What is the Definition of Expected Return?

Learn about the definition of expected return and how it impacts investment decisions. Discover the importance of calculating expected returns and see real-world examples in action.

Understanding Expected Return

Expected return is a crucial concept in the world of investing that essentially represents the average return an investor can anticipate on an investment over time. It is a key metric used by investors to evaluate the potential profitability of an investment and make informed decisions about where to allocate their capital.


The expected return of an investment can be calculated using the following formula:

  • Expected Return = (Probability of Return A * Return A) + (Probability of Return B * Return B) + …


Expected return provides investors with a baseline for evaluating the risk and reward trade-off of an investment. By comparing the expected return of various investment options, investors can make decisions that align with their risk tolerance and financial goals.


Consider an investor who is deciding between two investment options: Option A has an expected return of 8% with a probability of 70%, while Option B has an expected return of 12% with a probability of 30%. By calculating the expected return of each option, the investor can make an informed decision based on their risk preferences and desired returns.

Case Study: Company X

Company X is considering launching a new product line that has the potential to generate substantial returns. After conducting market research and financial analysis, the company estimates that there is a 60% probability of earning a return of 15% and a 40% probability of a return of 5%. By calculating the expected return of the new product line, Company X can assess the viability and potential profitability of the investment.


Studies have shown that investors who actively incorporate expected return calculations into their decision-making process tend to outperform those who do not. By carefully evaluating the expected returns of different investment opportunities, investors can optimize their portfolios and achieve their financial objectives.

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