Time Value of Money: Understand and Use It to Make Good Financial Decisions
Last Updated: October 28, 2020
Which is worth more: $100 today or $100 a year from now?
Does it depend on if you’re paying or receiving the $100?
How you answer may be based on your understanding of the time value of money. Let’s explore this concept and figure out how we can use it to make better money decisions.
Understanding the Time Value of Money:
Say you’re given the following situation as a choice. You can take a lump sum of money now or wait a year to collect it. Most people would prefer to get the money now, merely because they have needs that the money can fulfill immediately. They have bills to pay or have wants and needs that can be realized. What if the future sum way higher would you take it and what sum does your decision change?
You can intuitively understand that $1 today is worth more than $1 tomorrow and $1 a year from now. This is the essence of the time value of money concept. The time value of money concept is useful for installment loans, like mortgages or car payments. It is also valuable for interestbearing accounts, like an IRA. If you ever decide to invest in real estate you would need to be proficient with these concepts to calculate the value of your cash flows and principle.
How to Calculate Time Value of Money?
To calculate the time value of money, you need to know and understand a few terms.
 Present value. This is the sum of money you have today.
 Future value. This is the sum of money you will have at some later time.
 Discount rate is the percentage rate that is used to determine the present value of the future amount. It can often be approximated at the interest rate.
When considering the discount rate, there are two main factors: risk and opportunity cost.
 Risk: The more risk you take on, the higher return you will expect.
Time value of money real life example, if you put $100 in a bank, you may be willing to accept a $5 return on an investment after a year. This is because the risk that the bank will not repay you is low. If you lend the same $100 to a stranger, you may require a $20 return on investment instead. The person is a stranger. You do not know if they will or will not repay you. To take that level of risk, you require them to pay you $20 extra for the use of your money.  Opportunity Cost: The opportunity cost is the cost of the benefit that is lost by choosing one option over the other(s). If you have the money available right now, you can invest it immediately, or you can apply it somewhere else. Let’s say you choose to apply it somewhere else. The opportunity cost is the value of the interest you could earn while the money is invested.
Given the present value of some money and the discount rate you can find the future amount using
Future Value = Present Value x (1+Discount Rate)
Let’s say you know how much you want to make, and you know the discount rate you’ll get. If you want to know how much money you’ll need for the initial investment, use
Present Value = Future Value ÷ (1+ Discount Rate)
Let’s use an example to drive the point home. You have $1000 today that you can invest for a year at a 7% discount rate (the interest rate). The value of that $1000 one year from now is
Future Value = $1000 x (1 + 0.07) = $1000 x 1.07 = $1070.
To have $1000 today, you would have needed to invest some money a year ago. Your future value is now $1000, and you would use the same discount rate. At that time, your present value would have been
Present Value = $1000 ÷ 1.07 = $934.58.
What if you wanted to project the value of your money beyond a year? For the future value of your $1000 you use
Future Value = Present Value x (1 + Discount Rate)^{(number of time periods)}
So the future value of your $1000 after 5 years, assuming a 7% discount rate per year, it would be
Future Value = $1000 x (1 + 0.07)^{5} = $1000 x 1.40255= $1,402.55.
Similarly, if you want to the initial investment needed to earn $1000 in 5 years, you can rearrange the formula. Assuming the same interest rate, your future value will be $1000 and your present value would be
Present Value = $1000 ÷ (1 +0.07)^{5} = $1000 ÷ 1.40255 = $712.99.
You would have had to invest $712.99 five years ago at a 7% interest rate to have $1000 today.
Time Value of Money RealLife Examples
We can use the time value of money in everyday money decisions. Take, for example, the following situations:
Scenario 1: Congratulations! You’ve finally won the lottery! The lottery commission is giving you a choice of how you would like to be paid. You can either receive $1000 per week for life or an immediate lump sum settlement of $1.5 million. What would be the best option? There is no straightforward answer to this situation. Your answer would depend on a few factors that are specific to your life situation, such as:

 Your age, and your life expectancy. If your life expectancy is short, you may not get the full value of your winnings at $1000 per week.
 What current investment opportunities are available to you. Taking the lump sum but having nothing to invest it in may not be worthwhile.
 The stability of the organization making the payments. Will the lottery commission be around “for life”?
Once you come up with the discount rate you can use the following calculators to help in calculating what is the better payout for you.
Scenario 2: You are receiving a payout which is worth $100 today. This same payout, if taken later, will be worth $110 then. When making your decision, consider the following:
 Where is the interest coming from?
 Where can you invest that $100 today and how much would it be a year from now?
TMV Calculators to help you decide:
Scenario 3: You’re going to get an extra $1,000 on your tax refund. There are many things you can do with that money, but you’ve narrowed it down to two choices. Should you invest the $1000 for the next 20 years or use it to pay down your mortgage today? When you make your decision, you should think about:
 Your current and future mortgage rates.
 The investment opportunities for this money.
Potentially you can decide to invest this money into a stable bond. You can this calculator to decide how much this annuity is worth it to you.
Make Better Financial Decisions
Time value of money is a fundamental concept to understand when trying to decide between two or more financial options. Does it make sense to take the money now, or should we leave collect it at a later date?
The answer depends on a number of factors specific to your personal situation. Regardless of what option you choose, knowledge of the time value of money helps you understand how much is at stake.
Time Value of Money Video Explanation:
Hi there,
How to calculate future value in excel?
To calculate the Future Value in Excel, go to the Formulas tab in Excel and select “Financial”. In the submenu, choose “FV”. You will need to specify the following values:
• “rate” is the interest rate,
• “nper” is the number of payment periods,
• “pmt” is the payment per period,
• “pv” is the present value (if not specified, = 0)
• “type” shows when the payment is due – at the beginning of the month (the value is “1”), or at the end of the month (the value is “0”).
Insert the right numbers and click “OK.”
Time value of money really matters. A long time ago I had a friend who taught me to always have a hundred dollars tucked away. She called it walking around money. I still believe in this simple system to never using a credit card. That’s my philosophy
Whatever works for you. Time Value of Money concept would say that this $100 is losing value while it is your pocket, so it is better to invest to at least fight the inflation.
Can’t but agree with you. I try to persuade my wife that when she keeps the money in her saving accounts, she is actually losing, on average, 3% per year
Thank you for the bright explanation. My conclusion – the only thing you’ll never get back is time so invest as early as possible )
Time is the most valuable commodity, so invest in whatever gives you most time like health and automation!
Good article. I really do appreciate your posts, they help to teach a number of random people on the internet on how to finance their money. Thank you
Thank you for reading and I am glad you found it useful!
It’s exactly the case when the sooner the better. The sooner you start investing your money the better it is for you, I mean the sooner the compound effect happens, minus 2 % inflation each year
Yeah it’s very hard to beat compound returns, so even though you don’t have as much money to save when you are younger – you can still come up on top due the time of the compound returns
The best thing about investing is that it is beneficial for you due to compound interest as the time pass
For sure, it’s also important to understand how to properly calculate your returns and compare them to each other fairly. This is where time value of money concept comes in
It is the most basic and important concept that each person must be taught but not everyone cares
Agreed, it is very intuitive concept and very important for so many decisions like paying off the mortgage early for example, but most people were never taught it.
Nice summary. This stuff can become complicated once you factor in many cash inflows and outflows at various periods
It for sure does. Luckily there are easy functions in Excel, so you can carefully plot all of your cash flows and bring them all to the same present value
Time is money, and nowadays it is quite rare that one has them both at the same time
It takes investment in yourself and systems, so you can create assets that will give you money without spending time
This is a good explanation of the concept. The key moments are what rate you can earn on the money plus what level of risk you have to put the money at to earn that rate
And you also have to consider opportunity cost, inflation and riskfree rate. Working out the proper discount rate is actually the key to making accurate financial models