the interest on the margin loan ($450) should be included in the overall expenditures in this example. Second, because of the leverage used by getting a $5,000 margin loan, the initial investment is now $5,000.

Disadvantages of ROI

There are numerous drawbacks to using ROI as a metric. For starters, it ignores an investment’s holding duration, which might be problematic when comparing investment options. Assume that investment X yields a 25% return on investment, while investment Y yields a 15% return.

Unless the time range of each investment is also known, it is impossible to conclude that X is the more significant investment. It’s feasible that the 25% ROI from investment X was achieved over five years, whereas the 15% ROI from investment Y was completed in just one year. When evaluating investment options, annualized ROI might help you get around this problem.

Second, ROI does not take risk into account. It is well understood that investment rewards are directly proportional to risk: the more significant the potential returns, the higher the risk. This can be seen in the investment world, where small-cap stocks

often outperform large-cap ones in terms of returns (but are accompanied by significantly greater risk).

An investor aiming for a portfolio return of 12 percent, for example, would have to take on considerably more risk than someone seeking a return of merely 4 percent. Suppose an investor focuses solely on the return on investment (ROI) without additionally considering the risk involved. In that case, the result of the investment decision may be significantly different from what was intended.

Third, ROI values can be overstated if all estimated expenditures are not included in the computation. This can happen on purpose or unintentionally. When calculating the return on investment on a piece of real estate, all associated expenses should be considered. Mortgage interest, property taxes, insurance, and other maintenance expenditures are included. These costs can deduct a significant amount from the predicted ROI; if they are not factored into the equation, the ROI can be significantly exaggerated.

Finally, ROI, like many other profitability indicators, only focuses on financial gains when examining the returns on investment. Additional advantages, such as social or environmental values, are not considered. The Social Return on Investment (SROI), a relatively new ROI indicator, aids in quantifying some of these benefits for investors.

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

How do you get a 20% return on your investment?

A 20% return is conceivable, but it’s a substantial return, so you’ll need to either take chances with volatile assets or devote more time to safer investments. Some stocks can gain 20% in a year or less, but such volatility can lead to 20% losses rather than gains if you don’t trade them effectively. In an average year, relatively safer assets may have less volatility, but if you have a long enough time horizon, you can get that 20% return.

When do investors expect a higher rate of return on their investments?

The more the risk connected with an investment, the larger the expected return. Investors will choose the less hazardous investment if the prospective returns of two investments are comparable and one has a lower risk. As investments become riskier, they must also provide the possibility of more significant profits, or they would not attract investors.

The bottom line

When it comes to ROI, there is no one-size-fits-all response. It would help to assess how your return stands up entirely if you had a holistic picture of the bumps and dangers along the path. Remember that when you talk about investing, you’re talking about looking at the broad picture and all of the long-term options available to you, not trading based on the current market news and moves. You can optimize your return on investment based on the risks you’re prepared to face by diversifying your portfolio across diverse assets and holding those assets during difficult periods.