NPV Calculator to Calculate
Discounted Cash Flows

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The NPV Calculator on this page will help you to determine the desireability of an investment by instantly calculating its net present value.

This calculator will help you to determine what net impact a prospective investment will have on future cash flows when accounting for the time value of money -- without having to deal with time-consuming present value tables.

And not only will the calculator instantly calculate the net present value of a prospective investment, but it will also generate a discounted cash flows chart showing how it arrived at its answer.

Plus, if you are doing sensitivity analysis (what-if scenarios), the calculator will provide you with a printer friendly report that you can print out and use for your comparisons.

What is NPV?

The term NPV stands for Net Present Value, which is a Discounted Cash Flow (DCF) method used in forecasting the long run desirability of an investment (capital outlay).

Specifically, net present value discounts all expected future cash flows to the present by an expected or minimum rate of return. This expected rate of return is known as the Discount Rate, or Cost of Capital.

If the net present value of a prospective investment is a positive number, the investment is deemed to be desirable. On the other hand, if the net present value turns out to be a negative number, then the investment is deemed to be undesirable.

Furthermore, net present value analysis can also be used to determine which of two or more alternative desirable investments is the most desirable.

What is a Discounting?

Think of discounting as the opposite of compounding. In compounding you take a present amount (principal) and compound the interest earnings into the future. Whereas discounting takes a future value and discounts it back to the present (principal).

To illustrate the difference between compounding and discounting, if you were to invest $100 today in an investment that paid a 10% annual return, and you wanted to know how much your investment would be worth 1 year from now, you would compound the interest by multiplying the principal by 1 plus the rate (100 x 1.10 = $110).

Conversely, if you wanted to know how much you would need to deposit today in order for your investment to grow to $110 in 1 year, you would discount the future value by dividing it by 1 plus the rate (110 ÷ 1.10 = $100).

What is the Discounted Cash Flow (DCF) Method?

In the case of net present value analysis, the DCF method takes each future cash flow and reduces the amount by how much of that cash flow represents interest earned if its principal portion were invested at the time investment originated.

Then, once all future cash flows have been discounted, to arrive at the net present value you then sum all discounted cash flows and subtract that amount from the original amount invested.

How is the Discount Rate Determined?

Typically, when deciding what rate to use when discounting cash flows, the rate used is equal to the highest rate you know you could earn elsewhere.

For example, if you know of two other alternative investments (A & B) and if you know with a fair amount of certainty that you could earn 6% in alternative A and alternative B would earn 5%, then use alternative A as the rate for discounting cash flows.

Why is NPV Important?

In order to demonstrate the importance of net present value analysis, suppose I ask you for $1,000 today, and in exchange I promise to pay you $200 per year for five years, and then give you an extra $100 in year six, as shown in the following cash flow chart:

Year You Give Me
I Pay You
Now $1,000.00  
1   $200.00
2   $200.00
3   $200.00
4   $200.00
5   $200.00
6   $100.00
Totals $1,000.00 $1,100.00

Now, if you were unaware of the effects of the time value of money on my proposal, you might say, "Wow! I could earn $100 without doing anything? Here's the $1,000!" But this is where the importance of NPV comes to light.

So is my hypothetical offer really something you should consider accepting? Well, that depends on what annual rate of return you could earn if you chose to turn down my offer and invest the $1,000 somewhere else.

For example, using the net present value calculator on this page, you will see that if you know you could earn a 5% annual return (entered as the discount rate) somewhere else, then taking me up on my offer will end up costing you $59.46 in interest earnings (the opportunity cost of giving me $1,000 today in exchange for my $1,100 in future payments, versus investing in a project offering a higher rate of return).

Schedule of Cash Flows Discounted at 5%
Year Outflows Inflows Net
Cash Flow
Cash Flow
0 $1,000.00   -$1,000.00 -$1,000.00
1   $200.00 $200.00 $190.48
2   $200.00 $200.00 $181.41
3   $200.00 $200.00 $172.77
4   $200.00 $200.00 $164.54
5   $200.00 $200.00 $156.71
6   $100.00 $100.00 $74.62
Totals: $1,000.00 $1,100.00 $100.00 -$59.48

On the other hand, if you knew the most you could earn on any other alternative investment was a 2% annual return, then accepting my offer would result in a gain of $31.49 over what you could have earned.

Schedule of Cash Flows Discounted at 2%
Year Outflows Inflows Net
Cash Flow
Cash Flow
0 $1,000.00   -$1,000.00 -$1,000.00
1   $200.00 $200.00 $196.08
2   $200.00 $200.00 $192.23
3   $200.00 $200.00 $188.46
4   $200.00 $200.00 $184.77
5   $200.00 $200.00 $181.15
6   $100.00 $100.00 $88.80
Totals: $1,000.00 $1,100.00 $100.00 $31.49

By the way, if you wanted to find out the average rate of return of my hypothetical offer, you could use the IRR Calculator -- which uses a variation of the Discounted Cash Flow method for determining the internal rate of return from a series of cash flows. Plugging the above cash flows into the IRR calculator will reveal that my offer would yield a 2.99% average annual rate of return.

With that, let's use the NPV Calculator to calculate the difference between a capital outlay and its future discounted cash flows (net present value).

NPV Calculator
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Instructions: Enter the discount rate, the optional 4-digit year of the initial cash outflow, and the amount of the initial outflow.

Next, for each applicable year, enter either an additional outflow amount, an inflow amount, or a combination of both. Note that the beginning outflow and at least one inflow must be entered before the calculator will begin the NPV calculation. Also, you only need to enter figures for the applicable years as the calculator will ignore all blank lines beyond the last entry.

Once you have entered all outflows and inflows, click the "Calculate Net Present Value" button. Note that the results will include a printable chart showing the discounting of each year's net cash flow, along with the total outflows, total inflows, total net cash flows, and total discounted cash flows (NPV).

Mouse over the blue question marks for a further explanation of each entry field. More in-depth explanations can be found in the glossary of terms located beneath the NPV Calculator.

Help Discount rate (%):
Help Year of initial investment (optional):
<< Begin Value
Help Net cash flow:
Help Number of years:
Help Net Present Value:

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NPV Calculator Glossary of Terms

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Discount rate: Enter the rate you want the NPV Calculator to discount the entered cash flows. Note that the discount rate is also commonly referred to as the Cost of Capital. Enter as a percentage (for .06, enter 6%).

Year of initial investment: Optional. If you would like the calculator to populate the Year column with the actual year labels, enter the 4-digit year of the initial outflow (capital outlay).

Year column: If you entered a 4-digit year above, then this column will be automatically populated with the appropriate years based on the year entered in the line above.

Outflows column: Enter the initial outflow amount on the first line (required) and then on any subsequent lines where additional amounts were invested (enter as positive values). Note that numbers entered in this column are usually entered as negative values when using an NPV spreadsheet function, however this NPV Calculator converts the values to negative for you.

Inflows column: Enter cash inflows in the years they are projected to be received. You must have at least one value in this column for the NPV calculation to begin.

Net cash flow: The is the sum of all outflows less the sum of all inflows.

Number of years: This is the total number of cash flow years that were included in the calculations -- which includes the year of the initial cash outflow.

Net Present Value: This is the total of all discounted cash flows (NPV) -- including the capital outlay. If this result is positive, the project is considered to be desirable. If the NPV is a negative number, the project is considered to be undesirable.

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