Opportunity Cost Definition

Opportunity Cost

A farmer chooses to plant wheat; the opportunity cost is planting a different crop, or an alternate use of the resources . Explicit and implicit costs can be viewed as out-of-pocket costs and costs of using assets you own . If you have trouble understanding the premise, remember that opportunity cost is inextricably linked with the notion that nearly every decision requires a trade-off. Opportunity cost is the amount of potential gain an investor misses out on when they commit to one investment choice over another. Gordon Scott has been an active investor and technical analyst of securities, futures, forex, and penny stocks for 20+ years.

  • The difference between the expected payoff and the certainty equivalent.
  • Whether it means investing in one stock over another or simply opting to study for a big math exam instead of meeting a friend for pizza, opportunity cost pervades every facet of life.
  • Wearing seatbelts and buying optional safety equipment reduce the risk of death by a small but measurable amount.
  • In this case, Country A has a comparative advantage over Country B for the production of tea because it has a lower opportunity cost.
  • Both options may have expected returns of 5%, but the U.S. government backs the RoR of the T-bill, while there is no such guarantee in the stock market.
  • How to Invest in Index Funds Index funds track a particular index and can be a good way to invest.

If, for example, they had instead invested half of their money in the stock market and received an average blended return of 5%, then their retirement portfolio would have been worth more than $1 million. Economic profit is strictly an internal value used for strategic decision-making. There are no regulatory bodies that govern public reporting of economic profit or opportunity cost. Whereas accounting profit is heavily dictated by reporting rules and frameworks, economic profit factors in vague assumptions and estimates from management that do not have IRS, SEC, or FASB oversight.

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When feeling cautious about a purchase, for instance, many people will check the balance of their savings account before spending money. But they often won’t think about the things that they must give up when they make that spending decision. In 1962, a little known band called The Beatles auditioned for Decca Records. This decision would have been made because the opportunity cost to sign them did not outweigh the opportunity cost to pass on them. Opportunity cost is the forgone benefit that would have been derived from an option not chosen.

Irrespective of the option the company selects, the potential profit it forgoes by not investing in another option is its opportunity cost. When choosing an option among multiple alternatives, the opportunity cost is the gain from the alternative we forgo when making a decision. In simple terms, opportunity cost is our perceived benefit of not choosing the next best option when resources are limited. The actual cost of lost time, lost production, or any other for-profit benefit shall also be considered an opportunity cost. Opportunity cost is a key concept in economics, described as the fundamental relationship between scarcity and choice. Opportunity costs represent the potential benefits that an individual, investor, or business misses out on when choosing one alternative over another.

  • The opportunity cost of making a decision to invest is the satisfaction given up by not making a consumption decision.
  • When it comes to investment returns, you’ll just need to sub in the expected rates of return of each option.
  • Aside from the missed opportunity for better health, spending that $4.50 on a burger could add up to just over $52,000 in that time frame, assuming a very achievable 5% RoR.
  • As an investor, opportunity cost means that your investment choices will always have immediate and future losses or gains.
  • If the student had been earning $50,000 per year and was expecting a 10% salary increase in one year, $105,000 in salary would be foregone as a result of the decision to return to school.

If a printer of a company malfunctions, the implicit cost equates to the total production time that could have been utilized if the machine did not break down. A production possibility frontier shows the maximum combination of factors that can be produced. This means that as a result of the increase in consumption of services, the opportunity cost would be those 5 goods that have decreased. The internal rate of return is a metric used in capital budgeting to estimate the return of potential investments.

First Known Use Of Opportunity Cost

While the financial reports don’t reveal the https://www.bookstime.com/, business owners use it to make informed decisions when having various options before them. Since they are not tangible by definition, opportunity costs are often overlooked. By recognizing the potential missed chances and opportunities by selecting one investment over another, one can make better decisions. The most obvious application of opportunity cost comes in stocking inventory.

  • While it’s often used by investors, opportunity cost can apply to any decision-making process.
  • Kerosene, a product of refining crude, would sell for $55.47 per kilolitre.
  • The opportunity cost of spending $19 to download songs from an online music provider is measured by the benefit that you would have received had you used the $19 instead for another purpose.
  • Various market factors during the course of the growing season could make potatoes especially valuable and bring cucumbers below their normal price.

Instead of working one night, you go to a concert that costs $25 and lasts two hours. Tony buys a pizza and with that same amount of money he could have bought a drink and a hot dog. For a farmer choosing to plant corn, the opportunity cost would be any other crop he may have planted, like wheat or sorghum.

Examples Of Opportunity Cost

Alternatively, if the business purchases a new machine, it will be able to increase its production of widgets. The machine setup and employee training will be intensive, and the new machine will not be up to maximum efficiency for the first couple of years. Let’s assume it would net the company an additional $500 in profits in the first year, after accounting for the additional expenses for training. The business will net $2,000 in year two and $5,000 in all future years. Considering the value of opportunity costs can guide individuals and organizations to more profitable decision-making. Note that this simple example assumes that the production possibility frontier between fish and coconuts is linear.

Generally, firms selling cheaper products should trumpet the opportunity costs of trading up, while those selling expensive ones should keep quiet. The same logic that leads people to choose the silver over the gold could lead them to choose the bronze over the silver. Investors are always faced with options about how to invest their money to receive the highest or safest return. The investor’s opportunity cost represents the cost of a foregone alternative. If you choose one alternative over another, then the cost of choosing that alternative becomes your opportunity cost.

Reading: The Concept Of Opportunity Cost

Opportunity cost is often used by investors to compare investments, but the concept can be applied to many different scenarios. If your friend chooses to quit work for a whole year to go back to school, for example, the opportunity cost of this decision is the year’s worth of lost wages. Your friend will compare the opportunity cost of lost wages with the benefits of receiving a higher education degree. While the previous situation’s implicit cost may have been somewhat negligible at a government level, this is not true for all scenarios. Using hijacking prevention methods following the September 11 attacks as an example, the additional burden of implicit costs is evident. To implement more sophisticated airport security systems, the United States government estimated the cost to be around $2 billion. An additional $450 million would be spent to reinforce plane doors, along with an extra $3 billion spent on sky marshals for all American flights to help further prevent future hijackings from taking place.

Accounting profit only takes explicit costs into account when subtracting explicit costs from total revenues. While the concept of opportunity cost applies to any decision, it becomes harder to quantify as you consider factors that can’t be assigned a dollar amount. One offers a conservative return but only requires you to tie up your cash for two years, while the other won’t allow you to touch your money for 10 years, but it will pay higher interest with slightly more risk. In this case, part of the opportunity cost will include the differences in liquidity.

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These costs are often hidden to the naked eye and aren’t made known. Unlike explicit costs, implicit opportunity costs correspond to intangibles. This means that they are costs that have already occurred within a project, without exchanging cash. This could include a small business owner not taking any salary in the beginning of their tenure as a way for the business to be more profitable. As implicit costs are the result of assets, they are also not recorded for the use of accounting purposes because they do not represent any monetary losses or gains. In terms of factors of production, implicit opportunity costs allow for depreciation of goods, materials and equipment that ensure the operations of a company. When evaluating the potential profitability of different investments, companies look for the option that is expected to give the highest return.

Opportunity Cost

The opportunity cost of $10,000 could have been spent on other aspects of business operations. Secondly, the choice of comparisons can play a crucial part in cost effectiveness analysis, affecting the measurement of opportunity cost. Ideally an intervention should be compared with all relevant interventions, including doing nothing. Without a “do nothing” baseline, the best of two generally undesirable options may be chosen. Sometimes, however, the do nothing option may be unethical, such as when a new treatment is being compared with one that has been shown to be beneficial. Partly for this reason, many studies compare particular interventions with existing practice1 which may or may not be well defined. Failure to select an appropriate comparator may make the intervention appear more cost effective than it should, leading to wrong estimates of the opportunity cost.

Economic profit does not indicate whether or not a business decision will make money. It signifies if it is prudent to undertake a specific decision against the opportunity of undertaking a different decision. As shown in the simplified example in the image, choosing to start a business would provide $10,000 in terms of accounting profits. In this case, where the revenue is not enough to cover the opportunity costs, the chosen option may not be the best course of action.

Opportunity Cost

The downside of opportunity cost is it is heavily reliant on estimates and assumptions. There’s no way of knowing exactly how a different course of action may have played out financially. Therefore, to determine opportunity cost, a company or investor must project the outcome and forecast the financial impact. This includes projecting sales numbers, market penetration, customer demographics, manufacturing costs, customer returns, and seasonality. An opportunity cost would be to consider the forgone returns possibly earned elsewhere when you buy a piece of heavy equipment with an expected ROI of 5% vs. one with an ROI of 4%.

If the Opportunity Cost were described as “a nice vacation” instead of “$5 a day,” you might make different choices. Big picture, opportunity cost is more about the choices you make than about money or resources.


Volatility profiles based on trailing-three-year calculations of the standard deviation of service investment returns. Field devoted to studying the buying or selling of assets and options to reduce overall risk. Street length increases costs proportionately while street area represents an opportunity cost of land unavailable for development. When the opportunity cost is lower, the immigration rates tend to be higher. Therefore, the transfer of money increased the opportunity cost of trading.

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