Annual Return

Article byNiti Gupta
Edited byAnkush Jain
Reviewed byDheeraj Vaidya, CFA, FRM

What is Annual Return?

The annual return is the income generated on an investment during a year as a percentage of the capital invested and is calculated by way of the geometric average. This return provides details about the compounded return earned yearly and is used to compare the returns provided by various investments like stocks, bonds, derivatives, mutual funds etc.

Annual Return

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The annual return calculator calculates the geometric value of an investment to help an investor understand what the compounded value of the investment would look like over a specific period. This method is considered more precise and reliable in comparison to a simple return calculator as it makes adjustments for compounding interest as well.

Key Takeaways

  • Annual return is a percentage-based measure that reflects an investment’s performance over one year. It encompasses both capital appreciation and dividends or income received during that time.
  • Annual return is a valuable metric for evaluating the profitability and growth of an investment. It enables investors to assess the performance of their portfolio or individual assets within a specific timeframe.
  • Various methods can calculate the annual return, such as simple annual return, compound annual growth rate (CAGR), or total return. Each method considers different factors and may apply to different investment scenarios.

Annual Return Explained

Annual return is the calculation of an investment’s average growth for a specific time frame. It is a reliable measure for different asset classes such as stocks, bonds, commodities, and even some types of derivatives.

The annual return rate is also compounding interest adjusted, which makes the data more reliable and complete. The rate of return however, will largely depend on the exposure to risk and the movement of the particular asset class in the specific time frame.

It is an essential factor in determining the performance of a particular investment. However, one shall also not ignore the other factors which may impact the performance of the said investment.

Moreover, it also helps an investor compare the performance of two investments in different periods using this formula. It is also considered more accurate than a simple returns calculation as it adjusts returns from compound interest as well.


Before we can use an annual return calculator or understand the intricacies of the concept further, it is important to understand the formula and its structure. Let us do so through the explanation below.

Annual Return Formula

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Here, years mean the number of years for which an investment is held. The term ending value means the value of the investment at the end of the period for which return is calculated, including the value of any other return earned on such investment, such as dividendDividendDividends refer to the portion of business earnings paid to the shareholders as gratitude for investing in the company’s more income. And, beginning value means the value of the investment at the beginning of the period. Thus, to calculate the annual return, ending value, beginning value, and years of holding are required.

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How To Calculate?

To calculate the annual return rate, it is pivotal to understand the time frame within which the investor wants to understand the returns. Therefore, gathering data about the opening value or the market value of the investment on the starting date is important.

To determine the annualized return, it is first important to generate the overall returns from the investment. Once, the overall return is found, one can use the annual return formula to calculate the returns made through the investment in a year or using ‘365’ to calculate the average daily return from the investment.


Let us understand the concept of an annual return calculator and other related concepts with the help of a couple of examples.

Example #1

Suppose a stock is purchased by a person on 1st Jan 2001for $30. The stock was sold on 31st Dec 2005 for $ 46. Also, apart from the sales proceeds, the investor has received a dividend on the stock of an amount equal to $ 4 during the holding of the stock. Let us see how we can calculate the annual return of the stock in this case.


Annual Return = ( 50 / 30)^ 1/5 – 1 = 10.76%

Example #2

Cloudflare, Inc. is an American content delivery network listed on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE). The majority of its equity is held by institutional investors who have invested in the company. More than half of its share register is occupied by investment giants such as Morgan Stanley and The Vanguard Group.

In May 2023, the stock’s price went up by 13% in a matter of weeks taking the annual returns of the investors to 2.2%.


Let us understand the advantages of the annual return rate through the discussion below. It will give us a wider spectrum of understanding of the intricacies of the concept.

  • It is an indicator of the compounded returns provided by an investment annually.
  • The annual return of an investment can be compared with other investors to determine the performance of the investment as compared to another one.
  • It helps an investor to decide whether it is profitable to invest in a particular asset or not.
  • The yearly return in one period can be compared with the return of the next period to determine whether the returns are increasing or declining.


Despite the advantages mentioned in the section above and a few parts of this article, there are a factor or two about the annual return calculator that does not please investors or analysts. Let us understand the disadvantages through the discussion below.

The only limitation attached to the annual return is that it is not the only deciding factor of the performance of an investment, and other factors shall also be considered before an investment decision is taken. For example, the return of a particular stock may be declining because the entire industry is suffering due to a policy decision taken by the government.

Difference Between Annual Return and Absolute Return

There has always been confusion for new investors as to using the annual return calculator or the absolute return calculation. Let us clear the air around both these calculations and their impacts through the comparison below.

Absolute returnAbsolute ReturnAbsolute return refers to the percentage of value appreciation or depreciation of an asset or fund over a certain period. Such assets include mutual funds, stocks and fixed more

in respect of an investment means the income earned by that investment over a particular period. Thus, it refers to the increase or decrease in the value of the investment for a given period, expressed in percentage. The absolute return does not compare the return of a particular investment with any benchmark or criterion. It is also termed a total return and reflects the overall profit or loss obtained on the investment without considering any other factor.

On the other hand, It is the average returns earned by an investment during a particular year, i.e., annually. Thus, the same provides the returns that a specific investment provides in a year, calculated by geometric average. The yearly return of one investment can be compared with that of another to determine which of them is performing better.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. What are the applications of annual return analysis?

Annual return analysis is commonly used in investment evaluation to assess the performance of an investment over one year. It provides a measure of the percentage change in the investment’s value over the course of a year. The applications of annual return analysis include comparing the performance of different investments or portfolios, evaluating the performance of investment managers, and assessing the overall profitability of investment strategies.

2. What are the risks associated with the usage of annual return analysis?

Risks associated with using annual return analysis include the potential for misleading conclusions due to short-term market fluctuations, the impact of outliers or extreme events that can distort annual returns, and the reliance on historical performance that may not indicate future results.

3. What is annual return vs. trailing returns?

Annual return refers to the return on an investment over a period of one year. It measures the percentage change in the value of the investment over that specific year. On the other hand, trailing returns refer to returns over a specified period leading up to the current date. 

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