CAGR: Compound Annual Growth Rate

Compound annual growth rate (CAGR) is an essential metric to understand when looking to diversify or expand your investment portfolio or business. CAGR provides an average over time that shows how your investments have performed by reinvesting any profits each year into additional investments.

CAGR can be useful, but it can oversimplify reality by overlooking potential volatility. For instance, CAGR assumes an investment has declined at an estimated rate of 3% while it could actually rise or decline considerably more dramatically.

CAGR Definition

CAGR is an effective metric to use when measuring long-term performance of investments or companies. This technique takes into account compound interest effects over time and compares investment performance over a set period. It’s especially useful for comparing various investments over a given timeframe.

CAGR is calculated by dividing an investment’s ending value by its initial value, then multiplying that result by the number of years during which it was in the market. This estimate of its end value growth provides an approximate percentage figure as to how it might have grown if each profit earned was reinvested into subsequent years.  This method tends to be less volatile and easier for comparison of performance between investments.

Although compound annual growth rate can provide an accurate measure of long-term investment performance, its limitations should not be disregarded. It does not take into account when profits or losses occur, nor take inflation into account when making decisions regarding investing or business performance analysis. Therefore it is vital that other metrics be utilized when making these important decisions or analyses.

Compound annual growth rates also suffer from one major drawback; they only take into account positive gains, which may mask poor company performances and may not accurately depict overall trends. Furthermore, CAGR can become affected by one particularly good or bad year that does not accurately represent its long-term effect.

Though its limitations exist, compound annual growth rate remains an effective metric to help make sound financial decisions. It is especially useful in comparing investment options and identifying growth opportunities.  It should be kept in mind that CAGR does not account for risk or timing, and should only be used as a general guide when evaluating investments.  In high-risk circumstances it would likely be prudent for an investor to choose an investment with lower CAGRs.

CAGR Formula

CAGR is a popular calculation used by investors and business owners alike to assess the growth of investments or business activities over time. Calculations can be completed manually or using Excel functions; its formula can be easily remembered: Ending value/Beginning value + (Number of Periods) 1 = CAGR

CAGR stands out from traditional calculations by taking account of compound interest and showing you exactly how an investment has performed over time, rather than simply looking at its average return or profit.

CAGR can also be useful when comparing investments, as its calculations take into account growth over a specific time frame, and thus are unaffected by any lumpy or uneven returns during that period. As a result, it provides more reliable measurements when making comparisons.

However, it should be remembered that using CAGR as an investment or financial metric analysis method has some important disadvantages. Chief among them is its assumption of consistent growth throughout an investment’s lifespan, which may not accurately represent its actual performance over its lifespan.

Example: if an investor invests in a stock that falls by 40% within five years, then their compounded annualized return (CAGR) will likely be significantly higher than it should be because CAGR assumes it grew steadily even though in reality there was significant volatility within that timeframe.

As is often the case, this limitation can be overcome by adding a volatility factor into the CAGR calculation. By doing this, you can better reflect actual volatility of investments.  Additionally, including it changes from an annualized to monthly return calculation, making comparison of different investments or business models easier.

CAGR Examples

CAGR is an indispensable metric for evaluating and comparing investments over time, and is used by investors as an effective way of mitigating periodic returns that may occur with variable investments, offering them a true picture of its performance. CAGR measures how fast an investment grows over a specific time frame when compounding is taken into account; it can be used for evaluations as well as future performance predictions or comparing multiple assets’ performances.

CAGR is an accurate way of measuring any investment over a set period, from stock returns and mutual fund dividends, to measuring the growth of real estate or fixed income investments such as bonds. CAGR can also help companies assess performance as well as evaluate investment opportunities. In fact, many consider CAGR one of the more accurate methods of calculating returns than simple average growth rates due to being more representative of an investment’s actual performance than simple average growth rates.

Formulas to calculate compound annual growth rate (CAGR) are simple. Input the initial value, ending value and number of years between them before calculating the difference between them; divide this difference by total investment years spent and divide by 1% as percentage growth per year.

As with any metric, CAGR has its own set of constraints. One major downside is its failure to consider reinvestment effects, as it assumes all profits made are reinvested each year into it, which in reality may not happen, and therefore errors when calculating CAGR can arise from this assumption.

Another limitation of the approach is its inattention to timing of returns, which can have an enormous effect on overall average annual growth rates. A large loss at the end of an investment could greatly decrease its CAGR while large gains at the beginning can increase it significantly.


One of the main drawbacks of compound annual growth rates is that they do not take volatility into account, leading to an overly optimistic estimate for any given period. Furthermore, this formula does not account for additions or withdrawals of funds from your portfolio during that timeframe either.

CAGR doesn’t take inflation or taxes into account when evaluating investments, as these can have a big effect on actual returns on your investments. Therefore, it is essential that when evaluating an investment or project, you take these factors into account when making decisions based on CAGR calculations.

Final consideration is flexibility of CAGR relative to other financial metrics. IRR (internal rate of return) can help assess profitability of potential investments more accurately than CAGR does, though more information may be required than CAGR to calculate it accurately. IRR requires knowing initial and final values as well as period length; making it a more reliable tool than CAGR for evaluating complex investments or projects. Nonetheless, both metrics can provide useful measures of your investments’ performance, though remember their limitations before making investment decisions based solely on them.

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