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Return On Investment (ROI) Definition

Investopedia Staff

What is 'Return on Investment (ROI)'

Return on Investment (ROI) is a performance measure, used to evaluate the
efficiency of an investment or compare the efficiency of a number of different
investments. ROI measures the amount of return on an investment, relative to the
investment’s cost. To calculate ROI, the benefit (or return) of an investment is
divided by the cost of the investment. The result is expressed as a percentage or a

The return on investment formula:

ROI = (Gain from Investment - Cost of Investment) / Cost of Investment

In the above formula, "Gain from Investment” refers to the proceeds obtained
from the sale of the investment of interest. Because ROI is measured as a
percentage, it can be easily compared with returns from other investments,
allowing one to measure a variety of types of investments against one another.

BREAKING DOWN 'Return on Investment

ROI is a popular metric because of its versatility and simplicity. Essentially, ROI
can be used as a rudimentary gauge of an investment’s profitability. The
calculation is not complicated, relatively easy to interpret, and has a range of
applications. If an investment’s ROI is not positive, or if other opportunities with
higher ROIs are available, these signals can help investors eliminate or select the
best options.

For example, suppose Joe invested $1,000 in Slice Pizza Corp. in 2010 and sold
his shares for a total of $1,200 one year later. To calculate his return on his
investment, he would divide his profits ($1,200 - $1,000 = $200) by the
investment cost ($1,000), for a ROI of $200/$1,000, or 20%.

With this information, he could compare his investment in Slice Pizza with his
other projects. Suppose Joe also invested $2,000 in Big-Sale Stores Inc. in 2011
and sold his shares for a total of $2,800 in 2014. The ROI on Joe’s holdings in
Big-Sale would be $800/$2,000, or 40%. (See Limitations of ROI below for
potential issues arising from contrasting time frames.)

Limitations of ROI
Examples like Joe's (above) reveal some limitations of using ROI, particularly
when comparing investments. While the ROI of Joe’s second investment was
twice that of his first investment, the time between Joe’s purchase and sale was

one year for his first investment and three years for his second.

Joe could adjust the ROI of his multi-year investment accordingly. Since his total
ROI was 40%, to obtain his average annual ROI, he could divide 40% by 3 to yield
13.33%. With this adjustment, it appears that although Joe’s second investment
earned him more profit, his first investment was actually the more efficient

ROI can be used in conjunction with Rate of Return, which takes in account a
project’s time frame. One may also use Net Present Value (NPV), which accounts
for differences in the value of money over time, due to inflation. The application
of NPV when calculating rate of return is often called the Real Rate of Return.

Developments in ROI
Recently, certain investors and businesses have taken an interest in the
development of a new form of the ROI metric, called "Social Return on
Investment," or SROI. SROI was initially developed in the early 2000s and takes
into account broader impacts of projects using extra-financial value (i.e. social
and environmental metrics not currently reflected in conventional financial

For a more in-depth look at ROI, see "FYI on ROI: A Guide to Calculating Return
on Investment."

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