Defined: Opportunity Cost, Plus Examples and Calculation

how to find the opportunity cost

You can use the same concept to weigh different options and figure out which one offers more benefits. And remember, regardless of your choice, you’ll incur some sort of opportunity cost. Even making no decision is itself a decision with costs, especially when you consider the sleeper costs of inflation.

how to find the opportunity cost

We and our partners process data to provide:

  1. Johnson points to historical data on stocks versus bonds to illustrate the missed financial opportunities.
  2. So the opportunity cost of taking the stock is the CD’s safe return, while the cost of the CD is the stock’s potentially higher return and greater risk.
  3. 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.

Real estate investors are some of the main people that use opportunity cost. It can be hard to really learn about opportunity cost when reading the definition and seeing the formula. Sometimes it helps to use a real-world example and not an investment opportunity to show what we mean when we say opportunity cost. As you have seen, every action you’ll take has an opportunity cost.

Examples of Opportunity Cost

Accounting profit is the net income calculation often stipulated by the generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP) used by most companies in the U.S. Under those rules, only explicit, real costs are subtracted from total revenue. 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. Avoid simply focusing on the one option that you prefer and ignoring the rest.

Opportunity Cost vs. Sunk Cost

This is how you create priorities that influence your decision-making process. In general, the larger the decision, the more potential fallout there is via opportunity cost. In the PPC example above, focusing on necklaces when bracelets would actually result in more revenue/profit would be a potentially fatal business error right out of the gate. Similarly, when large sums of money are involved, the potential for negative outcomes due to opportunity cost is increased.

What Is an Example of Opportunity Cost in Investing?

While calculating opportunity cost might seem like a math problem, there is no defined math formula. As we said earlier, opportunity cost is the value of the forgone alternative. Therefore, there is a mathematical way to think of opportunity costs. Imagine you run a marketing agency and you have a team of five full-time employees.

The opportunity cost of a future decision does not include any sunk costs. Investors might also want to consider the value of time in their calculation of opportunity cost. On one hand, you have a high interest rate for a longer period of time, but on the other,  your money is tied up that much longer and unavailable to you to invest in something else. Many people wonder about restitution and unjust enrichment the difference between opportunity cost and sunk cost. Opportunity cost is the potential returns not earned in the future because you decided to invest in another place. 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.

If you choose to stay in cash long term, not only are you missing out on the opportunity to grow that money in the stock market, but your dollars are also losing value by around 2% each year. “To put it in perspective, A dollar invested in the S&P 500 at the start of 1926 would have grown to $10,896 (with all dividends reinvested) by the end of 2020. Thus, the opportunity cost for conservative investors would be $10,874,” Johnson says. While opportunity cost is mostly used by investors, you can use opportunity cost in many areas of life, including work, school, and your personal life. When looking at opportunity cost, you are looking for the potential of the cost.

how to find the opportunity cost

The opportunity cost will ask where else could that $5,000 have been spent to that would have had better use of the money. Whether you are new to investing or have been making investment decisions for a while, knowing how to calculate opportunity cost is important. It allows you to be able to make decisions between investment opportunities. If you choose to start a business, you’ll have a harder time compared to those who choose to advance their careers. Analyzing such situations will help you understand the concept of opportunity cost and make the best decision without much effort. Imagine you enjoyed the taco tremendously—and you make a habit of purchasing the same taco every single day.

†Subject to minimum balance requirements and identity verification. The Greenlight Learning Center has tons more money, career, and college content. From managing a debit card as a teen to money-making ideas for kids, there’s something for everyone. However, there are better housing markets in other parts of the country, such as in Texas. Investing here might make you more money and give you more of a return. Where you invest is also a big concern as some land will be appreciated better and faster than others.

When you’re presented with two options, the one you forego is your opportunity cost. If you have more than two, your opportunity cost is the value of the next best option. Take, for example, two similarly risky funds available for you to invest in. One has the potential to return 8 percent and the other 10 percent. The opportunity cost of the 10 percent return is forgoing the 8 percent return.

In this blog, you’ll learn what opportunity cost is and how you can apply it in real-life decisions. When it comes to your finances, opportunity cost works identically. Each choice you make has positive and negative repercussions and may cost you in different ways. This simple formula allows real estate investors to make educated decisions when it comes to deciding what market to put their money or shares into.