Opportunity Cost

Definition of 'Opportunity Cost'


1. The cost of an alternative that must be forgone in order to pursue a certain action. Put another way, the benefits you could have received by taking an alternative action.

2. The difference in return between a chosen investment and one that is necessarily passed up. Say you invest in a stock and it returns a paltry 2% over the year. In placing your money in the stock, you gave up the opportunity of another investment - say, a risk-free government bond yielding 6%. In this situation, your opportunity costs are 4% (6% - 2%).

Investopedia explains 'Opportunity Cost'


1. The opportunity cost of going to college is the money you would have earned if you worked instead. On the one hand, you lose four years of salary while getting your degree; on the other hand, you hope to earn more during your career, thanks to your education, to offset the lost wages.

Here's another example: if a gardener decides to grow carrots, his or her opportunity cost is the alternative crop that might have been grown instead (potatoes, tomatoes, pumpkins, etc.).

In both cases, a choice between two options must be made. It would be an easy decision if you knew the end outcome; however, the risk that you could achieve greater "benefits" (be they monetary or otherwise) with another option is the opportunity cost.



Related Video for 'Opportunity Cost'

comments powered by Disqus
Hot Definitions
  1. Gross Debt Service Ratio - GDS

    A debt service measure that financial lenders use as a rule of thumb to give a preliminary assessment about whether a potential borrower is already in too much debt. Receiving a ratio of less than 30% means that the potential borrower has an acceptable level of debt.
  2. Federal Reserve Note

    The most accurate term used to describe the paper currency (dollar bills) circulated in the United States. These Federal Reserve Notes are printed by the U.S. Treasury at the instruction of the Federal Reserve member banks, who also act as the clearinghouse for local banks that need to increase or reduce their supply of cash on hand.
  3. Benchmark Bond

    A bond that provides a standard against which the performance of other bonds can be measured. Government bonds are almost always used as benchmark bonds. Also referred to as "benchmark issue" or "bellwether issue".
  4. Market Capitalization

    The total dollar market value of all of a company's outstanding shares. Market capitalization is calculated by multiplying a company's shares outstanding by the current market price of one share. The investment community uses this figure to determine a company's size, as opposed to sales or total asset figures.
  5. Oil Reserves

    An estimate of the amount of crude oil located in a particular economic region. Oil reserves must have the potential of being extracted under current technological constraints. For example, if oil pools are located at unattainable depths, they would not be considered part of the nation's reserves.
  6. Joint Venture - JV

    A business arrangement in which two or more parties agree to pool their resources for the purpose of accomplishing a specific task. This task can be a new project or any other business activity. In a joint venture (JV), each of the participants is responsible for profits, losses and costs associated with it.
Trading Center