DEFINITION of 'Certainty Equivalent'
A guaranteed return that someone would accept, rather than taking a chance on a higher, but uncertain, return. If you've ever thought about leaving your job to start your own business, and potentially make more money, but decided to stay and continue drawing a salary instead, then the amount of your salary is your certainty equivalent. You might need to come up with a business idea with a higher potential payoff to be convinced to leave the security of your existing job.
BREAKING DOWN 'Certainty Equivalent'
Investments must pay a risk premium to compensate investors for the possibility that they may not get their money back. If an investor has a choice between a U.S. government bond paying 3% interest and a corporate bond paying 8% interest, and he chooses the government bond, the payoff is the certainty equivalent. The company would need to offer this particular investor a potential return of more than 8% on its bonds, to convince him to buy. Thus, a company seeking investors can use the certainty equivalent as a basis for determining how much more it needs to pay, to convince investors to consider the riskier option. The certainty equivalent will vary, because each investor has a unique risk tolerance.

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