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Total Return


Total Return is a financial term used to measure the total gain or loss made from an investment over a specified period. It includes both capital appreciation/depreciation and dividends or interest earned during that period. This measure provides a comprehensive perspective on the investment’s performance by taking into account both growth and income factors.


The phonetic transcription of “Total Return” in the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) is: /ˈtoʊtl rɪˈtɜrn/

Key Takeaways

<ol><li>Total Return is a performance measure that reflects the actual rate of return of an investment or a portfolio over a specified period. It is a comprehensive measure because it includes both income and capital appreciation.</li><li>In calculating Total Return, all dividends and interest payments received from the investment, as well conventionally as increases in the value of the investment, are taken into account. This means that even if the investment’s market price drops, if it paid out significant dividends or interest, Total Return could still be positive.</li><li>Comparing the Total Return between different investment options can help to make more informed investment decisions. It allows an investor to compare the performance of various investments on a level playing field, accounting for all sources of return, not just price appreciation.</li></ol>


Total Return is a key financial term that plays a significant role in investment decisions as it measures the overall gain or loss of an investment over a specified time period. It incorporates not just capital appreciation, which refers to the rise in the price of the investment, but also includes dividends, interest, or other income that the investment generates. This gives a comprehensive picture of an investment’s performance, taking into account all sources of growth. It enables investors to evaluate and compare the efficiency of various investments, thus facilitating more informed and effective investment strategizing. Hence, the concept of Total Return is indispensable in business/finance.


Total Return is an essential concept in finance and business, used primarily for measuring the actual financial gain or loss of an investment over a specific period of time. Its purpose is to provide investors with a more accurate representation of the returns on an investment by factoring in not only the capital appreciation but also other forms of returns such as interest, dividends, and other distributions. This measurement is crucial as it helps investors assess the actual performance of an investment and make a comprehensive comparison between diverse investment opportunities.Moreover, Total Return is pivotal for companies in capital budgeting decisions, by helping to determine the profitability of potential investments or projects. The portfolio managers often use total return calculations for benchmarking portfolio performance against indices. Investors also use it to set their investment strategies based on the past total returns of various financial instruments. In essence, total return serves as a tool for comprehending the bigger picture of an investment’s potential by factoring in all the possible paths of profit generation.


1. Stock Investment: Let’s say an investor purchases a stock in Company A for $30 per share. After one year, the price per share increases to $35, and the company also provides a $2 dividend. The total return in this case is the price difference plus the dividend, which equals $7. The return on the original investment ($30) is about 23%.2. Real Estate Investment: An investor purchases a commercial property for $200,000. After a year, the property appreciates in value to $225,000. Simultaneously, the investor also collects $12,000 from rental income throughout the year. The total return on the investment would therefore include both the appreciation and rental income, amounting to $37,000. This would be an 18.5% return on original investment.3. Mutual Fund Investment: An investor purchases $10,000 worth of mutual funds units. At the end of the year, the value of the investment increases to $12,000, and the investor receives a capital gain distribution and income dividends amounting to $1,000. The total return in this scenario would be the increased value plus dividends, which totals $3,000. The return on the original investment ($10,000) would then be 30%.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

What is Total Return?

Total Return is a performance measure used in finance and investment that reflects the overall gain or loss made on an investment over a certain period of time. It includes both capital appreciation and dividends or interest received.

How is Total Return calculated?

Total Return is calculated by taking the change in the price of the investment, adding any dividends or interest received during the period, and then dividing that by the initial price of the investment.

What types of investments does Total Return apply to?

Total Return applies to various types of investments including stocks, bonds, mutual funds, and commodities.

How does Total Return differ from price return?

While price return only considers the appreciation or depreciation of the investment, Total Return takes into account the entire gain or loss from the investment, including dividends, interest, and capital gains.

What does a positive Total Return indicate?

A positive Total Return indicates that the investment has gained value over the considered period of time. It signifies a profitable investment.

What does a negative Total Return signify?

A negative Total Return signifies that the investment has lost value over the considered time period. It indicates a loss on the investment.

Why is Total Return important in investment decision making?

Total Return provides a comprehensive view of the profitability of an investment. It offers a complete picture of an investment’s performance which is useful when comparing different investment options.

Does Total Return account for inflation?

No, the Total Return calculation does not directly account for inflation. However, investors may calculate the ‘real’ Total Return by adjusting the nominal return for inflation.

How frequently is Total Return calculated?

The frequency of calculation may vary depending on investment type and personal preference. It can be calculated daily, monthly, quarterly, semi-annually, or annually.

Can Total Return be used for comparing different investments?

Yes, Total Return is often used to compare the performance of different investments over the same period of time. It helps investors to make informed decisions about where to place their money.

Related Finance Terms

  • Dividends: These are distributions of a portion of a company’s earnings, decided by the board of directors, to a class of its shareholders. Dividends can be issued as cash payments, as shares of stock, or other property.
  • Capital Gains: This is a rise in the value of a capital asset, such as stock or real estate, which gives it a higher worth than the purchase price. The gain is not realized until the asset is sold. A capital gain may also refer to investment income that arises in relation to real assets, such as property, or financial assets, like stocks and bonds.
  • Net Asset Value (NAV): This is the value of an entity’s assets minus the value of its liabilities. NAV is most commonly used in the context of mutual funds and is used to determine the value of the assets held.
  • Yield: This refers to the earnings generated and realized on an investment over a particular period of time, expressed in terms of percentage based on the invested amount or on the current market value. It includes the interest earned or dividends received from holding a particular security.
  • Reinvestment: This refers to using dividends, interest, or any other form of income distribution earned with an investment to purchase additional shares or units, rather than receiving the distributions in cash.

Sources for More Information

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