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Difference Between NPV and Payback

NPV vs Payback

In every business, it is crucial to evaluate the value of a proposed project before actually investing on it. There are a number of solutions to evaluate this on a financial perspective and among them are Net Present Value (NPV) and Payback methods. These two can measure the sustainability and value of long-term projects. However, they differ in their computation, factors, and thus vary in terms of limitations and benefits.
NPV, also known as Net Present Worth (NPW), is a standard method for using the time value of money to appraise long-term projects. It calculates a time series of cash flows, both incoming and outgoing, in terms of currency. NPV equates to the sum of the present values of the individual cash flows. The most important thing to remember about NPV is ‘present value’. Put simply, NPV = PV (Present value) ‘“ I (Investment). For instance, given $ 1, 000 for I, $ 10, 000 for PV; $ 10,000- $ 1,000 = $ 9, 000 = NPV. When choosing between alternative investments, NPV can help determine the one with highest present value, specifically with these conditions: if NPV > 0 accept the investment, if NPV < 0, reject the investment, and if NPV= 0, the investment is marginal.
Payback method, conversely, is used to evaluate a purchase or expansion project. It determines the period, commonly in years, in which there’ll be a ‘payback’ on investments made. It is equal to the initial investment divided by annual savings or revenue or in math terms, Payback period = I/CF (Cash flow per year. For example, given $10, 000 for I and $ 1, 000 for CF, 10,000/ 1, 000 = 10 (years) = Payback period. The shorter the payback period, the better the investment is. A long payback means that the investment will be locked up for a long time; hence the project is relatively unsustainable.
Net present value analysis removes the time element in weighing alternative investments, while Payback method is focused on the time required for the return on an investment to repay the total initial investment. Given this, Payback method doesn’t properly assess the time value of money, inflation, financial risks, etc. as opposed to NPV, which accurately measures an investment’s profitability. In addition, although Payback method indicates the maximum acceptable period the investment, it doesn’t take into consideration any probabilities that may occur after the payback period nor measure total incomes. It doesn’t indicate whether purchases will yield positive profits over time. Thus, NPV provides better decisions than Payback when making capital investments. Relying solely on Payback method might result in poor financial decisions. Most businesses usually pair it with NPV analysis. As far as advantages are concerned, Payback period method is simpler and easier to calculate for small, repetitive investment and factors in tax and depreciation rates. NPV, on the other hand, is more accurate and efficient as it uses cash flow, not earnings and results in investment decisions that add value. On the downside, it assumes a constant discount rate over life of investment and is limited in predicting cash flows. Moreover, the cons of Payback include the fact that it doesn’t take into account cash flows and profits after the payback period and money value along with financial risks prior or during investment.
Summary
1) NPV and Payback methods measure the profitability of long-term investments.
2) NPV calculates an investment present value, but eliminates time element and assumes a constant discount rate over time.
3) Payback determines the period on which a ‘payback’ on a specific investment will be made. However, it disregards time value of money and the project’s profitability after the payback period.
4) 4) Most businesses use a combination of the two to come up with an optimal financial decision.


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