What is Present Value?

Present value (PV) is a financial concept that quantifies the value of a cash flow or series of cash flows today, based on their projected worth in the future. It is based on the idea that a dollar received in the future is worth less than a dollar today because of the potential earning capacity of money. In other words, money available today can be invested and earn interest, making it more valuable than the same amount received in the future.

In the realm of finance, the time value of money plays a crucial role in making sound investment decisions. One key concept to grasp is the present value (PV) of cash flows, which enables investors and financial professionals to determine the current worth of an investment, taking into account future cash flows. In this blog post, we will explore the meaning of present value, its calculation, significance, and applications. Additionally, we will provide an example and a graph to help you visualize the concept.

Calculating Present Value

The present value of a single cash flow can be calculated using the following formula:

Present value = Future value/(1+r)^n


  • r is the discount rate (expressed as a decimal)
  • n is the number of periods


Let's say you expect to receive $1,500 (FV) five years from now (n = 5), and you want to determine its present value using a discount rate of 5% (r = 0.05). Using the formula above, we can calculate the present value of the future cash flow:

PV = $1,500 / (1 + 0.05)^5
PV = $1,500 / (1.05)^5
PV ≈ $1,173.83

Today, the $1,500 you expect to receive in five years is worth approximately $1,173.83.

Understanding the present value of cash flows is essential for various financial decisions, including:

  1. Investment appraisal: Comparing the present value of cash inflows and outflows helps you evaluate the profitability and feasibility of investments, such as capital projects or financial securities.
  2. Bond pricing: Present value calculations are used to determine the fair price of bonds by discounting the bond's future coupon payments and principal repayment.
  3. Net present value (NPV) analysis: This technique helps businesses determine the profitability of an investment by calculating the difference between the present value of cash inflows and the present value of cash outflows.
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