Calculating Opportunity Cost Microeconomics

how to compute for opportunity cost

If we plot each point on a graph, we can see a line that shows us the number of burgers Charlie can buy depending on how many bus tickets he wants to purchase in a given week. As with many opportunity cost decisions, there is no right or wrong answer here, but it can be a helpful exercise to think it through and decide what you most want. If the business goes with the securities option, its investment would theoretically gain $2,000 in the first year, $2,200 in the second, and $2,420 in the third.

how to compute for opportunity cost

Tips for Investing

Figure out what you stand to gain from each option and what you stand to give up if you choose it. Our writers and editors used an in-house natural language generation platform to assist with portions of this article, allowing them to focus on adding information that is uniquely helpful. The article was reviewed, fact-checked and edited by our editorial staff prior to publication. We do not manage client funds or hold custody of assets, we help users connect with relevant financial advisors. By employing this calculation, you can concretely assess the benefits that might have been accrued had a different decision been made. Opportunity cost should primarily be used in order to help you prepare for the future, since that’s when it can help you shape your decision-making in a positive manner.

Formula for Calculating Opportunity Cost

This theoretical calculation can then be used to compare the actual profit of the company to what its profit might have been had it made different decisions. Buying 1,000 shares of company A at $10 a share, for instance, represents a sunk cost of $10,000. This is the amount of money paid out to invest, and it can’t be recouped without selling the transfer pricing stock (and perhaps not in full even then). Money that a company uses to make payments on its bonds or other debt, for example, cannot be invested for other purposes. So the company must decide if an expansion or other growth opportunity made possible by borrowing would generate greater profits than it could make through outside investments.

How to Calculate Opportunity Cost

The opportunity cost of choosing the equipment over the stock market is 2% (10% – 8%). In other words, by investing in the business, the company would forgo the opportunity to earn a higher return—at least for that first year. A sunk cost is money already spent at some point in the past, while opportunity cost is the potential returns not earned in the future on an investment because the money was invested elsewhere.

Alternatively, the company could also invest in research and development for a new product, aiming to strengthen its market position and attract new customers. The term was first coined by Austrian economist Friedrich von Wieser in the late 19th Century, and it has since become a cornerstone of economic theory. By quantifying what is sacrificed when a particular path is pursued, opportunity cost serves as a critical tool for evaluating the relative worth of various choices. The term ‘opportunity cost’ is attributed to David L. Green, who used it in an 1894 article titled “Pain-Cost and Opportunity Cost”.

how to compute for opportunity cost

Opportunity cost is the value of the best alternative that you miss out on as a result of choosing a different option. You can see this on the graph of Charlie’s budget constraint, Figure 1, below. If you use some of them now with your spare $1,000 you won’t have them next year (assuming your employer lets you roll them over from year to year). Get global corporate cards, ACH and wires, and bill pay in one account that scales with you from launch to IPO. You can determine whether it makes more fiscal sense to pay down your loan balance, launch a new product, or accept even more financing.

The opportunity cost of a future decision does not include any sunk costs. This opportunity cost calculator helps you find the value of the cash you want to spend on a non-investment product. Thanks to this tool, you will be able to calculate how much money you will earn by investing the money instead of spending it on goods or services, and from this find out what the opportunity cost is.

  1. If, for example, they had instead invested half of their money in the stock market and received an average blended return of 5% a year, their portfolio would have been worth more than $1 million.
  2. For example, when it comes to investments, sunk cost could represent money that someone has spent on a failed investment, while opportunity cost would represent the return that they could have made if they invested the money somewhere else.
  3. To calculate the opportunity cost of investing in the bonds, the investor simply has to subtract $2,835 from $4,900.
  4. An investor is interested in purchasing stock in Company A or Company B.

If you determined the difference in revenue generated by each of those two scenarios, you’d be able to find the opportunity cost. 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.

If Charlie has to give up lots of burgers to buy just one bus ticket, then the slope will be steeper, because the opportunity cost is greater. For example, you purchased $1,000 in new equipment to manufacture backpacks, your number one product. Later, you think that you could have funneled that $1,000 into an ad campaign and won 30 new customers.

By opting for the bond, they prioritize security over the possibility of higher returns. The opportunity cost here is the additional income that could have been earned with the more volatile equity option. Remember that opportunity cost is calculated by subtracting the rate of return on your chosen option from the rate of return on the best foregone alternative, rather than from the sum of the rate of return of all the possible foregone alternatives. This is because, when you make a choice, you can choose only a single option, so you’re only giving up a single alternative. Companies try to weigh the costs and benefits of borrowing money vs. issuing stock, including both monetary and non-monetary considerations, to arrive at an optimal balance that minimizes opportunity costs.

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. Ultimately, learning how to consider opportunity cost will help you make informed decisions in all aspects of your life. By weighing the pros and cons of every option, you can easily figure out which alternative provides maximum benefit at a low cost.

Because opportunity cost is a forward-looking consideration, the actual rate of return (RoR) for both options is unknown at that point, making this evaluation tricky in practice. For example, a college graduate has paid for college and now may have outstanding debt. This college tuition is a sunk cost, since it’s been incurred and cannot be recovered. If the graduate decides to change career fields, any decision should factor in future costs to do so rather than costs that have already been incurred. So the opportunity cost of changing fields may include more tuition and training time, but also the cost of the job this is left behind (as well as the potential salary of a job in the new field).

While the definition of opportunity cost remains the same in investing, the concept is a bit more nuanced because of potential differences among investments. The opportunity cost of investing in one stock over another can differ because investments have varying risks and rewards. Here’s how opportunity cost works in investing, plus the differences between opportunity cost, risk and sunk costs. Similarly, businesses must consider opportunity cost when allocating resources to projects or initiatives.

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