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How to calculate the Rate of Return on any investment Saxo Group

When building a portfolio, there are two components of risk to keep in mind. This is the amount of risk you’re comfortable taking with your investments at any given time. So if you have a low-risk tolerance, you might steer toward safer investments, such as money market accounts, bonds or certificates of deposit (CDs).

  1. Specifically, it can help with understanding how increasing or decreasing levels of risk in your investments can translate to returns.
  2. When the time horizon for an investment is more than one year, it’s best to use CAPM in conjunction with the risk-free rate.
  3. The most important part of the equation is defining the risk premium (Rm – Rf).
  4. Say you want to invest in stocks, for instance, You could diversify by choosing stocks with different market capitalizations or stocks that represent different sectors.

The risk-free rate of return is used to calculate how much an investment has earned or lost compared with something that’s considered safe, such as a treasury bill. Generally, it’s best to diversify across different types of investments that are unlikely to go down at the same time. The risk-free rate of return is the theoretical rate of return that an investor can expect from a perfectly safe investment. Say you want to invest in stocks, for instance, You could diversify by choosing stocks with different market capitalizations or stocks that represent different sectors. The same is true for investing with mutual funds or exchange-traded funds. What’s key with investing in mutual funds or ETFs is to pay attention to the underlying holdings.


Equity investing focuses on the return compared to the amount of risk you took in making the investment. U.S. Treasuries are usually the best proxy for a risk-free investment for US investors. The reason is that it is hard to imagine a scenario where the government defaults on its debt. While this is possible in theory, the chance is negligible, and the slightest potential risk would most definitely not materialize. Furthermore, the market for US treasury instruments is intense and liquid, meaning it is a safe and sound investment environment.

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His expertise covers all corners of the financial industry, having worked as a consultant to big financial institutions, FinTech companies, and rising blockchain startups. Deflation refers to a decrease in prices over time as a result of less available currency. In other words, deflation occurs when companies have to lower their prices because consumers aren’t willing to buy products. When you’re managing an investment portfolio, it helps to regularly (quarterly or yearly) review your investments to see how you’re doing compared with your benchmark.

That means it was responsible for three out of seven defaults on muni bonds rated by Moody’s Investors in that year. The city has since managed to work its way back from a “negative” outlook to a “stable” outlook from S&P Global as of January 2021. Use the tax-equivalent-yield formula to compare the real return on a muni bond with a corporate bond.

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Between 1970 and 2022, the cumulative 10-year default rate averaged over that time period was just 0.15%. This includes not only higher rated municipal bonds, but lower grade ones as well. Since 2013, annual inflation in the United States has ranged between a low of 0.7% (in 2015) to a high of 7% (in 2021). 2022 and 2023 also saw elevated inflation rates at 6.5% and 3.4% respectively. Equity investing uses the required rate of return in various calculations. For example, the dividend discount model uses the RRR to discount the periodic payments and calculate the value of the stock.

However, government-issued bonds are logically about as close to being risk-free as an asset could get, as governments could simply print more money if necessary. For corporate valuations, the majority of risk/return models begin with the presumption that there is a so-called “risk free rate”. It’s never a bad idea to run the numbers to see if a particular low-risk investment makes sense in the current economy. You now have a tool to do just that, and it only takes moments to figure out your risk-free rate of return. While the risk-free rate is ultimately a theoretical concept, the ability to calculate and understand the real risk-free rate is helpful for several reasons.

In that case, the risk-free rate of return would be that 3%, adjusted to inflation. You are probably curious to know the guaranteed risk-free return rate you can ensure, right? Risk-free rates of return can vary based on what instrument is used for their calculation and its yield.

In low-inflation economies, zero or near-zero interest rates translate to real risk-free rates that are low. For example, if the inflation rate was a nominal 2.5% and you were considering that same 12-month CD at 2.5% above, your real risk-free rate would be zero, making it a break-even investment. That monetary policy choice reduced T-bill yields to historically low levels.

A third (also less well developed) interpretation is that instead of maintaining pace with purchasing power, a representative investor may require a risk free investment to keep pace with wages. T-notes fell as low as 0.52% during the Covid pandemic and rose as high as 15.84% during the early 1980s. High T-notes rates usually signal prosperous economic times when private sector companies are performing well, meeting earnings targets, and increasing stock prices over time. Get instant access to video lessons taught by experienced investment bankers. Learn financial statement modeling, DCF, M&A, LBO, Comps and Excel shortcuts.

On the other hand, consider an investor that pays $1,000 for a $1,000 par value 5% coupon bond. A rate of return (RoR) is the net gain or loss of an investment over a specified time period, expressed as a percentage of the investment’s initial cost. When calculating the rate of risk free rate of return return, you are determining the percentage change from the beginning of the period until the end. Now let’s say you decide to sell the bond for USD 600 in premium value. So, your profit on the bond coupon is the USD 100 gain from the sale, plus the USD 25 earned in interest.

Viktor has an MSc in Financial Markets and years of investing experience. His preferred instruments are ETFs but also maintains a portfolio of cryptocurrencies. Viktor loves to experiment with building data analysis and backtesting models in R.