Financial modelling terms explained

Present Value

Discover the ins and outs of present value in financial modeling with our comprehensive guide.

The concept of present value is a fundamental cornerstone in the world of finance and financial modelling. It is a principle that allows us to understand the value of money today, compared to its value in the future. This concept is crucial in making informed financial decisions, whether you're an individual investor, a business owner, or a financial analyst.

Understanding the Concept of Present Value

The term 'Present Value', often abbreviated as PV, refers to the current worth of a future sum of money or stream of cash flows given a specified rate of return. The understanding here is that a dollar today is worth more than a dollar tomorrow. This is primarily due to the potential earning capacity of money, which is influenced by factors such as inflation and interest rates.

Present Value is used in various financial calculations, including bond pricing, equity valuation, and capital budgeting. It provides a basis for assessing the viability of investments or projects by comparing the value of money today with the value of money in the future.

The Time Value of Money

The principle of present value is rooted in the concept of the time value of money. This concept suggests that money available today is more valuable than the same amount in the future due to its potential earning capacity. This potential is always positive because of the opportunity to invest and earn interest.

For example, if you were given a choice between receiving $100 today or $100 a year from now, you would likely choose to receive the money today. This is because you could invest that $100 today and earn interest over the year, making the total amount greater than $100 a year from now.

Calculating Present Value

The calculation of present value involves the use of a specific formula. This formula takes into account the future cash flow or series of cash flows, the discount rate (also known as the interest rate), and the number of time periods until the cash flow occurs.

The formula for calculating present value is as follows:

PV = CF / (1 + r)^n


  • PV is the present value
  • CF is the future cash flow(s)
  • r is the discount rate
  • n is the number of time periods

Understanding the Variables

The variables in the present value formula each play a crucial role in determining the present value of a future sum of money or series of cash flows.

The future cash flow or series of cash flows (CF) is the money that you expect to receive in the future. This could be a single sum of money or a series of payments over time.

The discount rate (r) is the rate of return required for an investor to be willing to invest their money. This rate can be thought of as the opportunity cost of capital - the return that an investor could have earned if they had invested their money elsewhere.

The number of time periods (n) is the length of time until the future cash flow or series of cash flows is received. This could be a number of years, months, or even days, depending on the specific situation.

Applications of Present Value in Financial Modelling

Present value is a key concept in financial modelling and is used in a variety of applications. These include investment analysis, capital budgeting, bond pricing, and pension fund valuation, among others.

In investment analysis, present value is used to determine the value of a potential investment. By calculating the present value of the expected future cash flows from the investment and comparing it to the cost of the investment, an investor can determine whether the investment is likely to be profitable.

Capital Budgeting

In capital budgeting, present value is used to evaluate the profitability of a project or investment. The present value of the expected future cash flows from the project is compared to the initial investment. If the present value of the future cash flows is greater than the initial investment, the project is considered to be profitable.

Bond Pricing

Present value is also used in bond pricing. The price of a bond is essentially the present value of its future cash flows, which include the periodic interest payments and the repayment of the principal at maturity. By calculating the present value of these cash flows, an investor can determine the fair price of the bond.

Pension Fund Valuation

Present value is used in pension fund valuation to determine the current value of the future pension benefits. This is important for pension funds to ensure they have enough funds to meet their future obligations.


Understanding the concept of present value is crucial for anyone involved in financial decision-making. It allows us to compare the value of money today with its value in the future, providing a basis for making informed investment decisions.

Whether you're an individual investor, a business owner, or a financial analyst, having a solid understanding of present value and its applications in financial modelling can help you make better financial decisions and ultimately achieve your financial goals.

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