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Foregone Earnings


Foregone earnings refer to the potential income that an individual or a company misses out on when choosing one alternative over another. It is a concept related to opportunity cost, which defines the potential benefits an individual misses when choosing one option over another. In other words, foregone earnings are the profits you could have earned but didn’t because you made a different decision.


The phonetic transcription of the keyword “Foregone Earnings” is /fɔːrˈɡɒn ˈɜːrnɪŋz/

Key Takeaways

<ol><li>Definition: Foregone earnings refer to potential revenue that an individual, company, or organization forgoes in lieu of choosing an alternative course of action. This could be a decision to invest in a certain project rather than another, or the result of one’s personal decision, such as choosing to pursue further education instead of immediate employment.</li><li>Significance: Understanding and considering foregone earnings is crucial in decision-making for both individuals and businesses, as it illustrates the potential opportunity costs of their choices. Foregone earnings can play a key role in strategic planning, particularly in scenarios of scarce resources where it becomes increasingly important to determine the most beneficial route.</li><li>Calculation: The calculation for foregone earnings typically takes into account: the potential profit that could’ve been made had the other course of action been adopted, minus the actual profits made from the chosen path. It helps provide a measure of the financial aspect of the opportunity cost of making a particular choice.</li></ol>


The term “Foregone Earnings” is crucial in business and finance because it helps to understand the potential profits that a company could miss due to the opportunity costs of choosing one investment over another. These are the earnings that could have been made if a different decision were made. This concept is often applied in comparison between potential business scenarios to make the most cost-effective decisions. The understanding of foregone earnings can lead to better strategic management of resources, investments, and capital allocation within a business, ensuring decisions contribute to maximum profitability. It is important to both large scale business strategies and everyday business decisions.


Foregone earnings refer to potential income that an individual, company, or government has given up by choosing one alternative over another. This concept plays a pivotal role in finance and economics as it helps in decision-making processes, particularly in the scenario of opportunity cost evaluation. It assists in understanding the trade-offs inherent in financial decisions and provides a clear perspective on what is being sacrificed for the chosen path. By quantifying foregone earnings, businesses and individuals can make more informed decisions.For example, let’s consider an individual who opts to attend college full-time instead of working. Here, the foregone earnings would be the income the individual could have made by working during the same time period. A business might choose to invest its capital in project A instead of project B. The profit that could have been made by investing in project B becomes the foregone earnings. Besides income or profit, foregone earnings can also include benefits, dividends, interest, or any other return that could have been generated by the alternative choice. By measuring the potential missed income, entities can make strategic and financial decisions.


1. Choosing Higher Education: A person who decides to go for an advanced degree, such as a Ph.D., typically spends several years studying full-time instead of working. The income that they could have earned during these years had they chosen to work instead of studying is considered their foregone earnings.2. Leaving a Job for a Startup: If a professional leaves their stable, high-paying job to start a new business, the lost salary from their previous job is considered to be foregone earnings. This individual is trading those guaranteed earnings for the potential of higher earnings from their own business in the future.3. Investment Decisions: An investor who decides to invest in one company over another is foregoing the potential dividends and capital growth that the alternative investment could have produced. If the alternative investment ends up performing better, then the investor has incurred foregone earnings.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

What are Foregone Earnings?

Foregone earnings refer to the potential income that an individual or business gives up by choosing a certain action over a potentially more profitable one. They are considered an opportunity cost, a fundamental concept in economics and finance.

Can you give an example of Foregone Earnings?

Sure, an easy example would be deciding to attend university full-time for four years instead of working full time during the same period. The income that you could have possibly made during those four years of doing a job, but forego to get a degree, represents foregone earnings.

How are Foregone Earnings used in business decisions?

Businesses use the concept of foregone earnings to make decisions about resource allocation, project selection, and investment. By estimating what they are potentially giving up, businesses can make better-informed decisions about which actions are most likely to be profitable.

Are Foregone Earnings always a bad thing?

Not necessarily. While foregone earnings represent an opportunity cost, the chosen action might offer other benefits that outweigh the foregone earnings. For example, education can provide knowledge and skills that increase lifetime earning potential and job satisfaction.

How might Foregone Earnings impact an investment decision?

When choosing between multiple investment opportunities, investors consider the foregone earnings of not investing in the other opportunities. This can affect the attractiveness of higher-risk investments that have the potential for higher returns, against safer but lower return investments.

Can Foregone Earnings be calculated?

Yes, foregone earnings can be calculated by comparing the expected return on the chosen alternative with the return that could have been generated from the next best alternative.

How do Foregone Earnings impact entrepreneurs?

Entrepreneurs often face significant foregone earnings when they leave stable jobs to start their own businesses. They give up a sure salary for the potential, but uncertain, profits of their startup. They could be making sizable income in their previous job, which is now a foregone earning.

Do Foregone Earnings affect retirement decisions?

Yes, retirement decisions take into account foregone earnings. If a person decides to retire early, they’re forsaking the salary they could have earned during those additional working years. This is why many people choose to delay retirement to increase their total lifetime earnings.

Related Finance Terms

  • Opportunity Cost: The cost of the next best alternative that has been foregone.
  • Direct costs: Expenses that are incurred and can be directly linked to a product or a service.
  • Net Earnings: The actual profit after working expenses not included in the calculation of gross income have been paid.
  • Present Value: The current worth of a future sum of money or stream of cash flows given a specified rate of return.
  • Investment Analysis: The practice of evaluating investment decisions, including foregone earnings, to determine the best course of action.

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